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Silicon Valley connection key to Kiwi growth, says expert

04 Sep 18

Leading New Zealand tech expert Graeme Muller says that New Zealand needs closer tech ties with Californian to help produce a thriving Kiwi economy.

Muller is the chief executive of NZTech and was part of a large New Zealand contingent which has been engaging with leading US agribusinesses and Silicon Valley tech firms to learn about US agritech opportunities.

The United States has played a big role in trailblazing technology such as giant online retailers, social media apps and the growth of the cloud, Muller says.

“We all know that Silicon Valley is the leading technology hotspot in the world, so it was exciting and historic that Agritech New Zealand signed two landmark agreements while in the Valley.

“One with the giant of fresh produce, Western Growers, whose members provide more than half the nation's fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America's fresh organic produce. The other with Farm 2050, a collective of the global leading agri-venture firms and agribusinesses focused on accelerating innovation in the agritech sector.

“These partnerships will substantially speed up the 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.

“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.

“Agritech New Zealand and other stakeholders across the New Zealand agri community are working hard together to build a world class agritech ecosystem but New Zealand needs to accelerate the integration of agriculture and technology to strengthen its primary export sector.

“As the world’s demand for food increases with its ever-growing population, New Zealand can expand its primary sector further by being more productive and by focusing on producing higher value produce for the world.

“Combining two of New Zealand’s leading sectors, agriculture and technology, shows just how we can improve New Zealand farming, food production and health while also growing our exports. We are on the cusp of some massive and exciting tech changes in our lives.”

Muller says New Zealand is achieving good agritech export growth rates relative to many nations, with an estimated $1.3 billion agritech exported in 2017.

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

The New Zealand tech sector is the country’s third largest and fastest growing export sector, worth over $6.3 billion in 2016 and employing more than 6% of the New Zealand workforce.

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