Week in Review

In Aotearoa, Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) has released their list of finalists for their “Fonterra 2023 Dairy Woman of the Year” award, recognising commitment and passion to the dairy sector. The winner will be announced on May 3rd  at the DWN 2023 Conference, where they will receive a scholarship of up to $20,000 for an approved development programme or learning experience. Rabobank’s quarterly rural confidence survey reports farmer’s net confidence is increasing overall, however remains very low. Sheep and beef farmers are leading the increase in confidence due to the strong demand for red meat in the Chinese market. However, dairy farmers are now even more pessimistic than last quarter after demand has fallen and lower payout forecasts have been released for this season. Hectre, a New Zealand start-up which provides orchard-management, fruit-sizing and colour-grading apps has won two gold awards in the Asia-Pacific Stevie business awards, with judges commending their efforts to solve food wastage problems.

Internationally, in China, eradication of African Swine Fever remains a problem, with an increase in infections estimated to reduce pork output by more than 10% according to Rabobank senior analyst, Pan Chenjun. A 2018 outbreak of African Swine Fever in China resulted in a loss of over 50 million pigs. In Australia, autonomous drones may soon be used to muster livestock. Sphere Drones has been trialling their technology over the last 6 months and will be ready to launch their ‘drone in a box’ system in May. Using drones for mustering is not new in Australia, however this is the first autonomous technology. 

Spotlight Stories

Research & Development Spotlight


These textiles were grown by bacteria [5 April, Fast Company]

London-based start-up Modern Synthesis uses microbes and sugar from plant waste to create "microbial textiles" that could replace synthetic fabrics made from fossil fuels. The material is created using nanocellulose, a material stronger than Kevlar and steel, and is produced by a bacteria found in kombucha. The process involves using a robot to build natural fibres into a scaffold that the microbes grow on and weave into a textile. The company plans to produce a material that clothing brands can cut and sew, and have already created full sheets of the material for use in prototypes. Modern Synthesis hopes to move to full-scale production in the next few years.

Tags: Research & Development

Dairy Spotlight


One-third of consumers can’t find a plant-based dairy product they like, survey finds [6 April, Food Dive]

A recent survey conducted by ingredients provider Ofi, found that one-third of consumers have yet to find a plant-based dairy product they like, despite 64% of those surveyed purchasing at least one per week. Taste, mouthfeel, and affordability were noted as barriers to adoption. Ofi's vice president of Innovation, Sonali Dalvi, said that the industry should focus on developing new products with creative flavours and clean-label attributes, incorporating ingredients such as cocoa, nuts, and spices as consumer prioritise nutritional and functional aspects when choosing a dairy alternative. The survey also found that 57% of those who avoid plant-based dairy cited affordability as a significant factor, and 7% returned to dairy after their first plant-based alternative as the product was not enjoyable. However, interest in plant-based dairy is increasing, with 63% of respondents stating they expect to purchase more products in the next two years. 

Tags: Dairy, Research & Development

Headline Stories

Manawatū farmers eyeing up agritourism get a helping hand [10 April, Stuff]

The Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) has partnered with Agritourism NZ to introduce a new Regional Agritourism Accelerator Programme in the Manawatū region. The programme is designed to help farmers venture into tourism to add further value to their farming operations by identifying opportunities for activities and accommodation options, such as farm tours and stays. The pilot programme, which covers everything from starting a business to marketing and product development, will be launched on May 8. CEDA hopes the programme will help the region become more competitive and encourage farmers to diversify their farms. 

Tags: Rural Communities

Egg prices predicted to remain at record high throughout 2023 [6 April, Just Food]

A new report by Rabobank suggests global egg prices will remain at an all-time high until the end of the year, with bird flu and rising feed costs the key reason for high prices. During the first quarter of 2023, egg prices were more than double than prices in the same period in 2022. Rabobank forecasts that the high prices will continue for the rest of the year, particularly in countries struggling with the fast spread of avian influenza. While historically egg-price peaks have been followed by sharp price drops one to two years later due, to producer response to higher margins, senior analyst Nan-Dirk Mulder is not hopeful that the same trend will occur this time. 

Tags: Farmers & Producers

Electric Tractors are Rolling Out in the Field. Here’s What That Could Mean for Farmers [10 April, Modern Farmer]

A new generation of electric tractors is being developed and marketed in the US, offering zero emissions and robotic automation technology for improved efficiency and sustainability. California-based Monarch Tractor recently released the industry's first-ever autonomous e-tractor. Equipped with sensory cameras, the e-tractor can be programmed for automated runs or guided remotely through fields and orchards to spray, disk, or harrow. Because affordability is a significant barrier to switching to electric vehicles, farm-ng, a Watsonville-based robotics technology firm, has developed a smaller, more affordable ‘robotic micro-tractor’ known as the Amiga, which can be used for various tasks, such as precision seeding, and is operated using swappable e-bike batteries.

Tags: Farmers & Producers 

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