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AgTech proves farming and tech is a match made in heaven

What happens when you put the world’s oldest industry of farming and modern day technology together? You get agriculture technology (or AgTech for short), a “dream team” that is New Zealand’s secret weapon.

A relatively new industry, AgTech is already changing the face of farming.

The combination of agriculture and technology is bringing new opportunities of innovation to farming, which will make it more efficient in order to meet the challenges that food systems are putting on the earth. 

“We’re trying to feed more people on a planet that is struggling and therefore the way we’ve done things, we need to improve,” says Brendan O’Connell, Chief Executive of Agritech NZ.

“It’s a dream team in terms of finding problems that are worth solving because we’re talking about food, which is so basic for all of us.”

And because of that, there is an increasing pace of innovation in the country.

With New Zealand’s rich history of agriculture, O’Connell says that the future of AgTech in the country is endless and abundantly full of innovation.

In the past five to seven years, New Zealand’s agtech scene has grown in prominence, especially as the challenges of the food systems are quickly coming to light.

O’Connell says companies like Gallagher and Zespri have been at the forefront and pushing New Zealand to global heights in the agtech scene.

One brand in particular is making waves across Central America: WayBeyond, a company that utilises artificial intelligence (AI) to boost crop productivity in controlled environment agriculture (CEA).

Read more: Meet the company helping sprout NZ’s AgTech and FoodTech industry

Darryn Keiller, CEO of WayBeyond, first founded the company through his rich background in the technology sector and realising how “broken the whole food system is”.

“One of the things with technology, with AgTech, is it can help relieve some of the pressure and it means you can automate more of what you’re doing, and that way you’re not as vulnerable as you were before, but mostly the benefit is it makes you smarter,” he says.

“It’s about making better decisions, and that could be around when you plant, when you prune, when you choose to harvest, where you choose to harvest first, that type of thing.”

But it is also the small start-ups bringing new innovation into the ecosystem that are putting New Zealand on the map.

“We’ve got maybe 22 businesses of significant scale and then many hundreds of businesses that are at different levels of either early revenue, pre-revenue and many start-ups,” says O’Connell.

The attitude of innovation and resilience in New Zealand nurtures the growth of the country’s agtech scene.

With the heightened awareness of the challenges farming is facing, agtech is gaining traction.

“Investors are realising that there’s something going on in the food system,” adds Keiller.

The country’s agtech scene is becoming successful internationally, getting picked up across Europe, US and Asia, with global companies heading to New Zealand to adopt technology.

The demand for agtech is not going away, with the need to find solutions to our food challenge “insatiable”, says O’Connell.

“There is more challenge and there is more need for food and innovations to improve our food systems.”

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles. To get in touch with her, email [email protected]

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