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Innovation Nation

My responsibilities at Plant & Food Research include the commercialisation of technology and innovation to improve how we grow, fish, harvest, prepare and share food in New Zealand.

At the 2035 Oceania Summit I’m part of a panel discussing how to encourage investment in the agri food tech sector. The sector in New Zealand has a strong history of growth and today is worth over $10 billion to the economy.

One of the reasons the sector has become such a vital part of the economy is a willingness to embrace innovation, new technologies and products. Looking ahead I’m optimistic that the people and businesses involved in the industry will continue to embrace innovation as we face the significant challenges associated with climate change. There's still huge potential to be unlocked in the sector.

We all have a valuable role to play in the production of healthy food and a responsibility to restore the world’s life sustaining natural systems by staying within safe and stable limits.

This event’s focus on sustainability mirrors Plant & Food’s commitment to mitigating and eliminating, where possible, any negative effects the sector has on the environment and society as a whole.

The effects of climate change are becoming more and more real every season in every part of the world. Here in New Zealand, the recent floods in Nelson pose real challenges to primary producers like fruit growers, for example.

More and more people are joining the dots and recognising that significant weather events — whether that’s heavy rain and flooding, strong winds, the absence of frost in areas that normally have frost, or hot and dry summers leading to drought — are putting stress on growing environments and on the growers and farmers on the front line.

At Plant & Food we’re doing a lot of work around breeding new cultivars and varieties that are better suited to our changing climate. We’re also looking at research and innovation in alternative protein sources. Land use and helping farmers make smart choices about what they do with their land is another big focus for us. The end goal of all of our work is to make it easier for people in the sector to produce food sustainably and profitably.

I think New Zealand and Australia are catching up fast to other parts of the world like the Netherlands and California that recognised the need for sustainable practices and adopted new technologies and practices earlier than most.

I’m increasingly optimistic. Plenty of climate crisis commentators would suggest there's been lots of talk, but enough action. I think people are now appreciating the urgency around this and I’m confident we’re seeing more and more tangible commitment to practical solutions.

There's a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the sector in Oceania with a lot of new initiatives coming on stream and I'm excited at what can be achieved at an event like this. Discussions are one thing, action is another. But you can't beat getting people together in a room to collaborate and work together to solve the big challenges.