The ITP's delivery to date
A focus and success of the ITP has been building a strong partnership with the agritech industry.
We have also made progress towards distinguishing agritech as an industry and export sector in its own right, rather than only a service sector to our primary industries, building the sector’s reputation domestically and internationally.
Beyond this, the ITP has focused on better understanding the issues and opportunities facing the sector, then starting to pilot and explore solutions to these issues that can now be scaled up for further impact.
Farm2050 is a global pilot for on-farm technologies to provide rigorous independently verified evidence for their efficacy. The ITP has funded Farm2050 trials through $850,000 of funding. These trials aim to identify, validate and demonstrate at scale promising disruptive technologies in nutrient management and water contamination, using a global approach to leverage year-round seasonality to speed up the process of proving technologies. These trials are currently focused on pasture-based dairy in collaboration with agritech investors, farmers, researchers and start-up companies. 3 New Zealand-based firms are participating in these trials: CropX, Pastoral Robotics, and Eko360.
These trials are an opportunity for New Zealand agritech to participate in international research activities as well as demonstrate our agritech capabilities to a global research, investment and primary industry audience. Their aims are also highly relevant to New Zealand’s environmental goals and provide opportunities to bring potentially world-leading solutions to market sooner for domestic New Zealand users. The ITP’s investment in Farm2050 has allowed us to progress these trials relatively quickly.
Launched as a pilot in 2021 the NZ Trial Programme carried out an international call for applications followed by an expert committee selecting ﬁve start-ups (3 NZ and 2 US) to participate. Key criteria included the potential to have meaningful impact on nutrient management challenges and for the trials to add clear value to the company’s development.
The Trial Programme is seeking to address key problems in the development of nutrient management technologies:
- Address the prohibitive costs for early-stage companies to access the high level of scientiﬁc resources required to complete robust multi-year trials.
- Attract internationally relevant technologies from other crops and farming systems to prioritise and focus on NZ’s pastoral farming opportunity.
- Provide independent scientiﬁcally validated data that companies can use to help secure investment, partnerships and customers.
- The requirement that a full solution to the nutrient management problem will require numerous proven, easy to manage and implement, technologies to operate cohesively together.
- Connection to international trial opportunities that NZ companies can access to incorporate counter-seasonal trialling and international customer acquisition.
Finistere Aotearoa Fund
The ITP delivered a high impact project by launching the Finistere Aotearoa Fund in April 2021. Its value is up to NZ$40 million, with half each of this investment coming from New Zealand Growth Capital Partners (NZGCP) and Finistere Ventures. This work is part of NZGCP’s Elevate Venture Fund aimed at filling the Series A and B capital gap in New Zealand.
The Finistere Aotearoa Fund has provided further investment options into New Zealand’s agritech sector. The fund’s full value will be of significant size relative to venture capital that is currently invested into agritech in New Zealand. (As noted previously, the 2022 TIN Agritech Insights Report reported that in 2021, the agritech sector saw 11 deals worth a total of $15.4 million, which was a significant increase on previous years’ investment levels). We consider there remains plenty more work to be done in improving the availability of suitable investment for the agritech sector.
Accelerating the growth and connections of the horticulture technology sector
The Horticulture Technology Catalyst (the Catalyst) aims to develop New Zealand’s horticulture technology sector to a high-growth, innovative industry cluster by increasing the sector’s international connections, growing industry talent, and increasing collaboration and relationships across the horticulture sector.
The Catalyst seeks to address the issues that horticulture technology ﬁrms face in scaling up to be globally relevant. In particular, ﬁrms in our horticulture technology sector have a relatively small (compared to international markets) and fragmented horticulture industry to support. Therefore there are few opportunities for horticulture technology ﬁrms to achieve domestic scale (agglomerated sectors like kiwifruit being an exception). The Catalyst seeks to overcome this issue through building domestic alignment and access to international connections and partnerships, access to skilled labour, and the overall critical mass for New Zealand’s horticulture technology sector to become a successful and self-sustaining sector.
Why focus on horticulture technology?
Horticulture is a signiﬁcant and growing part of New Zealand’s economy, having over doubled its export revenues since 2010. This growth is expected to continue and reﬂects global horticulture growth. The domestic and global market demand for horticulture technological innovations is therefore strong and increasing. Western Growers, a signiﬁcant American horticulture player, aims to automate 50 percent of their horticulture harvesting by 2030.
This demand presents the opportunity to develop these technologies in New Zealand to simultaneously increase the size of our horticulture technology sector and beneﬁt our domestic horticulture industry through close proximity to this technology sector.
While the Catalyst is currently proposed to focus on the horticulture technology sector, its focus could extend to either more subsectors of agritech or the entire sector. Focusing its efforts to horticulture technology initially will enable it to build the connections and momentum that are required for its success, before considering whether to extend its scope to other sectors for a broader impact.
Measuring the agritech sector
A challenge facing New Zealand’s agritech sector is its measurement. There is no consistent measurement of the sector’s firms and its contribution to the economy, directly through exports or indirectly through improvements to the primary sectors.
1 estimate of the sector’s exports placed these at around $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion, though this estimate should be treated with caution due to it relying on exports of agritech for pastoral farming. The Technology Investment Ne2rk (TIN) Agritech Insights Report 2022 noted that the sector’s 22 largest firms alone had revenues of $1.6 billion, including exports of $814.9 million. We estimate there are 700 to 900 agritech firms in New Zealand, which suggests that the sector’s true revenue is likely in the order of $2 to $3 billion.
To improve our measurement of the sector, the ITP has:
- co-sponsored a series of 3 Agritech Insights Reports by TIN to provide a baseline source of data and profile for the largest firms in the sector
- published a taxonomy of the agritech sector and conducted a survey of agritech firms to collect a variety of information, with the aim of linking this survey into existing business data held by Stats NZ. This builds the foundations for consistent, robust, and ongoing measurement of the agritech sector.
Each of these projects provides a different view of the agritech sector’s size and profile, improving our overall understanding of the sector. However, it is clear there is significant work left to do in growing our understanding of the agritech sector. We aim to publish deeper and broader Agritech sector data and analysis from the 2023 Agritech TIN report with baseline and additional key metrics to measure growth and other industry variables.
The NZ Agritech Story, 'Powered by Place'
In support of the sector’s identity and storytelling, the ITP has developed the NZ Agritech Story, 'Powered by Place'. This is a resource that tells a compelling story of the New Zealand agritech sector for domestic and international audiences through collateral for use by the sector. The ITP’s success in developing and using 'Powered by Place' has been noted in international engagements beyond its target markets as an indicator of the ambition and unified approach of New Zealand in targeting international export opportunities for its agritech sector.
NZ Story activation
NZTE used 'Powered by Place' in the UK in a campaign about New Zealand's innovative agritech companies. The campaign aimed to build awareness and preference for New Zealand agritech solutions in the UK.
The campaign featured content from 13 New Zealand companies. Videos and articles were structured around 4 content pillar themes: sustainability, efficiency, measurement, and animal productivity.
UK farmers were highly engaged with campaign content and NZTE was able to grow its database of farmer contacts by 43%. The number of farmers who associate NZ with agritech grew from 14% in 2021 in 21% in 2022, only behind the UK. Further, 57% of farmers agreed that New Zealand makes efficient products that help them get a production advantage – an increase of 40 percentage points.
The ITP is planning a second market activation for the UK in 2023 to convert the strong brand preference into commercial outcomes and sales for the involved companies.
Improving business support for agritech companies
The ITP addresses a gap in the support government provides to businesses across their lifespan. In particular, the ITP has improved support for companies to scale up and internationalise earlier in their lifecycle.
Below are a few highlights of ITP initiatives:
LATAM accelerator programme
To support New Zealand agritech companies to scale quickly into international markets, the ITP ran a regional Accelerator programme for 9 agritech companies targeting Latin America. The accelerator programme was delivered by Brazilian innovation agency AgTech Garage with support from NZTE’s in-market team. The participating companies were provided with support through webinars, mentorships, and matchmaking. Key to the programme’s success was AgTech Garage’s network across investors, farmers, R&D institutes, universities, world leading multi-nationals, and strategic agribusiness partners throughout Latin America.
The programme showcased a potential model to approach international ecosystems and introduce companies into those environments, encouraging them to earlier consider international markets and paths into these. The programme benefitted from having a “boots-on-the-ground” in-market delivery team. This hands-on innovative approach also improved the in-market perception of New Zealand firms.
Callaghan Innovation and NZTE worked together in creating showcases for NZ agritech companies to interact with international experts. These showcases created introductions and opportunities for NZ agritech companies with leading grower groups in Australia, Latin America, and North America. This has enabled early-stage and scaling businesses to access a network of engaged growers for testing technology, with the ultimate aim to generate improved agritech sector R&D, product development, innovation, and commercial outcomes.
1 New Zealand firm, Hectre, has commenced an on-orchard trial of its orchard management software with the large Chilean grower Copefrut, as a direct outcome of these showcases.
Agritech Support Explorer
Businesses can find it challenging and complex to find the right funding and advice to support their growth. These supports can sit across a number of different organisations. Callaghan Innovation has launched the Agritech Support Explorer to help businesses navigate the rapidly evolving funding and support landscape. The Explorer provides easy-to-access information, tailored to specific needs, in response to a few simple questions.