Agritech sector to get a push
Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor on 21 July 2020 announced the launch of an Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) to transform and grow New Zealand’s agritech sector.
The ITP was co-developed with farming and agritech industry representatives by a multi-agency taskforce (Taskforce) headed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The ITP states it is intended to provide the sector with the support necessary to accelerate its growth, attract investment and increase the commercialisation of its intellectual property all with the aim of creating a globally competitive agritech ecosystem. The Government has pledged $11.4 million of Budget 2020 to support the implementation of this plan, with additional investment from a share of the $84 million fund earmarked for the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures as well as ongoing support from other existing government programmes.
The New Zealand Agritech Industry
The Taskforce believes New Zealand is well-placed to take a prominent position in global agritech development due to:
- small markets providing an ideal testing ground for new technologies;
- strong pasture-based management systems; and
- New Zealand’s membership in a number of free trade agreements and strong international reputation.
The focus of the ITP will be on manufacturing, biotech and digital-based technology companies working in the agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, apiculture and fishing sectors. Forestry and wood processing are the focus of a separate ITP
In addition to existing work plans for the government and industry group, the ITP has highlighted new activities aimed at growing the New Zealand agritech sector. The programme action plan has two elements: long-term actions aimed at growing the sector generally, and short term, high impact projects intended to give an immediate boost.
The high impact projects include:
- establishing a Robotics, Automation & Sensing Institute aimed at centralising research and development to address the need for on-farm and on-orchard horticultural automation;
- hosting the Farm2050 Nutrient Initiative at which the first major initiative being proposed is to identify new biological methods of improving soil nutrition and achieve more sustainable farming; and
- creating a specialist agritech venture capital fund to remove funding constraints for new start-ups and increase the commercialisation of new research.
The ITP states it is intended to be a ‘living document’, evolving to meet the changing needs of the sector and the markets it serves and an important aspect of the government’s COVID-19 primary sector recovery road map, ‘Fit for a Better World’. As part of the implementation phase of the ITP, it is proposed that a governance group with industry representatives will be established to monitor and guide the application of the ITP.
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