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Biotech an ailing area of NZ economy

28 Feb 2019

New Zealand urgently needs a biotech strategy because it is critical to the future of the country’s economy, BiotechNZ executive director Zahra Champion says.

The global biotechnology market is expected to reach more than $US727 billion within six years, according to a new report by Grand View Research.

Champion says New Zealand used to but currently does not have a biotech strategy.

“Our government must understand that biotech is vital to the future of our economy. Last week many Kiwi agritech and biotech-related companies featured at a massive international agritech-biotech conference in Melbourne.

“AgritechNZ wants to strategically reposition and restructure the direction for New Zealand to build a world-class agritech ecosystem. Many of the new technologies in agriculture are from our BiotechNZ group.

“These include companies like A2 Corporation which has developed systems that improved protein in Anchor milk. AgResearch in Lincoln is producing grass that grows 50% faster and more resistant to drought.

“Look at the work Indigo has developed that will significantly reduce emissions from agriculture by increasing pasture fed milk and meat production. We need to nurture more companies like that.

“Biotech is a high-value sector which relies on leading science, innovation and manufacturing. It is a sector that is protected by intellectual property rights, strict regulatory guidelines and a highly-skilled workforce. It is one of the few manufacturing sectors that can’t be easily eroded by lower cost economies.

There are also environmental reasons that biotech should be snapped up by a positive new government policy after years of New Zealand lacking a clear national strategy.

“We need to consider many animal, human and environmental health pressures and reduce and generate value from waste. For a country so reliant on the primary export sector, we need to build a world-class biotech-agritech ecosystem.

“We don’t want to fall behind. Look at the Investment Corporation of Dubai which has just put $US203 million into agritech investments and another $200 million from Japanese firm Softbank which is one of the world's largest firms.

“New Zealand’s agricultural, environmental and economic future will rely on the success of our biotech sector which needs more focus from government. It is time for a more strategic, all of government approach and a shared national strategy,” Champion says.

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