Agritech NZ partners with US growers

Published on the 31/08/2018 | Written by Heather Wright

Salinas_NZAgTech_Western Growers deal

New deal sows seeds for further growth…

Kiwi agritech companies could find themselves breaking into the US market via the warm, sunny climes of Salinas, California, following a new deal between Agritech New Zealand and the United States’ Western Growers.

The strategic partnership, which is focused on cropping and horticulture, rather than New Zealand’s far larger pastoral dairy/meat/wool sectors, could also seed new opportunities for local produce growers. 

“The partnership will strengthen and accelerate the development of agritech markets in both countries.”

Peter Wren-Hilton, executive director of Agritech NZ which was set up earlier this year to connect agritech innovators, investors, regulators, researchers and interested public as part of NZ Tech, says the partnership will strengthen and accelerate the development of agritech markets in both countries.

Western Growers is a growers’ association with a significant voice in the US, claiming a membership that grows over half of the US’ fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. As well as a lobbying voice in political circles, it also provides grower services such as insurance, finance and technical advice. The association operates an innovation and technology centre, the Western Growers Centre for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT) from offices in Salinas. The centre focuses on key issues such as water use and quality, crop protection and harvesting (man versus robot).

Home to 52 start-ups to date, the WGCIT is sponsored by US conglomerates including Monsanto, Bayer, Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch and AT&T, along with larger corporate growers.

The deal will provide Kiwi innovators with in-market support for agritech development, with co-working spaces training and mentoring, seminars and events, while also providing a platform for collaboration.

In return the deal will also provide US based agritech startups with access to the local market, although exactly how that will work is not clear.

While the United States agricultural market is a very different beast to New Zealand’s, dominated by growers who are themselves often large corporations, the partnership could have benefits for Kiwi agriculture, particularly around water control and rights management in irrigation-reliant regions such as Canterbury.

Wren-Hilton says as demand for food increases globally thanks to an ever-increasing population, New Zealand can expand its primary sector by focusing on producing higher value produce.

Hank Giclas, Western Growers senior vice president of strategic planning, science and technology, says building a two-way bridge for agricultural technology will result in international collaboration “where we can create, transfer and share knowledge and experiences about new technologies that can help solve the industry’s most pressing issues”.

Wren-Hilton says connecting New Zealand’s agriculture innovation ecosystems will benefit innovators, growers, investors, regulators, researchers and public stakeholders not only in New Zealand and the US but globally.

“We are excited to embark on this new partnership to foster economic growth in the US and New Zealand through international connections and missions.”

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