New Zealand's alert level 4 lockdown means a whole new world for many Kiwi businesses.

This is especially so for local producers and growers who supplied the nation's cafes and restaurants, which are now shut.

"Last week everything changed so quickly for us," said Florence Van Dyke, co-founder of Nelson drinks company, Chia Sisters.

"We suddenly saw all of our café sales dropping off and just a lot more tension about what was going to happen - staff nervous that they might lose their jobs."


In a bid to help connect these growers directly with their customers, Mount Maunganui branding agency Woods has launched The Modern Forager.

"We work with a lot of growers, makers and food producers and they export their products offshore," said Melissa Woods. "But also supply locally around New Zealand to restaurants and cafes."

"The way we access food is going to change and we need to try and help people find the food and also help the people growing and making the food get it to the people."

The goal of the website is simple.

"Get the food to the people," Woods said. "Create cashflow for the growers so they can still have money coming in if they've got stock sitting in their warehouses or on their farms or the buildings. And also help New Zealanders stay home and eat local and shop local and have food delivered."

Chia Sisters was one of the first businesses to sign up to the service.

"We've seen an 80 per cent decrease in sales over the last fortnight," Van Dyke said. "But being able to sell online, direct to people's homes gives us another channel to lift our sales."

Van Dyke is aware that there's a danger the rules could change at a moment's notice.


"It might be that in the future we're not allowed to supply online for example, but at the moment [you] just take every opportunity you can while remaining within all the precautionary boundaries that MPI has provided.

"We have a warehouse full of stock, we have all of our employees able and ready to work and we just need new customers. Now's the time to be trying new things so long as we can remain within the boundaries that the Government has provided for us."

Hawke's Bay start-up Good Vibes Fungi had planned to attend the Go Green Expo in Auckland with kitchen-ready fungi grow kits.

"We made one thousand of these ready to grow. Less than two weeks out this Covid-19 stuff changed the world dramatically. The event was cancelled and we were like, what do we do with these thousand grow kits?" said co-founder Zane Gerrie.

The business had just weeks to transition from selling at Farmer's Markets to selling online.

"We had to build a website from scratch and figure out a different sales mechanism," said Gerrie. "We had to try and figure out how to find the customers."

Co-founder Kimi Knott says it's important to work together.

"We have to pull together as small growers and have other avenues because people aren't able to get out and about, but they still have the internet so collaboration is really important for all of us now really."

In these uncertain times a little bit of Kiwi ingenuity can go a long way.

"It will be innovations like this that enables New Zealand to recover economically faster from Covid-19," said Van Dyke.

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