‘Infinite’ suppliers of food to NZ and the world: are we ready?

Hort Talk
with Mike Chapman
HorticultureNZ CEO

By the time you read this, debate in New Zealand about climate change will have heated up again. 

In mid-July, the Interim Climate Change Commission released its reports and the Government announced it was consulting on proposed options to reduce agricultural emissions.

At the same time, the primary sector released its climate change commitment, ‘He Waka Eke Noa – Our Future in Our Hands’. 

If we are to change and reach the Government’s targets, we need to have practical and easy-to-use solutions. It is not enough to predicate change by setting targets and not provide funding for research and development.

New tools and investment in tech transfer are vital so urban NZ, farmers and growers can adapt. We need to turn to technology for the solutions but that costs money.

How we live as a country and how our rural sector grows our food needs a substantial rethink. This transition will not be an easy but the biggest disruptive force is going to be the consumer.

Consumers’ tastes are moving to a strong focus on healthy food for wellness, which includes a move away from animal to plant proteins. As commentators have observed, this move is being funded by some of the wealthiest individuals and corporates in the world. 

Impact on NZ

The impact on what we grow here in NZ will be profound. This is a triple impact: actual climate change, the Government’s response to it, and what our premium consumers will demand. 

There is an enormous consumer tsunami of change sweeping the world – and NZ is well placed to capitalise on it. The crunch point is we will not capitalise on it by doing what we are doing today. My fear is we’ll be locked in the past, like a possum in the headlights. 

In the excellent KPMG Agri-business Agenda 2019, the authors say that surviving and indeed capitalising on this consumer wave will require ‘playing an infinite game…and thriving through wellness’. They accurately state that ‘in an environment of dramatic and continuous disruption, the biggest risk facing organisations is maintaining relevance’. 

My interpretation of this is we must embrace change and capitalise on it by developing, as the report says ‘new capability to enable (growers) to retain a sustainable position in the markets they choose to play in’. My only point of difference is it is not a ‘game’ or ‘play’ – we are fighting for our very survival in this ‘infinite game’. 

So, are we ready to ‘play the infinite game’? I don’t think so. We are still time-warped in the paradigms of the past.


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