Week in Review

[04 Febraury 2021]

AI and robotics feature in this week’s international headlines as we see indicators of how far technology is progressing in our food systems. A record number of orders were placed for food and consumer good robots in 2020, and artificial intelligence helped technology teams to significantly outcompete traditional growers in a strawberry growing competition in China.

In New Zealand we saw the release of the Climate Change Commission report, which appears to have avoided significant disapproval from environmental and farming groups. 

Blog: 2020 – the year of the scientist

Science has been front and centre during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Scientists became household names, their faces and voices as familiar to us as tv and movie stars. Community transmission, contact tracing and vaccine efficacy became part of families’ regular conversations around the dinner table. We talked about Ashley as if he was a personal friend... what lessons can the Primary Industries take? Read the full article here.

Spotlight Stories

Technology spotlight


Orders for Food and Consumer Goods Robots Grew 56 Percent Last Year [29 January, The Spoon]

Robot start-ups said they experienced a surge in demand over the past year due to Covid-19. Association for Advancing Automation (A3) announced that orders of non-automotive robots surpassed automotive robot orders for the first-time last year, while orders for food and consumer goods robots rose by 56% in 2020. According to an A3 press release, robots are also increasingly used for higher-level tasks, such as directly preparing food, resulting in improved hygiene and food safety.

Tag: Agritechnology, Food Innovation, International

Environment & Emissions spotlight


New Zealand's on-farm dairy emissions most efficient: Study [27 January, Stuff]

A new study shows New Zealand is the most efficient dairy producer with the lowest carbon footprint among 18 countries studied, producing 46% less carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions than the average of the countries looked at. Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman says the dairy sector is committed to remaining the leader of low-emissions milk but investment in research and development is needed.

Tag: Dairy, Environment & Emissions, Research & Development

This Week's Headlines


Plant-based diets the ‘least favoured solution to climate change’, according to UN poll [27 January, Food Navigator]

United Nations Development Programme and Oxford University conducted the largest opinion poll on climate change, with the majority of participants believing it is now a global emergency. Of the 18 policy suggestions presented in the poll, conserving forests and land were the most popular solutions with 54% public support, while the least favoured option is switching to a plant-based diet with 30% support. UK’s Association of Independent Meat Suppliers said the finding showed peoples’ preferences of consuming meat.

Tag: Environment & Emissions, International


Here's what happened when AI and humans met in a strawberry-growing contest [29 January, World Economic Forum]

Four teams with technology such as data analysis, intelligent sensors and greenhouse automation competed with and outperformed traditional farmers for growing strawberries in Pinduoduo’s Smart Agriculture Competition. The technologists produced 196% more strawberries on average by weight compared with traditional farmers, and also with a 75.5% higher return on investment. Numerous studies also suggest the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies like AI are expected to further boost productivity and economic growth.

Tag: Agritechnology, Food Innovation, International


Climate change report welcome, but needs analysis says primary sector [01 February, NZ Herald]

The primary sector has welcomed the Climate Change Commission report to reduce New Zealand's emission, but stated the data will require more close analysis over the coming weeks. Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said inputs from farmers are critical to achieving the targets suggested in the report, and every Kiwi would need to be open to a discussion about technologies such as methane vaccines, feed inhibitors and gene-edited grasses.

Tag: Environment & Emissions, Policy and regulation, Farming Systems

Top stories

LIC delivers strong numbers [28 January, Farmers Weekly]

LIC released financial results for the first half of FY2021, with a healthy set of numbers showing good performance. For the six months to November 30, revenue was up 3.8% to $169.7 million; net profit after tax increased by 10.4% to $33.4 million, driven by strong growth of farmers’ use of premium AB products and animal health and diagnostic testing, according to LIC’s chairman Murray King.

Tag: Dairy, Agribusiness        

Ag sector poised for a profitable year [28 January, Farmers Weekly]

Rabobank’s Agribusiness Outlook 2021 report is predicting 2021 to be a profitable year for New Zealand farmers with above-average pricing, manageable cost inflation and production holding up well. The report co-author Emma Higgins says NZ’s agricultural sector is well placed despite the turbulence due to the pandemic, supported by good control of covid-19’s spread, pivoted domestic agricultural supply chains to remain function near full capacity, and stable relations with key trading partners.

Tag: Agribusiness, Trade & Exports  

Hemp trial leads to skincare exports [29 January, Rural News]

Co-funded by the Government’s R&D agency Callaghan Innovation, a research project of using industrial hemp to improve soil quality in vineyards has led to a new cosmetic brand - Hark & Zander. Company co-founder Kirsty Harkness says the microorganisms and estate-made compost of hemp effectively rejuvenate the soil without negatively affecting the grapes, and it also provides a potential secondary revenue source.

Tag: Horticulture, Viticulture, Research & Development

Fonterra joins forces with DSM to lower carbon footprint [29 January, Rural News]

Fonterra Co-operative Group has partnered with Royal DSM to reduce New Zealand dairy’s on-farm emissions with the feed additive product Bovaer. DSM’s Bovaer can reduce methane emissions from cows by over 30% in non-pasture-based farming system. Fonterra wants to explore and validate the effect of Bovaer on predominantly grass-fed cows in New Zealand, with the aim to further accelerate our global leadership in low-carbon dairy products and create more value for our New Zealand milk.

Tag: Dairy, Environment & Emissions           

Dairy needs technology to increase emissions efficiency [28 January, NZ Herald]

After a new study demonstrated that New Zealand dairy has the lowest carbon emissions amongst 18 leading countries, DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the industry needs more technology to sustain the success and move forward. Dr Mackle says new technologies including feed additives, a vaccine and feeding seaweed to cows are being worked on, and DairyNZ wants to work with the Government and other industry players to increase efficiency through investment in technology.

Tag: Dairy, Environment & Emissions

Explainer: Why India's farmers are revolting against PM Modi [28 January, NZ Herald]

The protest by India’s farmers has escalated, demanding a repeal of the laws passed by Parliament in September that will introduce market reforms to the farming sector. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has billed the laws as necessary to modernise Indian farming. Farmers fear the legalisation will favour large corporate farms and make small farmers poorer, as it signals a systematic change taking away their rights to sell products at government-sanctioned marketplaces with guaranteed prices.

Tag: International, Farmers & Producers

Small operators step up to tackle Nelson's juice surplus [30 January, Stuff]

Small juicing operations are stepping up to help fruit growers salvage value after the destructive Boxing Day hailstorm in Motueka. Mad Melon in Richmond is scaling up production to process the excessive local supply of apples. However, the main juicing plant in the Nelson region was shut down and moving site, now its owner Cedenco Foods is discussing potential options with T&G Global to re-open the facility.

Tag: Horticulture, Weather & climate

Early emissions reduction targets within reach [01 February, Farmers Weekly]

Climate Change Commission released its draft package of advice to the Government on how to meet its commitment of reaching net zero emissions of long-lived gases and reducing 24-47% of biogenic methane emissions by 2050. The commission said there are changes that farmers can make now to reduce on-farm emissions if given sufficient support; and the changes would not significantly reduce production, and profitability can be maintained or even improved.

Tag: Environment & Emissions, Farming Systems, Policy and regulation

Making more with less [01 February, Farmers Weekly]

The annual New Zealand Dairy Statistics revealed a record-high milk production for the 2019-20 season, with dairy companies processing 21.1 billion litres of milk containing 1.90 billion kilograms of milksolids, 0.6% up from the previous season. Despite the number of milking cows in NZ decreasing by 0.5% to 4.921 million, the average milk production per cow increased from 381kg MS to 385kg MS. This efficiency improvement is largely attributed to better genetics and improved feeding, farmers made more with less.

Tag: Dairy, Farmers & Producers, Farming Systems

NZ's predator-free dream on path to failure without new tech [01 February, NZ Herald]

Scientists warn that new technology like genetic tools are critical for New Zealand to achieve the goal of being pest-free by 2050, and support from the public are just as important. University of Auckland researchers modelled the process of rat eradication and their results suggest a small likelihood of success. But fortunately, new transformative technologies are being explored to overcome limitations in the existing toolbox, which will be essential to Pest-Free 2050's success.

Tag: Environment & Emissions, Research & Development

Trade and private equity buyers being sounded out for Villa Maria Estate [01 February, NZ Herald]

Villa Maria Estate, the winery largely owned by Sir George Fistonich, announced in November that it was selling 31ha around its Auckland headquarters and raising capital to accelerate its global growth strategy and ambitions. A report on Australian Financial Review says investment bank UBS has been mandated for the sell and potential buyers believe it could be worth more than AU$200 million (NZ$213m), although binding bids are still a while away.

Tag: Viticulture                        

Sanford fishing company faces forfeiture of $20m trawler after fishing in protected zone [01 February, NZ Herald]

New Zealand fishing company Sanford Ltd faces the forfeiture of a $20 million trawler, after its skipper Grant Walker and first mate William Lash were caught using trawl nets on several occasions in a Benthic Protection Area (BPA). Sanford has pleaded guilty to breaches of the Fisheries Regulations, which prohibited dredging and bottom trawling in 17 areas covering 1.1 million square kilometres of largely pristine seabed.

Tag: Fisheries  

Australian agriculture looks to profitable year ahead: Rabobank [29 January, Grain Central]

Rabobank’s Agribusiness Outlook for 2021 predicts Australia’s agricultural sector will have a profitable year ahead with high commodity prices, positive seasonal conditions and low interest rates, despite expected continuing trade tensions with China. The generally profitable 2020/21 season will help Australia navigate through the pandemic recovery, reduce reliance on China and increase sustainability, the report says.

Tag: International, Trade & Exports

Protecting Aotearoa's food supply in wake of Covid-19 [31 January, Stuff]

Covid-19 has challenged New Zealand’s food supply and highlighted our food security issues. KPMG’s global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot is involved in the development of a national food strategy alongside The Aotearoa Circle and he said the pandemic should be a catalyst for systematic change with a priority of providing every Kiwi with good access to healthy foods, nutritious and culturally appropriate meals.

Tag: Covid-19, Food security

Are mushrooms a health food? We explore what this new hype is all about [29 January, Stuff]

Scientists in New Zealand have recently started investigating mushrooms that could be used for medicinal purposes, along with culinary uses with potential benefits to both health and the environment. Oyster, shiitake, lion’s mane and turkey tail are some of the more exotic varieties joining the most commonly consumed button mushrooms. A report by Plant & Food Research shows mushrooms are nutrient-packed and a moderate source of protein with low calories.

Tag: Food Innovation, Horticulture

What’s after the ‘protein craze’? Carbon and functional ingredients expected to dominate innovation trends [29 January, Food Navigator]

ResearchAndMarkets is predicting that the global plant-based protein market size will grow from US$10.3bn in 2020 to US$14.5bn by 2025, accompanied by an influx of investment in plant-based protein innovation. Targeting people with digestive disease, Envara Health has developed a structured lipid technology that enables the absorption of healthy long-chain fats, calories and micronutrients without the need for digestion.

Tag: Food Innovation  International

Positive run continues in Global Dairy Trade auctions [03 February, NZ Herald]

The latest Global Dairy Trade auction saw the sixth consecutive increase in prices, up 1.8% across the board, with 103 winning bidders for the 28,707MT of product on offer. Whole Milk Powder rose 2.3% to an average US$3,458/MT and Skim Milk Powder experienced the only fall by 1.5% to an average US$3,198/MT. Fonterra Cooperative Group has lifted the midpoint of its forecast farmgate milk price by 20 cents to $7.20 for the 2020/21 season.

Tag: Dairy, Trade & Exports

Zespri secures labs for taste tests [02 February, Farmers Weekly]

Zespri has confirmed several laboratories approved for the next three seasons to conduct the vital taste profile tests for kiwifruit, which is a valuable incentive component of grower payments. Zespri’s chief global supply officer Alastair Hulbert says there has been an adjustment to align grower behaviour with consumer preferences after a wide review of Zespri’s sampling and testing process for harvested fruit.

Tag: Horticulture

Kiwi Technology Can Reduce Agriculture Emissions And Increase Production [02 February, Scoop]

Kiwi company Zest Biotech has developed a pasture spray, Biozest, that can increase pasture growth and quality, also reduce agricultural emissions of urea and methane when consumed by ruminant livestock. The technology is tailored to NZ’s grass-fed farming style that reduces emissions while increasing productivity, says the founder Nathan Balasingham. He hopes to collaborate with industry leaders to quantify the emissions reductions and secure the position of NZ’s dairy products in world markets.

Tag: Agritechnology, Environment & Emissions, Farming Systems

Fast food outlets and liquor stores linked to poor mental health [02 February, Stuff]

A new study has established a link between poor mental health and living in an unhealthy neighbourhood. The University of Canterbury study shows people reported mental distress are more likely to live near fast food and liquor stores with less access to parks, rivers or waterways. The findings highlighted the need for local councils and governments to create healthier environments that support people’s health and mental health, said the lead author Matt Hobbs.

Tag: Rural Communities, Food security

Get in touch

Audit – Auckland
Ian Proudfoot
09 367 5882
Management Consulting – Wellington
Justine Fitzmaurice
04 816 4845
Agri-Food – Auckland
Jack Keeys

09 363 3502
Private Enterprise – Hamilton
Hamish McDonald 

07 858 6519
Agri-Food – Auckland
Andrew Watene

09 367 5969
Consultant – South Island
Genevieve Steven

03 307 0761

Farm Enterprise – South Island
Brent Love

03 683 1871

Field Notes administrator
Nina Guan

+64 9363 3624 ninaguan@kpmg.co.nz