Innovative farming practices are only going to become more important in coming years as we strive to feed a growing population, face more extreme environments, and deal with increased competition for resources. To deal with this, the global AgTech market will play a massive role.
Being expected to be worth US$ 41.5 million by 2027 and growing at a CAGR of 11.3%, the global agritech sector is seeing such a major boom in investment and provides a great opportunity for New Zealand to establish itself as an agritech nation.
According to MBIE in the agritech industry transformation plan (ITP), New Zealand possesses a number of comparative advantages when it comes to agritech, including:
- Our strong complementary food and fibre industry;
- Our small market size – ideal for testing technologies;
- Our ingenuity in developing solutions and world-class research;
- Our strong pasture-based management systems;
- Increased international investment activity.
Advantages which, if effectively exploited, could help us to stand in a good position to increase our share of the global market. As one focus for the government is on growing the agritech sector to be better equipped to service both the domestic and international market, learning how to effectively exploit these advantages is critical. However, there are also a number of challenges that face New Zealand when adapting our innovation for global use.
Several of these challenges were highlighted in the ITP released last year (https://bit.ly/3pnoBlF). Including that, our AgriTech expertise has historically been in relatively specialised areas such as agritech innovation which has largely been for domestic use and barriers to uptake of some technology innovations by the farming sector.
The first challenge of agritech expertise being in specialised areas (specifically in pasture-based management systems) has caused a few issues for the sector when going global. While it is our strong suit and we have developed excellent results, a higher volume of technology being developed in this area has limited the applicability of New Zealand technology in larger overseas markets. With a large number of countries practicing different management systems such as barn systems, this leaves only a handful of relatively smaller nations, like Ireland and Chile, as viable markets to enter.
Secondly, when it comes to agritech, innovation has largely been created for domestic use. Highlighted by the ITP in two distinct areas, products and innovations developed for New Zealand are not being adapted for offshore markets, and where New Zealand innovators are not looking internationally for problems to solve. However, this can be attributed to other challenges too, with international links proving difficult for start-ups to create and with mandates and legislation being drivers for quick action in these areas.
Finally, uptake has been slow in using some technologies on farms in NZ, especially in terms of precision agriculture, automation and robotics. This means that even though our small market size has potential to be ideal for testing technologies, participation proves a problem.
So what does this mean for taking New Zealand innovation into the global market?
In order for New Zealand to establish itself as an agritech nation, we need to change our approach to how we operate in light of these challenges. This includes the need to think and act globally, improve our commercialisation route, maximise investment and improve data interoperability. As well as this, we need to think about regulation management, effectively utilising skills, improving transparency, communication, and understanding agritech within the government.
As the world continues to change, what are your thoughts on adapting New Zealand innovation for global use?
MBIE. (2020). Agritech industry transformation plan. https://bit.ly/3pnoBlF
Research and Markets. (2021). Agritech market forecast to 2027: Covid-19 impact and global
analysis by type and application, and geography. https://bit.ly/3DW1cMb
Statista. (2021). Agriculture industry in New Zealand: Statistics & facts. https://bit.ly/3pj6oWl