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Investor says agritech is a cash cow that ‘NZ can do better’

23 May 2018

Agriculture as the very bones of New Zealand has seen an uprising in the number of startups emerging with in the agritech space.

Currently agriculture and food contribute more than US$37 billion to the New Zealand economy every year, with the country the world’s largest exporter of dairy and sheep meat.

However, a San Diego-based Kiwi says the country can do much better in the world of agritech as it has all the tools in the industry to monetise big tech investment offshore.

Arama Kukutai is a partner in American investment company Finistere which has built and backed companies worth more than $US5 billion. His company is looking to invest in New Zealand because they believe the country is due to create significant value from its technology and deep knowledge in agriculture and food.

“It is a great location for bringing the best of new agritech from around the globe. Agritech is seeing a new apogee in investment and New Zealand stands to profit from this mega trend where $US85 billion was invested in venture capital in 2017, and over $US1.5billion in agritech,” Kukutai says.

“New Zealand invests nearly $750 million in research and development for food and agriculture but is only just starting to see innovation startups commercialise the tech resource coming from public and private investment."

Kukutai believes digitisation will soon make a significant difference to agriculture in New Zealand.

“The environmental impact of Kiwi farming has prompted debate and concern around nitrate runoff and greenhouse gas impacts,” says Kukutai.

“We are great at production but need to improve our impact as well to remain viable. Tech in sensing, imaging and analytics can help farmers better run their operations sustainably.”

Like in virtually every other industry, Kukutai also sees automation and artificial intelligence to disrupt the traditional model in New Zealand by addressing labour and efficiency challenges while freeing up farmers’ time.

“Lastly understanding and improvements in the genome is impacting improvements not only in genetics for yield, but also tackling food quality and nutrition challenges,” says Kukutai.

“There is a great cohort of quality New Zealand agritech companies in all these areas, but we also think open access to the best tech from offshore is also key to maintaining New Zealand’s position as a centre of excellence.”

Kukutai says the ultimate goal of their company is to build a country partnership with New Zealand that can help drive two-way tech transfer and share the benefits with the world of more sustainable, productive and quality agricultural outcomes.

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