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NZ tech changing global agricultural landscape

Peter-Wren Hilton.

New Zealand agritech companies are creating world-first technology to help feed the world and lead the way in their industry, AgritechNZ chief executive Peter Wren-Hilton says.

Technology is making life easier, from eco-friendly cars to faster software and tech improvements are benefitting Kiwis in everyday life, he says.

“The same goes for agritech innovation such as crop protection and plant biotechnology which is improving the lives of farmers and consumers around New Zealand.

“Robotics Plus is one New Zealand agricultural robotics and automation company which has been largely responsible for seeing revolutionary robotic apple packers going global.

“They are initially targeting the US, Australian and New Zealand markets which is fuelling a period of accelerated growth.”

Apple packhouses already use automation extensively for sorting and grading, but the process of arranging apples in trays for export is still highly labour intensive.

Robotics Plus and their packing technology is a game-changer for the industry. The Robotics Plus apple packer identifies and places apples in their trays and can safely handle up to 120 fruit per minute which is the equivalent of two people, Wren-Hilton says.

“Another Kiwi company, Autogrow, works with growers to create automated hardware, software and data solutions to help new growers set up their grow sites and existing growers to modernise theirs.

“They are leveraging the power of technology, data science and plant biology to provide growers affordable, accessible and easy-to-use innovation – 24/7, anywhere in the world.

“Autogrow supports growers and resellers in over 40 countries producing over 100 different crop types in a variety of environments.

“Their technology feeds the world and its technology is found in greenhouses, hoophouses, tunnels, indoor grow rooms, nurseries and vertical farms running and optimising 2556 individual grow rooms across 637.34 hectares which is enough growing power to produce 372,844 tonnes of tomatoes a year.

“A third NZ company, BioLumic, has produced UV technology which delivers ultraviolet light to seeds and seedlings to trigger biological mechanisms that increase plant growth, vigour and yields. Their world-first technology is clean, green and GM free.

“BioLumic has created a seedling treatment using UV light that it says boosts the yield of specialty crops by up to 22 percent while also making plants heartier and more pest resistant.

“Globally, pesticide applications rates are down 95 percent since 1960 as today’s products are 10 times more effective and have an improved safety profile.

“In 2015 high yield biotech crops around the world used 19.425 million fewer hectares of land to produce the same amount of feed, fuel and fibre crops. With less land available for agriculture that efficiency is necessary to keep up with growing populations.

“New Zealand invests nearly $750 million in research and development for food and agriculture but is only just starting to see innovation startups commercialise the tech resource coming from public and private investment.

“Our country is a big primary producer and tech will very soon make a big difference to agriculture. Digitisation of the farm is impacting agriculture globally,” he says.


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