New Zealand is being urged by an international expert to take its "100 per cent pure" tourism image to its agricultural industry and use its science to create an export boosting "clean green healthy" focus.
Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, a top scientist at Australia's CSIRO, best known for his book Global Megatrends, is visiting New Zealand for today's launch of the latest of the Government's 11 collaborative National Science Challenges - an $84 million effort aimed at high-value nutrition.
Pulling together hundreds of researchers, its mission is to establish New Zealand as an international leader in food-for-health, with specific focuses on metabolic, gastrointestinal and immune health, and weaning foods for health.
Dr Hajkowicz said the market opportunities for nutritional food were "enormous".
"There is a real opportunity for New Zealand's agriculture to almost just take the 100 per cent pure New Zealand campaign from tourism, put that trademark on its food, and back it up with science to add value to its exports."
The two global megatrends that played into New Zealand's favour to grow exports were the creation of wealth in Asia, and the digital revolution, he said.
"The income growth in Asia is related to diet diversification and choosier customers - they want to know where their food comes from, is it safe, what are its health benefits?
"Over the next years there will be real demand for scientific knowledge on what the relationship is between what we eat and our physical and mental health."
New Zealand should also leverage the digital revolution when marketing its food overseas, he said.
"The internet and social media will allow the New Zealand farmer to develop a relationship with the supermarket shopper in Shanghai. The information technology will close the geographical gap between the two.
"For example the Shanghai shopper will be able to find out what farm the milk came from within New Zealand - how it was produced - and this will give quality assurances to consumers."
Another visiting renowned food researcher, Professor Bruce German of the University of Davis in California, felt New Zealand was uniquely placed to explore a new "farm-to-fork" concept that pulled together the agriculture and research communities.
"New Zealand has a reputation as an agricultural enterprise, but also urban and modern," said Professor German, who is speaking at a symposium organised for the launch.
Science research into health and foods would be more important moving forward because the 21st century was becoming the "biological century".
"Biology by nature is sustainable but pulling oil out of the ground and burning it is not sustainable.
"So New Zealand's High-Value Nutrition project focusing on human biology will give it a competitive edge. It is very forward thinking and on trend."
New Zealand's 11 National Science Challenges:
1. High-Value Nutrition: Develop high-value foods with validated health benefits to drive economic growth.
2. The Deep South: Understanding the role of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean in determining our climate and our future environment.
3. New Zealand's Biological Heritage: Protecting and managing our biodiversity, improving our biosecurity, and enhancing our resilience to harmful organisms.
4. Sustainable Seas: Enhance utilisation of our marine resources within environmental and biological constraints.
5. A Better Start: Improving the potential of young New Zealanders to have a healthy and successful life.
6. Resilience to Nature's Challenges: Research into enhancing our resilience to natural disasters.
7. Science for Technological Innovation: Enhancing the capacity of New Zealand to use physical and engineering sciences for economic growth.
8. Ageing Well: Harnessing science to sustain health and well-being into the later years of life.
9. Healthier Lives: Research to reduce the burden of major New Zealand health problems.
10. Our Land and Water: Research to enhance primary sector production and productivity while maintaining and improving our land and water quality for future generations.
11. Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities: Research to develop better housing and urban environments.