Use of cookies

The evokeAG. website uses cookies to enhance your experience and optimise site functionality.

Please refer to our Cookie Policy for more information on which cookies we use and how we collect and use your personal information through cookies

Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Supercharging innovation: a new approach to old ways in New Zealand

Innovation can be accelerated, according to David Downs, this is one of the many things that COVID-19 has taught us.

3 min read

David Downs, General Manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), works with the technology sector to help fast-growing tech companies scale internationally. He’s been tasked with supercharging the New Zealand agritech sector, working in close collaboration with industry. One of the lessons for the sector in 2020 is that change can happen when you least expect it.

“In New Zealand, it was fascinating to see how quickly we were able to innovate in education, healthcare and business,” said David.

“Things that would normally take months were able to be done in days. I hope we remember that we can move quickly when we need to.”

And moving quickly is something David is very used to. Before his current role, he spent thirteen years at Microsoft in New Zealand and as Regional Director for South East Asia.

There are clear lessons he admits for those wanting growth, post-COVID-19.

“Collaboration. I know it’s a cliché, but when we look at the success stories, it’s coming from companies that can work with others; investors, government, research organisations and other ‘go to market’ partners,” said David.

“A number of our agritech companies have been successful, for example the Gallagher Group, who has been a leader in the sector for many years. Or Robotics Plus, who’ve been very successful in securing investment from Yamaha ventures.”

“We are very keen to pursue more joint activity with Australia,” he added.

His opinions are regularly sought and as a speaker at this year’s evokeAG. attendees wanted to know more about the levers driving innovation.

“People were really interested to hear about how the New Zealand government is working with industry in collaboration. We worked very closely together to create a strategy for New Zealand in the agritech space. Delegates were keen to hear more about how we’d managed to do that,” said David.

That strategy has just been launched and it’s called the Agritech industry transformation plan but don’t let its plain name fool you.

It’s rich in bold ideas, like the innovative animal management system that harnesses natural intelligence, Halter.

Halter features a GPS-enabled, solar-powered cow collar that uses sound stimuli to gently direct livestock on-farm and keep them away from waterways or hazards, all controlled via smartphone or tablet. The system lets farmers shift livestock remotely or bring them in for milking without even stepping outside. It also tracks individual feed intake and gives early alerts for potential health concerns – all adding up to time and labour savings, healthier animals, and the potential to transform pastoral livestock farming.

Then there’s precision seafood harvesting and the new approach to an old way of fishing. With this technology fish are contained and swim comfortably underwater inside a large flexible PVC liner, where the correct size and species can be selected before being brought on-board the fishing vessel. This new way of seafood harvesting is the result of a Primary Growth Partnership programme between the Ministry for Primary Industries, Sealord Group, and Moana New Zealand & Sanford Ltd.

RELATED: Huon Aquaculture raises the bar on sustainability

Innovation on its own though is not enough. The New Zealand agritech story has been greatly assisted by ‘Powered by Place’ which tracks the backstory.

“The idea behind ‘Powered by Place’ is that environment and heritage has brought about a sense of innovation, and a huge variety of different ideas based on the variety of growing conditions and farming systems,” said David.

“The design of the ‘Powered by Place’ messaging is that we use it as an ‘umbrella’ across the messages that companies use. A strong message, based on facts and data, with some good storytelling, told consistently – that’s the plan.”

So, what does the future of farming innovation look like?

“For New Zealand, it will be about how we take our technology from our traditional areas of strength such as agriculture and transfer those lessons into other adjacent areas such as hort,” said David.

“One example is the work we are doing in horticultural robotics. We also need to look at the deep tech innovations, embracing alternative proteins, vertical farming etc, which are moving very quickly globally,” said David.

“We will also need to consider nutrient and water management, and the impact of environmental change.”

Next step will be its delivery to a world that is hungry for change.


Enjoyed this story? Want to learn more about the Asia Pacific region’s innovative agrifood tech ecosystem? Sign up for our newsletter here and receive fresh stories about global leaders, farmers, startups and innovators driving collaborative change.

Read more news
Read more news

Read

The state of play for blockchain and why ‘tech stacks’ help drive adoption

Focusing on supply chain collaboration instead of competition, is the core focus of AgriDigital and Geora’s recent integration, designed to give grain growers more control of their digital assets. Here we explore how tech stacks are helping users to overcome the barriers to adoption for blockchain and create value beyond the farm gate.

Tech
3 Aug 2021
6 min read

Testing agritech with farmers first, pays off for Wagga Wagga startup

Poor connectivity is the challenge, Wagga Wagga based wireless networking startup Zetifi have set out to solve, affecting two thirds of Australian farms. Teaming up with local grain grower, Andrew Dumaresq to trial technology on-farm has been key in maximising its value to the end user – the farmer.

Farm
3 Aug 2021
5 min read

Thinking outside the box: World leading autonomous beehive

In our tech-savvy world, it is hard to believe one innovation has stayed almost the same for more than 150 years. That is, until now. In extensive test-bed sites in both the United States and Israel, the beehive has been replaced with a device that is solar powered and driven by artificial intelligence and advanced robotics to monitor every single bee. Only time will tell if these next generation bees will be all they can be.

Future
29 Jul 2021
7 min read

Global collaboration needed to drive Australian agrifood innovation

AgriFutures Australia Managing Director, John Harvey shares his vision for Australian agrifood tech innovation and why global collaboration is needed to continue driving commercialisation of homegrown R&D and global partnerships. Here he speaks with Australian agritech entrepreneur and BDO AgTech Lead, Michael Macolino, about evokeAG. and new platform – growAG. to help accelerate the innovation pathway.

Tech
20 Jul 2021
4 min read

Listen

Ardrossan Orchards and using the Phytec App

Two years ago, Batlow, NSW was devastated by one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons on record. Our evokeAG. host and fellow farmer, Stephen Honner caught up with Ian Cathels, Manager of Ardrossan Orchards, at their Woodburn orchard, in the middle of their fruit picking season – to see firsthand their progress and how new technology is driving on-farm efficiencies.

Farm
30 Jun 2021
22 min listen

The future forces for Australian agriculture

This week, Oli Madgett, grape grower and Founder of Platfarm, talks with Sarah Nolet from AgThentic about the future forces impacting agriculture, taking a longer look at how climate volatility will not only usher in migration of people, but also shifts in growing regions and methods for production.

Future
2 Jun 2021
21 min listen