The first digital Fieldays was opened today by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern followed by an address by The Prince of Wales.

At midday the Prime Minister opened the virtual gates to Fieldays Online with a nod to the efforts of the primary sector, which kept the country moving during the national lockdown.

The free online Fieldays runs until 5pm on Sunday July 26.

Ardern acknowledged Fieldays is part of the fabric of the rural community and its significance in the local and national economy.

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"A huge thank you to our primary sector, to our farmers, our rural businesses and our communities for the role that you played through Covid-19," Ardern said.

"Many of you carried on as essential workers throughout that time helping to keep New Zealand running, during a really critical period. I know you will continue to play a hugely important role as we rebuild together."

Innovation is at the heart of Fieldays Online. Photo / Supplied
Innovation is at the heart of Fieldays Online. Photo / Supplied

Prince Charles, an avid supporter of sustainable agriculture, last visited Fieldays in 1970 when the event was in only its second year.

In his message for Fieldays Online, he commended the society for their decades of hard work and importance to the nation.

"The idea behind Fieldays, to which I was first introduced all those years ago, has certainly flourished over these past five decades. All those who have nurtured it and helped it to grow can feel rightly proud of the way in which Fieldays has established its place in New Zealand life.

"It has come to be an indispensable opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge, to connect different parts of the community, and to celebrate our shared relationships to the land."

New Zealand National Fieldays Society CEO Peter Nation was delighted to receive the royal reinforcement.

"We don't do things by halves here and we knew having an online event was a huge undertaking. But given the current circumstances we knew we had to do something, and we've worked really hard to bring the event to life in an utterly new and unique way.

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"Having the Prime Minister and The Prince offer their support is wonderful. We're really proud of what's on offer for the community both here in New Zealand and across the world. The calibre of guest speakers, chefs, innovation entries and exhibitors are incredible for our first virtual event.

"Fieldays Online 2020 is the pilot for our digital roadmap moving forward. Next year we'll incorporate it into the physical event, which will only maximise those four days even more."

Fieldays Online Highlights:

• Health and Wellbeing: 'Resilience' with guest panellists including author Doug Avery, former Silver Fern Bernice Mene, and Phil Crothers from the Learning and Experience team at Xero.

• Fieldays Online Kitchen chefs: Simon Gault, Brett McGregor, Kasey and Karena Bird, Michael Van de Elzen, Nici Wickes and Belinda McDonald.

• Farmlands Fieldays Future Focus Talks: Agri-Leaders Future Outlook with guests Peter Reidie, Tony Baird and Jo Finer.

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• NZ Young Farmer Careers in the agri-sector: Sam Waugh, Cheyenne Wilson, Ashleigh Foley, Hamish Flett, Briar Loveridge and Nicole Cooper.

• Amazon Web Services: Talking to rivers, and the rivers talking back with Fieldays Innovations 2019 AWS Award recipient James Muir of Riverwatch.

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• Beautiful Business powered by Xero: Run your farm with the ultimate partnership with guests Mitchell Davie-Martin and Cam Anderson.

• Agritech Unleashed 2020 LIVE - TIN Agritech Report: hosted by Peter Wren-Hilton with guests Greg Shanahan and Brendan Boughen.

• Asia NZ - Changing Tastes: Understanding Consumption Trends in Asia hosted by Margie Hunt with guests Alex Worker and Jerel Kwek introduced by Asia New Zealand Foundation.

• Future Fuels in Agriculture: with panellists Gavin Young, Linda Wright and Dan Kahn: Everything you need to know on emissions, alternative fuels and environmental steps New Zealand and the agricultural sector can do to achieve climate targets.

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• Fieldays Online: register here.