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NZTech chief: Agritech could be a lifeline for exporters

30 Aug 2018

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller reckons agritech might just save the New Zealand economy – and that sentiment has led him to join the team of 30 delegates currently in Silicon Valley.

The delegates are currently in Silicon Valley for the Agritech Immersion Programme and they are finding out that New Zealand is well-placed to respond to changing demand.

“Combining two of New Zealand’s leading sectors, agriculture and technology, shows just how we can improve New Zealand farming, food production and health while also growing our exports. We are on the cusp of some massive and exciting tech changes in our lives,” Muller says.

The worldwide demand for food may be worth US$3 trillion, Muller says.

He notes that processed foods are largely behind a global obesity epidemic, which is hitting New Zealand hard. Currently the country’s obesity rates are ranked the third worst in the OECD.

But Kiwi companies are well placed to meet increasing demands for specialty and healthy foods.

“Miro berries, a Maori owned and driven company, is deploying the latest agritech in New Zealand to build high value blueberry production to replicate our success in kiwifruit and meet domestic and global demand for the superfood.”

Believe it or not, New Zealand is one of the world’s top 10 biggest blueberry producers. Currently 700 hectares of crops are produced each year, and the industry could be worth more than $100 million.

But Miro Berries isn’t the only success story.

“Award-winning Tauranga company Robotics Plus has an automated apple packaging system that will be able to help US growers address labour shortages,” Muller continues.

“There are some amazing agritech developments in Silicon Valley such as Granular Software a farm operations startup that was recently purchased by DuPont for $US300 million, or the synthetic protein companies like Clara Foods for eggs, Memphis Meats for beef and Finless Foods for fish.”

“Yet most of the major pain points in the US farm systems are similar to New Zealand such as water management, nutrient management and labour shortages so New Zealand agritech solutions are viable for this massive market,” Muller continues.

The New Zealand tech sector is the country’s third largest and fastest growing export sector. In 2015 it was worth over $6.3 billion in 2015 and it employed more than 6% of the New Zealand workforce.

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