Week in Review

[6 May 2021]

A week of innovation in New Zealand and around the world has lead to a jump in stories for this weeks field notes.

In New Zealand many of the innovation stories are focused on dairy, with premium powders from Synlait, opportunities growing in goat milk exports, and the launch of a new sheep dairy toddler nutrition product by Spring Sheep.

Internationally, stories include block-chain backed commodity trading, robotic farm disinfection by air, and progress towards potential regulatory approval for gene editing and cultivated meat in Europe. 

Spotlight Stories

Dairy Spotlight


Fonterra in trading halt pending capital structure announcement [5 May, NZ Herald]

NZX approved Fonterra Co-operative Group’s request for its shares and units to go on a trading halt, pending an announcement on 6 May about its capital structure. The co-operative said it will “provide Fonterra shareholders and unit holders a full day to review and consider the materials before trading recommences". Fonterra Co-operative chairman, Peter McBride, told the Herald in March that fast-emerging challenges in the next 10 years made it essential for Fonterra Co-operative to look at its capital structure now, despite some shareholders' views that no change was needed.

Tag: Agribusiness, Dairy

Biotechnology Spotlight

spotlight 2

GM crops may soon be permitted in EU as study hails health and sustainability benefits of genetic modification techniques [29 April, Food Navigator]

The European Commission is gearing up to make new genetically modified organisms exempt from current environmental rules. In a report, it said new genetic modification techniques have the potential to contribute to a more sustainable food system as part of the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy. Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said “now is the moment to have an open dialogue with citizens, Member States and the European Parliament to jointly decide the way forward for the use of these biotechnologies in the EU.”

Tag: International, Biotechnology, Policy and Regulation

This Week's Headlines

headline 1

Aussies expect to cash in on NZ's loss [5 May, Rural News Group]

Australian livestock exporters are optimistic about securing more business as New Zealand winds down its trade over the next two years valued at $500m of business. Australian Livestock Exporters' Council chief executive, Harvey-Sutton, says livestock exporting is a very competitive business where Australia and New Zealand find themselves competing with South American countries, but still expect to see some growth from the New Zealand Government decision. He adds demand for livestock, especially from China, remains very high.

Tag: Policy and Regulation, Farming Systems, Trade & Exports

headline 2

Sheikh Mohammed launches Food Tech Valley in Dubai [2 May, Gulf Business]

A partnership between the Ministry of Food and Water Security and WasI Properties - “The Food Tech Valley”, has been launched in Dubai and they have plans to explore urban planning of future smart and food independent cities. The initiative aims to create an integrated modern city where over 300 varieties of crops will be produced using modern farming techniques. It will serve as a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products as well as an incubator for researchers, entrepreneurs, startups and industry experts to develop solutions to address issues regarding food production.

Tag: International, Food Innovation


Making wool great again [4 May, Rural News Group]

Christchurch inventor Logan Williams aims to put New Zealand wool in "pretty much everything" as he explores the opportunity to embed wool into a vast range of everyday items made of injection-moulded plastic. Independent testing has shown that the wool mix is 20% stronger but also about 20% lighter weight with added benefits of improved biodegradability. "Ideally we take the cheapest wool off the farmer because we're fixing the price at $3/kg for the first two years and $5/kg after that. And we take any type of wool - so dags, bellies, side pieces," he told Rural News.

Tag: Innovation, Wool

Top stories

Glyphosate use under the microscope as EU reviews weedkiller's approval [29 April, Stuff]

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has requested information on the use of herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller “Roundup”, as some claim it has negative effects on the environment and health. Conclusions for the review and approval of glyphosate by two European chemical and food safety agencies are expected to be released in mid-2020. Dr Kerry Harrington a senior lecturer in weed science at Massey University, stated she was concerned that glyphosate policies in Europe appeared to be influenced more by public perceptions than facts and that “most toxicologists across the world now agree that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans”.

Tag: Policy and Regulation

South Taranaki iwi's smoothie business about to sweep NZ [30 April, Stuff]

Kaitahi As One, owned by South Taranaki iwi Nga Rauru Kītahi, begin to ramp up production for their smoothie drops after winning the small supplier category at the Foodstarter awards this month. The prize package includes business mentoring, research and development, and the chance to have their products stocked in New World supermarkets nationwide. Their smoothie drops are concentrated frozen ingredients in tablet form and their business concept arose from discussions on how the iwi could better use its land and provide improved employment opportunities for its people.

Tag: Food Innovation

Forest agency to boost capacity [29 April, Farmers Weekly]

According to Forestry minister Stuart Nash, the new forest service Te Uru Rakau – New Zealand Forest Service, aims to deliver more advice and expertise to landowners and farmers wanting to engage in forestry. Te Uru Rakau Forestry New Zealand has been renamed 'Te Uru Rakau – New Zealand Forest Service' and is relocating to a new head office in Rotorua. This is projected to significantly change their outlook with the body having greater focus on professional advisory services and forestry management expertise.

Tag: Forestry, Policy and Regulation

Industry delivers on ag-tech fund [29 April, Farmers Weekly]

Agritech NZ chief executive, Brendan O’Connell, announced the commissioning of the Finistere Aotearoa Fund of NZ$42 million to boost New Zealand’s export capacity and value in the agritech sector. O’Connell says the fund will help address the significant difference New Zealand agritech has with Israel where, for a similar amount of investment, the export return is ten times greater. The investment fund was one of three key outcomes sought in the Industry Transformation Plan launched almost a year ago.

Tag: Agritech, Food Innovation

Fund boost as big dry continues [29 April, Farmers Weekly]

Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister, Damien O’Connor, announced an additional drought support funding of NZ$900,000 that will be available to farmers nationwide as most of New Zealand is now classified as facing a large-scale adverse event. O’Connor says the latest funding will ensure feed support services can continue as well as making wellbeing assistance more accessible to farmers affected by the drought. He adds “this is the second consecutive year of drought for parts of the country and low groundwater levels have not been able to recharge.”

Tag: Farmers & Producers, Farming Systems, Policy and Regulation

Sheep lead methane research [29 April, Farmers Weekly]

AgResearch scientists are enjoying world leading success in identifying high and low methane emitting sheep as they have established a genomic profile over three breeding generations. They discovered it is possible to produce less methane and grow a healthy, productive animal that farmers will want to put into their flock bloodlines in coming years. Dr Suzanne Rowe, senior AgResearch scientist says, “these low methane emitting sheep have 20% smaller rumens but have a similar surface area and this appears to be a physiological adaptation.”

Tag: Research & Development, Environment & Emissions, Red Meat

Synlait offers premium powders [28 April, Farmers Weekly.

Snylait has launched its premium brand whole and skim milk powders under the name ‘Made With Better Milk’. Made With Better Milk is marketed as offering the opportunity for customers to differentiate their marketing on a supply chain that better cares for people and animals, as well as generating better outcomes for climate, water, soil and biodiversity. Synlait director of sustainability and brand, Hamish Reid, says they will deliver upon their promise as global consumers are seeking assurance that products are not just healthy, but sustainably, ethically and equitably produced.

Tag: Dairy, Food Innovation

Potential for goat milk exports [30 April, Rural News Group]

A report prepared by the Sheep and Goat Dairy Project illustrates that 2019 goat milk exports were estimated to be valued at NZ$250 million with the potential to increase to NZ$480 million by 2024. It states that increased global interest in non-bovine milks provides an opportunity for New Zealand to expand its dairy goat sector and leverage its strengths as a producer of high-quality dairy products. The report adds that "the focus must be on how it can maximise value from the milk it does produce."

Tag: Dairy, Food Innovation, Trade & Exports, Farming Systems

Find-a pest: new biosecurity app can help identify and report vineyard pests [27 April, Rural News Group]

A new biosecurity app, “Find-a-pest”, developed by Scion and the Ministry of Primary Industries, can help identify and report vineyard pests. It enables users to take photos of any suspicious insects, plants, or plant disease symptoms and submit them through the app for quick identification by an industry representative. Low-risk species and/or suspected biosecurity threats are then sent to INaturalist NZ or Biosecurity New Zealand for review. The app is intended to aid in quick and accurate identification of pests for primary industry groups.

Tag: Biosecurity, Viticulture, Agritech

Opinion: Four futures for the food system at AgriFood Week 2021 [29 April, NZ Herald]

The MC, for the New Zealand AgriFood Week Daniel Eb explores the intersection of science, technology and consumers through four different speakers. Food Frontier founder, Thomas King, mentioned plant-based meat, cellular agriculture and other food innovations are the transformations needed to futureproof our global food system. Global Roundtable for Sustainable Development Executive director, Ruaraidh Petre, said the way forward is to recognise unsung benefits of livestock farm and exploring its capability to meet our great challenges.

Tag: Food Innovation, Farming Systems

NZ cheesemakers fight European Commission attempts to control 'halloumi' [28 April, NZ Herald]

New Zealand’s cheesemaking community are concerned about the European Commission pushing towards granting exclusive use of the term “halloumi” to Cyprus cheesemakers. The European Union is continuing to protect cheese terms that are generic and common around the world. Neil Willman, president of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, said, "this erodes the heritage and evolution of food production in places like New Zealand where cheeses such as feta, gruyere, havarti and halloumi are commonly consumed and considered generic.”

Tag: Policy and Regulation, International, Dairy, Food Marketing

Actress markets new milk product [29 April, Rural News Group]

Sheep milk producer Spring Sheep has hired an actress Antonia Prebble to help market a brand-new source of toddler nutrition made with grass-fed New Zealand sheep milk. Prebble says she was drawn to Spring Sheep Milk's "gentle approach to nutrition for Kiwi toddlers and the rich nutritional and digestive benefits of sheep milk". Spring Sheep has reportedly earned recognition overseas for its gentle nature, exporting its Gentle Sheep Toddler Milk Drink to Malaysia for two years, where there is a high reported incidence of digestive issues.

Tag: Dairy, Food Marketing

The scale of fish waste sent to landfill could feed a community [30 April, Stuff]

According to LegaSea fisheries management and alignment specialist Scott Macindoe, thousands of litres of edible fish parts are thrown into bins and is described as “perfectly good kai.” Macindoe is involved in an Auckland initiative, Te Kai Ika Project which utilises fish heads, frames and offal. He said for the initiative to work in Nelson, it would need to have buy-in from a number of groups and demand for the fish. It would also require about $10,000 initially to set up workers, vans, bins, phones and refrigeration to ensure there was no contamination.

Tag: Fisheries, Food Waste, Rural Communities 

Fair Go: Why do the fruit we buy in shops still have stickers? [3 May, Stuff]

Enviro-friendly fruit stickers are being developed by Zespri, Bostock and Yummy Fruit Co Zealand to minimise New Zealand’s landfill problem. Zespri’s Chief Grower, Industry and Sustainability Officer, Carol Ward, says "we're trialing alternative technologies such as laser marking and paper labels, however the solutions for a 100% home compostable food safe label are not available right now." New Zealand’s biggest fruit sticker producer, Jenkins Freshpac Systems, has signaled that change is coming. These fruit stickers contain information about the country of origin and the variety of the fruit.

Tag: Food Marketing, Environment & Emissions

How Lake Hawea Station became New Zealand's first carbon zero farm [4 May, Stuff]

Lake Hawea Station, northeast of Wanaka, is New Zealand’s first certified carbon zero farm. It is a 6500-hectare property running almost 10,000 merino sheep and 200 Angus cattle. Despite the common perception that lower farm emissions are met through reducing stock numbers, owners Geoff and Justine Ross, said, “we have increased stock numbers and wool production while increasing our tree plantings and retiring of marginal land.” Geoff Ross says New Zealand farmers have an advantage over other agricultural nations as consumers seek out more sustainably sourced products.

Tag: Farming Systems, Environment & Emissions

Nadia Lim: why we should care more about wool [29 April, Stuff]

Local farmer in Central Otago Nadia Lim, claims that more people should care about wool due to it being environmentally sustainable, durable and biodegradable. Lim states that if people are serious about wanting to do better for our Earth, then they should choose natural, sustainable materials that will rot into the ground, rather than poison it with petrol and chemicals. Wool can be more expensive than synthetic products, but not in the long run as it last longer due to its strength and resilience, as well as being flame-resistant and water-repellent.

Tag: Wool

Pākehā farmers learn te reo and build pā on Taranaki farm [4 May, NZ Herald]

Jane and Damian Roper are Taranaki farmers who, despite having no Māori ancestry, have not only learned te reo Māori but have even built a pā on their farm. Damian Roper said “those values of looking after the land, and the waterways, soil, the trees, and how everything is connected, inspired us to build the Tuwatawata Pā." The couple says the aim is to use the whare in the pā to ramp up production of natives, including swamp maire, totara, kahikitea, tawa and rimu, which they've been growing in their farm workshop.

Tag: Farmers & Producers, Farming Systems

Ripe for the Picking: Hackers Target Agribusinesses [30 April, Ward and Smith]

According to the Ponemon Institute’s survey, the agricultural sector of the American economy is increasingly a ripe target for malicious foreign actors, digital fraud, and other perpetrators of cybercrime. The Department of Homeland Security report states that technology has always driven the American agricultural sector forward, and it will continue to do so for years to come. But the increasing digitisation of the agricultural workspace and the implementation of new agricultural technologies open a business up to enormous losses if they do not plan ahead for the future.

Tag: International, Policy and Regulation

Robotic solution for disinfecting food production plants wins agribusiness prize [30 April, MIT News]

The annual competition’s MIT-based grand-prize winner, Human Dynamics, seeks to improve sanitation in food production plants with a robotic drone - a “drobot” - that flies through facilities spraying soap and disinfectant. The company’s prototype uses a quadcopter drone that carries a tank, nozzle, and spray hose. The drone uses visual detection technology to validate that each area is clean, LIDAR to map out its path, and algorithms for route optimisation. The company addresses major labour shortages for food production facilities, which often must carry out daily sanitation processes.

Tag: International, Agritech, Innovation

Blockchain technology making its presence felt in agri-commodity trading [30 April, Feed Navigator]

The agri-commodity sector is seeing a number of new initiatives using blockchain technology to improve efficiency in transactions. The Covantis blockchain platform went live in February this year and aims to optimise export trade execution processes by connecting shippers, traders and charterers. It aims to eliminate paper-based post-trade processes to boost efficiency and cut operational risks for bulk shipments of agricultural goods.

Tag: International. Agritechnology 

When will cultivated meat hit Europe? ‘The regulatory process is far too rigid and slow’ [4 May, Food Navigator]

Europeans want to know when will cultivated meat be served on EU plates as “the regulated process is far too rigid and slow”. David Brandes, Peace of Meat Managing Director says “the Singapore system of approval is set to clear a cultured product within three to six months, they claim, so that is really the north star when it comes to regulatory agility and productivity. And that’s what we urgently need in Europe.”

Tag: International, Alternative Proteins, Biotechnology, Food Innovation

Meal kits ‘at tipping point’ as HelloFresh’s bumper quarter illustrates sector’s growth potential [4 May, Food Navigator]

According to commentators, there is room for growth in the meal kit market, after European kit giant HelloFresh posted a strong set of results in the first quarter of 2021.  The Berlin-based company doubled its revenue to EU€1.44 billion in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020 and they expect revenue growth to increase from 35% to 45% in 2021. Anne-Véronique Benoist, Head of Insight in the Media Division of market research Kantar, says, “The potential for growth is clear as an additional 12% of all adults are considering ordering a recipe box or meal kit in the next 12 months.”

Tag: International, Food Innovation

Call to rewild a third of UK waters presents opportunities for shellfish sector [4 May, Food Navigator]

Conservation groups say that restoring seagrass, saltmarsh, oyster reef and kelp forests in British waters would help the county meet its climate targets and provide a sustainable food source for consumers. The groups claim that about 205 million tonnes of carbon is held in the seas, compared to the 155 million tonnes locked in the UK’s forests. Therefore, the report says, rewilding Britain’s coastal waters would help to cut carbon emissions and assist with the country’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Tag: International, Environment & Emissions

Kerry identifies the top 7 taste trends post-COVID [4 May, Food Navigator]

A new report by taste and nutrition company, Kerry, highlights the key ingredients and tastes influencing consumer demand across the world. Leigh-Anne Vaughan, global strategic marketing director of Taste said, “Consumers are also looking for excitement, and are drawn toward enticing and visually impactful food and beverages to disrupt the monotony of day-to-day life. They are exploring the world through their taste buds in order to seek adventure, with authentic yet accessible cuisine choice on the rise. Meanwhile, health-conscious consumers are also demanding products with less sugar.”

Tag: International, Food Marketing

Live exports shake-up [3 May, Farmers Weekly]                  

The Government’s ban of live animal exports by sea has allowed two years for farming systems to change for those farmers supplying stock to export. Currently, about 110,000 animals have been exported this year and it is estimated around 500-1000 farmers will be impacted. Not only the farmers growing the cattle have to adjust, but there is a wider support industry. It includes farmers who run quarantine facilities for the cattle prior to shipment, stock agents and veterinarians.

Tag: Policy and Regulation, Animal Welfare, Farmers & Producers, Farming Systems

Marlborough firm looks at marketing reject apples for stock feed [28 April, NZ Herald]

A Marlborough company is investigating whether using excess or reject apples from orchards in Nelson can be used as nutritional stock feed to help farmers around Seddon and Ward who are struggling with extremely dry conditions. Kiwi Seed owner, Bruce Clarke, said "we've sent away samples to our nutritionist who is the expert so we're just waiting to hear back.” Clarke adds that apples were used as feed by some farmers last year and there may be more interest as peas and barley are difficult to obtain this year and much cheaper in comparison, with a landed price of $175 per tonne, compared with $500 and $450 for peas and barley respectively.

Tag: Horticulture, Farmers & Producers

Weaker butter prices weigh on Global Dairy Trade auction [5 May, Stuff]

Dairy prices eased in the overnight global auction by 0.7%, as a lift in the price of milk powders failed to offset a decline in butter and milk fat prices. “The cream group’s golden run has officially come to an end, with a major slide in butter prices managing to drag the GDT price index lower on the back of all milk powders gaining,” said NZX dairy analyst Stuart Davison. Davison said the butter price fall may be due to weaker consumer demand following the slow easing of lockdowns globally.

Tag: Dairy, Trade & Exports

Trans-Tasman scientists sequence entire genome of myrtle rust [4 May, NZ Herald]

Scientists in Australia and New Zealand have built the entire genetic map of the fungus responsible for myrtle rust. The genome is 27,000 times larger than that of Covid-19, and ten times more than other similar fungi. Expanded segments in the genome are expected to enhance chance of mutations and adaptability to infect other plant species. This discovery marked an important step towards unlocking genetic features of Austropuccinia psidii, which drives the disease threatening myrtle plants in Australia and New Zealand. It can be used as a tool to investigate how A. psidii infects plants in the myrtle family as well as to look for ways to facilitate disease resistance.

Tag: Research & Development, Biosecurity

Arla leveraging data to decarbonise dairy: ‘There can be a sustainable future for dairy’ [28 April, Food Navigator]

Dairy co-operative Arla has developed ‘Climate Checks’, a programme that leverages the power of big data to support a transition to low-carbon production. Arla claims that their farmers produce a milk footprint of 1.15kg of CO2e per kg milk, combared with a world average of 2.5kg. Chairman, Jan Toft Nørgaard adds “our Climate Checks show five univerisal levers that all farmers can optimise to reduce emissions and overall it will require precision farm management procedures on the farm, such as precision feed compositions and production, improved manure handling and greener energy solutions, to reach the goal.”

Tag: International, Dairy, Environment & Emissions

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