Owen Hembry

Business news editor of the New Zealand Herald

Silicon Valley boot camp for leaders

Jeff Grant. Photo / APN
Jeff Grant. Photo / APN

A group of primary industry chief executives will travel to Stanford University for a boot camp aimed at unlocking the global potential of the sector through collaboration and stronger strategic alignment.

More than 20 chief executives from organisations representing dairy, beef, seafood, viticulture and horticulture in August will attend a six-day forum in Silicon Valley, California.

The private-sector led initiative will partner with the Ministry of Science and Innovation, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Trade and Enterprise and the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust.

Jeff Grant, chairman of the trust's board of trustees, said the organisation was contributing $100,000 towards an overall cost of about $500,000, with the firms and chief executives also providing funding.

The boot camp would set out to explore and drive in-market collaboration within the primary sector, Grant said.

"The attraction for [the trust] was to say this was about shifting people right out of their business, physically taking them away from the day-to-day stuff and putting them in a concentrated programme for a week," he said.

The attraction of Stanford University included the ability to tap into innovation for which it was internationally recognised, an understanding of commodities and the world market, and to get access to good speakers.

"They're getting a range of speakers talking to them about international marketing and ... we wanted a concentration on Asia."

The programme was driven by New Zealand Merino Company chief executive John Brakenridge, Grant said.

"John came to us and said look we're looking at whether we should get a bunch of CEOs together and take them offshore and just concentrate for a whole week around ... what could our businesses do across the board that would lift our ability to export," he said.

Brakenridge said the economy was in a very vulnerable position with "commodity complacency" in many parts of the primary sector.

"However, the power of alignment, collaboration and innovation provides a significant opportunity for a seismic shift in the sector's approach," he said.

The idea for the boot camp had come about when Brakenridge and Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper were at Stanford University discussing their collaboration through the government's Primary Growth Partnership.

"As a result of [the partnership] companies like Silver Fern Farms and [New Zealand Merino Company] are now collaborating with considerable mutual benefit," Brakenridge said.

"When Keith and I discussed this we thought, 'What if this collaboration was extended, how much more value could be unlocked for our businesses, stakeholders, and for New Zealand?'."

Silicon Valley and Stanford University provided a unique ecosystem, he said.

- NZ Herald

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