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Last week’s Wellbeing Budget 2023 announcements included a $29.9m commitment to integrating technology into the horticulture sector. The Horticulture Technology Catalyst initiative emerged from the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan. Its goal: to grow the size and impact of agritech businesses in and from New Zealand.
The initiative aims to ensure companies can collaborate and provide services and support to growers and the sector here in New Zealand, as well as finding global opportunities that will fuel the investment required to solve some of the trickiest problems.
Catalysing the development and adoption of technologies in the horticultural sector will position the sector for new levels of sustainable productivity and create a proving ground for the export of new technologies. This double benefit is a significant driver for higher paying jobs and new export revenues.
At AgriTechNZ we’re delighted to see the Government recognise the importance the agritech industry can have on the country’s economic value. We can see substantial potential across multiple areas. However, New Zealand’s future will be limited if we just focus on the production of more food. Further prosperity will only come from commercialising the technology, systems and intellectual property that are not bound by the same constraints as our food systems. This is the double benefit of exporting our fruit and our technology too.
Taking a globally focussed approach to the development and proof of horticultural technologies in New Zealand justifies the levels of investment required to solve some of the biggest challenges faced by the sector. New Zealand can be both an originator and first adopter of great technologies, but unless they are focussed on global application they will be undercooked and uncompetitive.
Investment remains a real challenge for many of our agritech businesses, especially when it comes to the capital-intensive aspects of manufacturing things like robotics and automation solutions. International figures estimate the automated harvesting of a crop requires approximately $US100m research and development funding, per crop type. Harvesting is just one challenge, highlighting the need to ensure appropriate levels of capital are raised to grow globally relevant technology solutions in New Zealand.
The Horticultural Technology Catalyst won’t solve the investment challenge, but it will create better conditions to develop investable businesses with global relevance.
Hopefully, the first impacts of this initiative will be a better set of conditions and collaborations across the hort sector to adopt many of the emerging technologies. If that’s you, we’d love to hear your ideas on what could make a difference.If you have an opinion on what needs to be ‘catalysed’, we’d love to hear from you. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org