Week in Review

In Aotearoa, ten forestry organisations have signed an accord to establish a new pan sector body called the New Zealand Forest and Wood Sector Forum (NZFWSF). The NZFWSF hopes to improve communication, collaboration of the whole forestry supply chain while engaging in the areas of common interest or concern for the sector. New Zealand’s new agri-tech and food investment fund, Cultivate Ventures, has closed off their first funding round. Over the next five years, the fund will invest into a portfolio of 10-15 high growth agri-tech and food-beverage companies. Alison Stewart, Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) CEO, commented that “new knowledge, new tools and technologies are critical to the successful growth of our industry, and we see Cultivate Ventures as a key vehicle to help us achieve this”. Beef and Lamb New Zealand Inc announced a new partnership with the New Zealand Olympic Committee ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Meanwhile, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited have launched their first high temperature heat pump and solar thermal plant at their Palmerston North manufacturing site. Fonterra has upgraded the energy infrastructure at four sites this year in an effort to reach their scope one and two emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030.

In international news, the bluetongue virus continues to spread in the United Kingdom with new cases confirmed in Kent, Norfolk, and Suffolk. Also in the UK, the average farmland value has surpassed the £9,000 acre barrier (NZ $46,274 per hectare) despite headwinds such as high inflation, rising borrowing rates, weak commodity markets and a decline in farm subsidies. Farmland value in the UK has been increasing annually by 7%, and is now on par with gold prices in 2023. Israeli company, Forsea Foods have produced the first lab-grown freshwater eel meat using embryonic eel cells. The company hopes to scale up its operation within the next two years and expects the price to match that of wild caught eel. Overfishing and pollution have contributed to a rapid decline in the eel population leading to illegal trafficking worth billions. France has announced a temporary four-week fishing ban in the Bay of Biscay to protect dolphins, an estimated 9,000 die annually. The ban means approximately 450 French fishing vessels will not be operational causing millions of euros in revenue loss. The French government has agreed to compensate businesses up to 75% of their losses however fishermen argue the compensation is insufficient. In an open letter to the European Union, over 1,000 scientists including Nobel laureates and leading biologists and geneticists have demanded lawmakers to relax the strict rules on genetic modification and embrace new techniques that target specific genes which could make crops more resistant to disease and extreme weather events.

Spotlight Stories

Agritech Spotlight

pigs in an indoor farm environment

AI startup to perform China animal respiratory health trials [22 January, Exporter Today]

MASCO, an Auckland-based company using Artificial Intelligence-enabled audio sensors for respiratory health monitoring of animals on commercial farms has signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with Chinese businesses. One of them is with a government demonstration Chinese pig farm, the other a tech solution provider to thousands of Chinese pig farmers. The MoU agreements will allow MASCO’s contacts in China to test the technology and distribute nationwide if the trials are successful. The initial 2-month trial will use multiple A.I. devices across three indoor barns to replicate the human ear and monitor up to 120 pigs each. China is the world’s largest swine market ahead of the US & Europe, raising 650 million pigs a year. Of all swine deaths, 60% are caused by respiratory illnesses. MASCO’s initial on-farm testing in the US reduced the death rate of pigs from 4.8% to 1.4% on average

Tags: Pork industry; animal health; artificial intelligence

Animal Welfare Spotlight

brown chickens out in a field

Morrisons to lower poultry stocking density as part of welfare pledge [22 January, Farming UK]

UK supermarket Morrisons has just announced that by November 2024 all their own-brand chicken will be grown at a stocking density of 30kg/m2, 20% more space than the industry standard. Morrisons has gradually been reducing poultry stocking density for their own-brand fresh chicken products over the last few years, currently their chickens are reared at 34.2kg/m2 density. The retailer has been driving for higher standards of animal welfare and remains the only retailer in Europe to request supplier’s chickens are born into the barn they are raised in to avoid transport and handling. Since May 2023 over 90% of their suppliers are meeting this standard.  

Tags: Poultry industry; retailer; animal welfare standards

Headline Stories

school of fish underwater,the shot is looking up to the sky from the bottom

Ocean fungi from twilight zone could be source of next penicillin-like drug [16 January, The Guardian]

The largest study ever conducted on ocean DNA has recently been published in the journal Frontiers in Science. A huge number of fungi have been found to exist in the twilight zone of the ocean (between 200 and 1000 metres below the surface). These discoveries could mean the potential for new pharmaceutical drugs as revolutionary as penicillin, which was originally derived from a fungus. The study resulted in a new ocean DNA catalogue containing over 317 million marine organism gene groups. Despite the future potential benefits of the study, there are issues with marine gene ownership and the sharing of these benefits. Currently only 10 nations own 90% of all marine gene patents, with the benefits not yet being shared. 

Tags: Research; marine biotechnology sector

dairy production line worker inspecting a line of milk cartons

New Zealand's Daisy Lab Successfully Scales Animal-Identical Whey Paving the Way for a New Dairy Industry [15 January, Vegconomistl]

Daisy Lab, a Kiwi precision fermentation biotech company, has successfully established a production process to scale their production of animal-identical whey proteins in 10 litre fermenters.  Their fermentation platform can produce 10 grams of protein per litre of growth medium, exceeding their initial goal of 3 grams per litre. Their goal for the future is to further increase the yield up to 30 grams per litre. The startup has also been focusing their research efforts into other dairy proteins such as casein and more recently, high value lactoferrin. They recently successfully expressed lactoferrin in their lab at a higher yield than that of a cow. The company’s next phase is to scale their lactoferrin process over the next year whilst raising funds for a pilot plant. 

Tags: Alternative proteins; precision fermentation; dairy; start up

raw steak on a conveyor belt

Aleph Farms Granted World’s First Regulatory Approval for Cultivated Beef [17 January, Aleph Farms]

Aleph Farms, a cellular agriculture company in Israel, has been issued the first ever regulatory approval for their cultivated beef steaks from the Israeli Ministry of Health. This is the first non-chicken cultivated meat regulatory approval anywhere in the world. This is also the first of its kind in the Middle East where solutions to food insecurity and climate change are a significant part of regional collaboration. The first Aleph cut that will be offered to diners in Israel is made of non-modified, non-immortalised cells from a premium Angus cow, named Lucy, and a plant protein matrix of soy and wheat. There are zero animal-derived components in the cultivation process except for the starter cells which come from one of Lucy’s fertilised eggs.

Tags: Cultured meat; cell-based protein; regulations; beef

Get in touch


Audit – Auckland
Ian Proudfoot
09 367 5882
Agri-Food – Auckland
Andrew Watene

09 367 5969
Management Consulting – Wellington
Justine Fitzmaurice
04 816 4845
Private Enterprise – Hamilton
Hamish McDonald 

07 858 6519
Farm Enterprise – South Island
Brent Love

03 683 1871
Agri-Food - South Island
Paulette Elliott
+64 2788 61744