The agriculture and horticulture industries are set to benefit from a primary industry plan designed to grow the sectors.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor are at Zespri's head office in Tauranga and have announced ambitious industry plans to help innovate and transform agritech companies.

More than 100 people have gathered in Zespri's conference room, including Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell, Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber, the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce and other sectors.

Speakers include Zespri innovation manager Juliet Ansell, Zespri chairman Bruce Cameron, Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton as well as the Government ministers.

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Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford at the announcement. Photo / George Novak
Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford at the announcement. Photo / George Novak

Twyford said "we want to grow a cluster of large agritech firms that can take on the world, and build on New Zealand's agricultural strength".

"Our Government believes we can grow the agritech sector into a stronger economic contributor, increase agritech exports, and advance sustainable primary production in New Zealand."

The Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) sets out key actions to lift the productivity of the sector. It was co-developed with industry by a multi-agency agritech taskforce led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Twyford said key actions the Government is supporting include commercialising new products, and establishing a horticultural robotics academy, calling it "truly transformational work".


O'Connor also launched an industry-led report from industry association Agritech NZ, called Aotearoa Agritech Unleashed.

"Aotearoa Agritech Unleashed is a timely analysis of the agritech landscape in New Zealand's post-Covid-19 economy, and the opportunities to ensure the success of the Agritech ITP," he said.

"New Zealand agritech companies are creating innovative technologies and solutions that support our farmers, growers, beekeepers and fishers to create more value, and achieve greater sustainability.

More than 100 people gathered in Zespri's conference room in Tauranga for today's announcement. Photo / George Novak
More than 100 people gathered in Zespri's conference room in Tauranga for today's announcement. Photo / George Novak

"Innovation and investment in agritech will play an important part in delivering the Government's Covid-19 primary sector recovery roadmap Fit for a Better World."

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Twyford said both the ITP and Aotearoa Agritech Unleashed provide practical steps towards the vision for the sector, and highlight the opportunities for New Zealand agritech to solve challenges affecting the primary sector globally.

"I am also launching a refreshed Industry Strategy that takes account of the response to Covid-19. The development of Industry Transformation Plans remains critical to scaling up highly productive and internationally competitive firms."

Cameron said Zespri was all about collaboration and New Zealand was a small country.

"But as one we are strong on the international platform. It's all about bringing value back to the communities," he said.

Ansell said innovation was a key element and Zespri spent $37m on new innovation a year.

She said technology was a must and she was excited about future developments which could include detecting future diseases on orchard.

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Twyford commended the success of Zespri saying it was a pointer for the way forward

"Agritech can take on the world and provide meaningful jobs. There will be significant returns for our country and communities," he said.

Twyford said $11.4m was being made available but "to be successful we need to work together."

The agritech sector is set to benefit from Government investment including:
* $11.4 million direct investment in implementing the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan, announced in Budget 2020,
* A share of $84 million of Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures funding brought forward to boost innovation to support the Fit for a Better World roadmap,
* Ongoing support from the Government's agritech Taskforce and existing government programmes .

Aotearoa Agritech Unleashed
. A strengthened commitment from the sector to the ITP as a joint government and industry strategic approach,
· Developing a transtasman agritech strategy,
· Maximising local adoption of New Zealand agritech.