Week in Review

In Aotearoa, the government has announced an additional $63 million funding towards clearing woody debris and silt which remains in the Gisborne and Hawkes Bay areas a year on from Cyclone Gabrielle. There are nine engineered silt deposit sites in the region, many landowners have already removed the silt from their land but still have piles of it awaiting removal. This latest allocation will bring the total government funding to $232 million for debris and silt clearance. Data from the Meat Industry Association shows despite an increase in the volume of sheep meat and beef exported from New Zealand in 2023, returns fell by 11%, to $10.2 billion, due to soft global markets. New Zealand cherry producer Southern Fruits International is expecting to export up to 340 tonnes of cherries this summer, doubling last year's volume. Founder, Sharon Kirk, has attributed the season success to favorable pre-season conditions and an increase in fruit load due to the trees’ maturity. Stud ram breeder, Southdown Stud’s Chris Medlicott, has sold his prized ram and donated the proceeds to Meat the Need and Feed Out charities. The sale enabled the provision of 4,295 meals for 110 food banks and community organisations across New Zealand.

In international news, anthrax has been confirmed on a Victorian property in Australia. Five animals died from the spore-forming bacteria which naturally occurs in soil. Authorities have acted decisively to dispose of carcasses, vaccinate livestock and quarantine the property to limit the outbreak. UK based cultivated meat company Ivy Farm Technologies has teamed up with British grocer Fortnum & Mason for a one-off collaboration to create a British delicacy with a history of over 300 years, the scotch egg, using lab-grown beef for a panel discussion on the future of meat production. In the United States, Massachusetts’s based coffee chain, Dunkin’ Donuts LLC is being sued for US $5 million (NZ $ 8.2 million) over claims they discriminate against lactose-intolerant customers. The lawsuit states that Dunkin’ has made substantial profits after they created a separate, higher priced menu, aimed at customers who cannot ingest milk. Dunkin’ customers seeking non-dairy alternatives like soy, almond or oat milk in their beverage may pay up to US $2.15 (NZ $3.50) extra.

Spotlight Stories

Environment & Emissions Spotlight

underwater shot of a fish swimming with seaweed in the background

Could Sinking Tons of Seaweed to the Ocean Floor Help Combat Climate Change? [22 January, Smithsonian Magazine]

Submerged seaweed could store carbon in the depths of the ocean, however it remains unclear at this stage how effective of a strategy it is for mitigating climate change. Several organisations are currently exploring the opportunity. Oceans cover more than 70% of the planet’s surface so there is an abundance of space accessible to grow and sink seaweed and potentially a lucrative market for carbon credits. The process in essence takes carbon dioxide in the upper ocean and turns it into biomass through seaweed algae photosynthesises, and then is sunk below thousands of meters of water so the carbon can be locked away for thousands of years, thereby reducing the carbon in the atmosphere. However, there are still plenty of questions surrounding this process and its effect on the oceans ecosystems as well as how the carbon market would be monitored and verified.

Tags: Carbon credits; seaweed; blue economy

Biosecurity Spotlight

a singular adult penguin in amongst many brown chicks

Antarctic penguins are now dying from the H5N1 strain of bird flu [30 January, Popular Science]

Scientist have confirmed that the contagious and highly pathogenic avian influenza strain H5N1 has caused the deaths of some Antarctic penguins. The virus has been found in Gentoo penguins that were found either sick or dead in the Falkland Islands. Antarctic penguins likely have no immunity to the virus and because they breed in large and cramped colonies, it can potentially spread rapidly if only one bird is infected. So far, over 500,000 seabirds have died in South America since H5N1's 2023 arrival.  In May 2022, scientists confirmed the virus jumped to wild mammals including pumas, foxes, skunks, brown bears and elephant seals. The World Health Organization is concerned of a potential spread into humans.

Tags: Biosecurity; avian influenza; zoonotic diseases

Headline Stories

image of an indoor greenhouse horticultural operation showing digital connection - person holding a tablet with data insights

Electric harvesting equipment trialled at Gisborne horticulture business [11 February, RNZ]

Gisborne-based horticulture business Leaderbrand is the first New Zealand company to trial electric harvesting equipment. A battery-powered harvester and pair of moving platforms are being operated in one of their Tucker Road greenhouses. The 10-hectare Tucker Road site is made up of three greenhouses producing a mixture of salad crops. The new equipment arrived in 2023 and has already shown itself to be quieter, cleaner and more adaptable compared to its diesel predecessors. However despite the benefits of the electric harvester, it is not yet feasible for outdoor use as dirt, water and grit affect its function. Leaderbrand are now working on programming the moving platforms to be driven autonomously beside the electric harvester

Tags: Horticulture; emissions; electric vehicles; agri-technology

a dragon flying in front of buildings for lunar new year

Chinese New Year boosts demand for New Zealand cream cheese [12 February, RNZ]

Lunar New Year celebrations are currently underway, culminating with the new moon rising on 20 February. New Zealand exporters are hopeful Chinese shoppers will choose New Zealand products for their celebrations. Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited report that demand for cream cheese in China has been growing year-on-year and sales lift significantly prior to the Chinese New Year. The dairy cooperative has increased production by an additional 2,100 metric tons per year at their Darfield site (Canterbury). In Chinese tradition, cream cheese is a common ingredient used in traditional pastries, popular tea macchiatos, cheese lollipops and cheesecakes.

Tags: Lunar New Year; exports; dairy

two glass bottles of milk

Yali Bio Unveils Game-Changing Human Breast Milk Fat from Yeast, Set to Transform Nutritonal Value of Infant Formula [7 January, Vegconomist]

Yali Bio, a U.S. precision fermentation startup, has announced a game-changing development for infant nutrition. They have developed a bioidentical equivalent of human breast milk fat, known as OPO, using yeast. OPO (1,3-dioleolyl-2-palmitate) is found in high concentrations in breast milk and plays an important role in the overall health of infants and is particularly important for nutrient absorption. Another U.S. biotech startup, Checkerspot, announced just recently, they too, have been able to develop an OPO equivalent by way of microalgae fermentation. 

Tags: Precision fermentation; dairy

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