NZ Farmer - Agritech deals open door to US market

Written by Esther Taunton

New Zealand's agritech innovators will have better access to the massive United States market through two new partnerships.

Agritech New Zealand, which represents some of the country's top tech companies, has signed an agreement with California-based Western Growers, a trade organisation whose members provide more than half the nation's fresh fruit and vegetables.

Signed last week, the deal will open doors for Kiwi agritech companies to enter the US market via the Western Growers Centre for Innovation and Technology in California and for US-based agritech startups to access the New Zealand market, Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton said.

Innovators, growers, investors, regulators and researchers around the globe stood to benefit from the partnership, he said.

"We are excited to embark on this new partnership to foster economic growth in the US and New Zealand through international connections and missions."

Hank Giclas, Western Growers' senior vice-president of strategic planning, science and technology said there were many issues severely impacting agriculture and the production of food globally.

By forming international partnerships, innovators could create and share knowledge and experiences about new technologies to tackle those challenges, he said.

AgritechNZ also signed an agreement with Farm2050, a collective of the world's leading agri-venture firms and agribusinesses, established by Google chairman Eric Schmidt in 2014.

The partnership will give New Zealand companies opportunities to work with global agribusinesses like Corteva Agriscience, Bayer Crop Science and Mars, and raise thier profile with potential investors.

Graeme Muller, chief executive of NZTech, said the landmark agreements were an exciting development for Kiwi innovators.

"These partnerships will substantially speed up growth of agritech in New Zealand and will open the doors for New Zealand agritech companies to enter the US market, to access agri investors and for US agritech startups to access the New Zealand market," he said.

"In California the farmers and producers have very similar challenges to Kiwi farmers and producers, so this agreement presents an enormous opportunity for the New Zealand tech and agricultural sectors."

New Zealand was achieving good agritech export growth rates relative to many countries, with an estimated $1.3 billion agritech exported in 2017, Muller said.

Global agritech investment was also expanding rapidly, with venture capital investment in agritech firms in 2017 reaching US$1.7b and likely to exceed US$2b this year.

The New Zealand tech sector is the country's third largest and fastest growing export sector, worth over $6.3b in 2016 and employing more than 6 per cent of the national workforce.