Week in Review

In Aotearoa, the cattle disease, Mycoplasma bovis, has again been eradicated across the country after an outbreak in September 2023. The last affected farm has been cleared and disinfected, but ongoing surveillance will continue to monitor stock and prevent future outbreaks. The New Zealand cheese industry is establishing a working group to rename some locally made cheeses to accommodate the new requirements in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union. The new FTA protects around 2,000 geographical indicators, including some common cheese names such as feta and gorgonzola. The forestry sector is facing significant challenges as demand from China has slowed in recent months and even lower demand over the lunar new year period than expected. By mid-March there were no major sales contracts signed with Chinese buyers, log inventories have accumulated, and prices fallen. Regional businesses are struggling as challenging market conditions are causing farmers to significantly reduce their spending. Under the current conditions, farmers are prioritising essential expenses such as animal care over non-essential spending such as maintenance and upgrades. Southland Chamber of Commerce reports the flow on effects to local businesses has been redundancies, downsizing, seeking additional financing and even some business closures.

In international news, British retailer, Morrisons, has reached a significant milestone as the first British supermarket to receive a carbon neutral certification from independent scheme providers BSI. Their "Better for Our Planet" carbon neutral eggs are produced through a circular feeding scheme and utilise renewable energy to power the hen house, while maintaining hen health and welfare. In Vietnam, PepsiCo have announced they will invest US $400 million (NZ $670 million) to build two new renewable energy plants for beverage manufacturing and food processing. In the United States, avian influenza has been detected in cattle herds in Kansas and Texas. The Department of Agriculture says the risk to humans is low, but there are concerns about the disease spreading to other mammals, like cattle, through bird migration. Officials have assured that any contaminated milk will be disposed of, and sick cattle will not enter the meat supply chain. The Mexican government has delayed the nation’s ban on the use of glyphosate as they have been unable to find a substitute. The decision to postpone the ban delays their larger plan to reduce the consumption of genetically modified corn. Mexico is currently in a trade dispute with the United States over banning imports of genetically modified corn for human consumption.

Spotlight Stories

Viticulture Spotlight:

A bunch of green grapes on a vine

AI takes on human for wine disease-spotting supremacy [26 March, RNZ]

Researchers at Plant & Food Research and Integrape, a New Zealand agritech company, have been collaborating for three years to develop VinEye, a tool that uses machine learning to detect grapevine leafroll disease. The disease costs the New Zealand wine industry tens of millions of dollars annually. By instantly analysing photographs of grapevines, VinEye can identify plants infected with the costly disease. This vintage, the technology will move to its’ next step, onto commercial vineyards in a 60-hectare trial using a self-driving robot equipped with cameras to detect the disease in vineyards. The trial seeks to evaluate whether VinEye technology can replace human labour in identifying the disease, providing faster, precise, and affordable results. If successful, the technology could be sold in international markets as grapevine leafroll is a significant global issue. Original full article here

Tags:  Technology, Machine Learning, Grapevine leafroll disease, Wine

Consumer Spotlight:

Green Dragon takes wellness route to sustainability [28 March, Farmers Weekly]

The New Zealand Consulate-General in Shanghai released a report on Chinese consumer attitudes and behaviours towards sustainability. The report highlights that Chinese consumers are increasingly considering sustainability when making purchasing decisions, particularly when linked to health outcomes. For effective marketing to resonate with Chinese consumers, it is important to demonstrate the connection between sustainability, science, innovation, and improved health outcomes. Despite the report finding this increased consideration of sustainability, Chinese food importers are not ready to pay more for low-emission products. Although New Zealand has a natural advantage in sustainability claims, other exporters are also effectively emphasising their green credentials in China. Original full article here

Tags: Sustainability, Health, Consumer Behaviour

Headline Stories

Close up of a flower before it blooms on a tree shoot

Ro-Gro unveils ‘industry-first’ B12-fortified pea shoots [27 March, FoodBev Media]

UK vertical farming company, Ro-Gro, has partnered with the John Innes Centre, the Quadram Institute and LettUs Grow to introduce Vitamin B12 biofortified pea shoots, grown using ultrasonic aeroponic technology. The new technology enhances plant nutrition by being grown without soil and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist. The biofortified pea shoots have a 14-day shelf life and provide the UK recommended adult dietary allowance of vitamin B12 in a 15g serving. The product will be available in retail and hospitality sectors this year, with plans for expanding Ro-Gro’s range of nutritious salad products. Original full article here

Tags: Biofortification, Vertical Farming, Vitamin B12

A small brown packaging box with green foam bits in it

New Zealand plant-based packing technology to be sold globally [27 March, Scion]

A new company, ZealaFoam Holdings Limited, has been established to market a plant-based substitute for polystyrene developed by the Biopolymer Network Limited (BPN), a collaboration of the crown research institutes, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research and Scion. Founded in 2005, BPN was tasked with creating bio-based materials, finding success in the development of ZealaFoam, a 100% plant-based foam with similar properties to polystyrene. ZealaFoam is sourced from plants like maize and sugar cane and offers a sustainable solution for various packing needs such as for chilled produce, fish, helmets, bee boxes and printable film. In 2022 the first commercially viable, industrially compostable, product using ZealaFoam was launched, EcoBeans bean bag fill.  Original full article here 

Tags: Plant-based, Technology, Polystyrene

man and woman looking at a computer doing research

Do organic farms cause unintended harm? Study finds uptick in pesticide use in neighbouring fields [1 April, Euronews]

A new study based in the United States has found that as the area of organic farms increases, nearby conventional farms apply more pesticides to combat increased insect threats to their crops. Researchers analysed 14,000 fields in Kern County, California, over seven years, finding that conventional farmers view nearby organic operations as a potential source of outbreaks, treating them with high concern and increasing their pesticide use. By contrast, when organic farms were surrounded by other organic fields, their use of organic approved pesticide usage decreased. The reduction could be attributed to their mutual dependence on natural pest predators. The study suggests that maintaining a suitable distance between organic and conventional farms could have mutual benefits for both types of farming. Original full article here

Tags: Organic, Pesticides, Farming

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