Federated Farmers has responded to this week’s announcement by the government of plans to attract world-leading entrepreneurial researchers to New Zealand with a call for all of them to be focussed on primary industries.
The call comes at a time when an Australian startup, Food Agility, is looking for $A50m government funding for a long-term research initiative to boost Australia’s agriculture through the use of technology.
Tertiary education, skills and employment minister, Steven Joyce, announced on 20 July a plan to spend $35m in a project to enter into 50/50 partnerships with individual universities to attract and support named researchers and their teams to work in the universities for initial periods of three to five years.
“We will invite all the universities to bid for the opportunity, and expect up to 15-20 world-leading researchers and their teams to be brought to New Zealand over a three year period,” the minister said.
Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston said it would make sense for the programme to build knowledge in areas that are key to New Zealand’s economic and environmental needs. "Federated Farmers is keen to engage in the programme to help identify areas of opportunity for the primary industries and the environment," Rolleston said.
"The industry’s scale brings great opportunities for entrepreneurs. It’s critical our farmers have all the tools of modern biology available to them, plus capability in high-tech areas so that we can stay at the forefront as the digital and biology revolutions unfold."
One emerging technology that could benefit New Zealand agriculture enormously is blockchain, to provide food products with solid provenance.
As Food Agility says in its bid for Australian Government research funding, “Consumers in our markets are showing increasing interest in where food is produced, and in the freshness, safety and quality of food. They want to know where their food comes from, and they want to get the best value ... As incomes rise in emerging economies, so too does kilojoule intake and, more importantly, a switch to protein takes place. Simply put the world is on the cusp of a huge leap in demand for higher-value food products.”
A recent article on The Conversation, Blockchains could help restore trust in the food we choose to eat explored the issue of how the technology could be used to provide assurance, and one UK organisation Provence.org, is already putting this into practice.
It already has half a dozen customers in Australia, including a distillery, a company that makes a wide range of products based on deer, a knife-maker, a guitar maker, and several wineries.