2021 – Agribusiness: Beyond Covid

The pandemic caused digital adoption across all industries to surge and agribusiness is no exception.

We look at some of the technological advancements that are shaping the industry to maximise volume, drive economic progress and provide sustainable and productive solutions.

The image of giant robots bestriding fields with a drone circling overhead is futuristic. But it foreshadows a future where farmers who are already embracing artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, smartphone management systems and all manner of innovations to underpin a resilient agribusiness sector, are shifting to remain ahead of the curve, as Andrea Fox reports today.

It’s also necessary to adopt new technologies if New Zealand farmers are to reduce their reliance on low-cost human labour and produce new premium products to meet global tastes. Glenys Christian went to Fieldays to look at some of the exciting innovations there. Plant & Food Research’s David Hughes told the Herald his Crown Research Institute wants to develop new horticultural varieties that might one day rival the success of the SunGold kiwifruit variety. Keith Woodford foreshadows the development of more composting “mootels” in Canterbury, reducing effluent on pasture.

As Brian Fallow cautions, the status quo won’t cut it when it comes to meeting NZ’s climate emissions’ obligations. A challenge which is also top of mind for Fonterra’s Kelvin Wickham. There’s more besides: The return of wool as acritical component of the furniture industry and the challenges posed by food waste. On the social front, Tim Henshaw and Tim Mackle look at how farmers are weathering stress. Māori agribusiness leaders like Mavis Mullins and Paul Morgan are showing the Way by forging people-to-people links which are all-important in prime markets like China. It is clear that New Zealand agribusiness has proved remarkably resilient in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government agencies such as New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), as Cabinet Minister Damien O’Connor affirms today from his place in a managed isolation facility, have proved to be much more than a backstop for Kiwi farmers and exporters. They have been leaders in keeping Covid affected markets open for New Zealand agricultural exporters. But as the NZIBF’s (International Business Forum) Stephen Jacobi reports we could do more—much more. Enjoy the report.

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