Comment: Head of Analytics at NZX, Julia Jones pens a thank-you letter to 2019 from the food and fibre industry of the future.
Dear food and fibre 2019, it's food and fibre of 2030 here and we'd like to let you know how we are.
Firstly, thank you for being such excellent tupuna: you set us up for success, we have a thriving economy, there's no waste within our food and production systems, our rivers sparkle, and our growers stand tall.
By adapting the old science, education, and regulatory systems that locked you into the status quo and didn't focus on outcomes, you empowered a future that rewards the food and fibre sector for adaptation and innovation across the value chain.
We don't duplicate as much; we look across the sector for our science and education. The investment in these areas is significant, and they work together with business creating cool innovation and commercial outcomes.
A change in focus
When you stopped focusing on sub-sectors and focused instead on consumers, this led to an industry focus that now supports communities, regions and all-country success. Communities became united, which helped them to build pride and resilience and stay at the forefront of an ever-changing world.
Just as you did, we take pride in what we grow; our farms are diverse, and we focus on quality, value and wellness. We take pride in the value of our products to the world, but we are most proud of their value to our own people, our land, our water, animals and economy.
Yes, we still proudly farm animals, but we do this with a diversity mindset and a multi-animal and crop focus. Thank you for commencing the journey of regeneration that gave us healthy soils and taught us the value of allowing the environment to have a voice at the decision tables. It's so much easier now that our value chains take a whole-system, holistic approach.
We can't imagine what it was like for growers to always feel the finger of blame pointing at them when they were working so hard and it was everyone's role, not just theirs, to adapt and change for the future.
Courage and tenacity
When we look back, we see that your success came from having the courage to do what was right, even when it was hard. We love that you embraced and supported people in the transition and we respect your courage in leaving behind those who chose not to change; those who put in jeopardy all the endeavours of those who adapted early.
You were so right in thinking that adaptation would be the industry's saviour. Since 2019, the changes globally have continued at pace; because you encouraged all to focus on identifying opportunities, we stay positive and solution focused.
You will be glad to hear that your hard work and focus on climate change wasn't in vain; we continue to drive a strong premium for our products and we now see premium prices for products that focus on water wellness and efficient usage. Thankfully, we began that journey early on.
We don't always send off a finished product now; we are proud of being a high-end ingredient supplier and have accepted that we can't always own the whole supply chain. But we have never compromised; you will be glad to know that you won't find our products lost in anonymous buffet casseroles or brown paper bags.
Collaboration and celebration
You might not believe this, but we collaborate now across the industry. We worked out that, because we are so small and the market is so big, when we go to market strategically we provide a better economic return for our growers and the country. We took this one step further and now take multiple products into these markets.
Don't worry, we aren't soft; we still compete, but we found that if we don't compete against each other but collaborate against other countries' products, our markets have so much more strength. Who would have thought?
Thanks so much for investing. We know you shouldered some balance sheet pain to invest in the future and never saw the benefit of much of your investment yourselves, but rest assured we are grateful.
We celebrate those who try to innovate. We also know that with each failure comes valuable learning; if we adapt then we can succeed.
We also celebrate those who succeed or are a little bit different. We've heard that there was once something called 'tall poppy syndrome', when you had forgotten how to celebrate success. This seems really counter-productive – we assume this syndrome is just a myth.
Of course, we aren't perfect, oh no. But we are honest, and we know that when we get it wrong, we own it and fix it. We don't waste energy finger-pointing or punishing; we look for a solution and we fix it together.
So thank you, food and fibre 2019, for being such good tupuna. We can't pay you back for all you did, but we promise to pay it forward to our rangatahi, our mokopuna, and future generations to come.
- Julia Jones is Head of Analytics at NZX and a former KPMG farm enterprise specialist.