Ag part of the tech boom

July 5, 2019

Politik discusses Knowledge Wave Mark Two which seeks to boost the tech sector and quotes Helen Clark from the original Knowledge Wave conference:

Our export profile resembles that of developing countries, not that of a developed one.

Our export profile is unique among developed countries for the volume and value of primary produce and the large part that plays in our economy.

But the quote, and some policies from this government, send the message that there’s something wrong with that.

They ignore the fact that primary production does so well in New Zealand not just because of our natural advantages – the climate and soils – but because of the investment in, and application of, research and technology.

There is some comfort in David Parker’s statement:

“The agritech sector has been chosen as a key focus because it brings together two of New Zealand’s key competitive advantages – our expertise in agriculture and horticulture with our well-educated workforce,” he said.

This focus is already being undermined by government policy which incentivises forestry over food production.

Economic growth,  a broader based export economy and technological innovation are all worthy goals but none should be achieved by dragging down or devaluing primary production.

Our export profile does resemble that of a third world country, but primary production in New Zealand is very much a first-world business and already part of the tech boom.

When climate change could threaten food security, our ability to produce highly nutritious food in a very efficient manner is of even more importance.

 

 


Rural round-up

June 29, 2019

Success from the ground up – Luke Chivers:

Future Post is leading change in on-farm sustainability with its new environmentally friendly fence post that won the top Agricultural Innovation award at this year’s Fieldays.

“It came as a huge surprise,” Future Post founder Jerome Wenzlick said.

“We weren’t expecting to win, that’s for sure.” . .

Here’s my beef with the entitled and pampered fat cats – Phil Quin:

Whereas I’m not exactly persuaded by James Cameron and Sir Peter Jackson that New Zealand can or should go meat-free, I’m pretty sure we could manage without three more Avatar films.

“What we need,” Cameron told us last week, “is a nice transition to a meatless or relatively meatless world in 20 or 30 years.”

Even for a filmmaker better known for special effects than human-seeming dialogue, this is a clunker. 

To be fair, though, when you’ve made a couple of billion dollars from blue aliens on a fictitious planet, and when you have come to regard New Zealand as your personal movie set, what’s so hard about replacing dairy and meat with plant-based alternatives?   . . .

Grain sector sees bold future – Annette Scott:

New Zealand is behind other countries in developing and investing in plant-based food ingredients and it’s time to bite the bullet, Plant Research managing director Adrian Russell says.

Agriculture and the world food supply are in the biggest revolution in history, Russell told the Grain and Seed Industry Forum at Lincoln.

“There’s incredibly exciting times to get into as an industry, things are changing and we need to change with it.

“The rise of the flexitarian consuming less meat is predicted to quadruple global pea protein demand by 2025.  . .

Rural boards changing – Brent Melville:

Rural New Zealand boardrooms, once the exclusive enclave of the old boys’ club, are becoming more diversified.

It is not happening quickly. But it is happening.

Women account for only about one in four board members of the large primary sector co-operatives. Two are on the 11-strong Fonterra board and they comprise two of seven on the Silver Fern Farms board, two of nine on the Board of Alliance Farmers Produce and three of 10 on the Farmlands board. . . 

New job helps with title aspirations – Sally Brooker:

Alan Harvey’s new job is proving great preparation for his tilt at the Young Farmer of the Year title.

The Aorangi region representative in the grand final has moved from being an agricultural consultant for Agri Planz to operations manager for North Otago dairy farming company Borst Holdings Ltd.

After winning the Aorangi competition in February, Mr Harvey said he would have to work on his knowledge of the dairy sector before the national final in Hawke’s Bay on July 4 to 6. So he is filling the gaps in his knowledge while enjoying the variety his job brings. . . 

Egg Industry introduces first industry-led trace programme:

A locally developed, industry-led source assurance programme will set the bar for consumers by enabling them to trace their eggs back to the farm they came from to verify that the eggs they want to buy are the eggs in the carton, says New Zealand’s Egg Producers Federation (EPF).

“True source assurance comes from authenticity across multiple platforms, and for that reason, we see this as the most ambitious primary industry-led programme available,” says EPF Executive Director, Michael Brooks. . . 

The slow welcome death of GMO panic – Abe Greenwald:

In the United States, the public panic about the dangers of genetically modified foods is fading fast. This is an amazing—and rare—triumph of reason and science over public hysteria and political posturing.

On Monday, for example, the New York Times published an article by Knuvul Sheikh detailing recent advances in genetically modified crops without offering a single word about potential health dangers or environmental concerns. In fact, it seems there’s a rebranding effort on the left to hype GMO foods as a vital response to climate change.


Bag ban virtue signalling

June 5, 2019

Wondering if the plastic bag is worth it for the sake of the environment? 

. . . In this article ‘Things you’re doing to save the planet that are actually terrible’, Vice reveals that reusable cotton tote you feel so smug about is actually polluting the air and waterways more than a plastic bags. Quoting this 2018 Danish study, reusable cotton bags are only a solution to the problem if we reuse them consistently for 11.5 years, or around 7100 times.

Anything less than that won’t offset the fact that manufacturing these types of bags creates 606 times as much water pollution as making a plastic bag, the study reports.

Todd Myers, who is the environmental director of think tank Washington Policy Centre, told Vice people should not “ignore the far more damaging, but less obvious impacts of cotton bags”.

In comparison, according to the study, a paper bag needs to be reused 43 times to offset the environmental impact – but if you’re using a paper bag 43 times you’re taking better care of it than me. Still, reusing and recycling them afterwards is a much better option than its cotton counterpart.

Or even, dare I say it: Continue to reuse plastic bags which we all know are not single use at all.

And what about the plastic-lined reusable jute bags I got from the Farmers Market?

I suspect they’re no better for the environment either.

Sigh, it’s yet another case of green virtue signalling where feeling trumps the science.


How much does Minister know?

February 19, 2019

Conservation Minister Eugene Sage has ruled out genetic modification in the fight against pests:

 Predator Free 2050 aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators by 2050, and has a number of government agencies involved in the plan including the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

But Predator Free 2050 is forbidden from carrying out any research which could lead to the use of genetic modification or gene editing, a letter written by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage shows.

The letter of direction to Predator Free 2050 obtained by lobby group Life Sciences Network said its primary tasks were to invest in breakthrough scientific research, but not to research into genetically modified organisms and technologies or gene editing, and to raise funds for co-investment by other (non-government) parties, in landscape scale projects and breakthrough science, excluding any science involving genetic modification.

“Gene technologies are problematic and untested and have significant risks.” . . 

This directive counters officials’ views that GE could be an alternative to 1080:

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.” . . 

The minister’s refusal to permit sciencetific exploration is rank stupidity.

It’s also hypocritical coming from a member of the party that exhorts everyone to accept the science on climate change.

But how much does the minister know about the science when the strongest opponents of GM food know the least and think they know the most?

The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

“This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism,” said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. “To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge.” . . 

Is the minister’s decision based on a lack of knowledge or just politics and emotion trumping science?

Whichever it is, a minister should not be shutting the door on scientific exploration.


Rural round-up

August 9, 2018

Long-serving dairy scientist Harjinder Singh gains international recognition – George Heagney:

After 30 years of research in the dairy industry, a distinguished service award was well deserved for Harjinder​ Singh.

The Massey University distinguished professor has won a lot of awards for his work, but last month became the first New Zealander to win the American Dairy Science Association distinguished service award at Knoxville in the United States.

The gong, which Singh joked was a lifetime achievement award, was for outstanding contribution to dairy science and work improving the industry. 

Singh, 60, is a food scientist and major figure in the development of dairy science research, having started working at Massey in 1989. . .

TDC hopes Provincial Growth Fund will plug $18m hole in Waimea dam plan – Cherie Sivignon:

Tasman District Council has applied to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund to plug an $18 million hole in funding for the proposed Waimea dam, undaunted by an apparent exclusion for water and irrigation projects.

A guide to the fund called Powering Up Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Regions is available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

On page 5 of that guide under the headline “Fund exclusions”, it says: The following are not eligible for PGF [the Provincial Growth Fund] as they are funded by other means:
* Housing (unless it is a core part of a broader project and would not otherwise be required)
* Water and large-scale irrigation
* Social infrastructure (such as hospitals and schools) . .

Four does go into one – Sonita Chandar:

Teamwork is the secret to success for the Southland farm judged the best dairy business in the land. Sonita Chandar reports.

Despite three of the four partners living in the North Island the success of a Southland farming business can be attributed to exceptional teamwork and good clear lines of communication.

Each partner brings strengths to the table but no one is above the others. They are all equals, make decisions as a group and share in the spoils of their collective success. . .

Tradition lives on – Sonita Chandar:

The threat of Mycoplasma bovis might ruin an annual tradition that is a firm favourite on the agricultural calendar.

Calf club days around the country are being put on hold or cancelled because of fears of spreading the disease, which has seen cattle banned from some A&P Shows.

However, a group of Waikato farmers has come up with a failsafe idea that carries zero risks and allows children to enter calf clubs and compete against others without having to leave the farm.

On a Facebook page farmers suggested running an online club. . .

Sniffing out a new industry – Nigel Malthus:

At up to $250 retail for a well-shaped 80-90g black perigord truffle, growing the gourmet delicacy has its obvious rewards.

But it is also a high-risk business, says Amuri Truffiere’s Gavin Hulley. The truffiere is based on a 2ha hillside plot overlooking the North Canterbury township of Waikari.

Run as a joint venture with the landowner and another investor, it was planted out in 1997 as one of the first truffle farms in New Zealand. . .

A2 Milk shares rated both ‘outperform’ and ‘sell’ as views on outlook diverge – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Views on the outlook for The a2 Milk Company, the best performing stock on the S&P/NZX 50 Index last year, are widely divergent with one broking house this week reinstating an ‘outperform’ rating based on its potential for future global growth, while another downgraded it to ‘sell’ saying excess product is starting to build in Australia.

A2 Milk, which markets milk with a protein variant said to have health benefits, has had a meteoric rise in recent times, cracking a major milestone in February when it became the largest listed company in New Zealand by value, as its infant formula in China and liquid milk in Australia surged in popularity. At today’s price it is valued as the fourth-largest New Zealand listed company although opinions on its future are mixed. . . 

Fonterra and Future Consumer Limited JV to provide high value dairy nutrition in India:

Fonterra has announced a joint venture partnership with one of India’s largest consumer companies, Future Consumer Ltd, to produce a range of consumer and foodservice dairy products that will help meet the growing demand for high-quality dairy nutrition in India.

Lukas Paravicini, Fonterra’s Chief Operating Officer Global Consumer and Foodservice, said the partnership, under the name Fonterra Future Dairy Partners, will enable Fonterra to establish a presence in India. . . 

New Zealand’s newest farmer-owned foor company challenges  Virgin Australia to bet on an underdog:

Farmer-owned food company, Hinterland Foods, has launched an online appeal for support to have its meat products served on Virgin Australia flights.

It follows an invitation by the airline to the country’s meat companies, in response to rival Air New Zealand’s plant-based Impossible Burger, which has caused a stir in local rural communities.

To help rally support, Hinterland’s Taihape-based team produced a short video to better acquaint ‘the Aussies’ with rural New Zealand life and make a case for why the company’s products should be chosen.  . .

DryNZ, a boutique freshly dried food ingredients business clinches major international export order:

DryNZ, a start-up wholesale freshly dried fruit and vegetable business has won a major international export order, supplying dried fruit for an international company based in Europe.

DryNZ Managing Director Anne Gibson says the deal is a major coup for the Waiuku based business, situated adjacent to the Pukekohe food-bowl supplying apple, peach, blackcurrant, kiwifruit and lemon dried food pieces. . . 

Farmer Tim says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH to farmer suicides #ILiveBecauseYouFarm – The Bullvine:

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I need your help. Five times in the last week I’ve received messages about farmers taking their lives. It is getting way too close to home for me now. Last week agriculture lost an amazing soldier. Her passion and compassion for all things farming was contagious. Anyone who had the privilege to meet her instantly became inspired to be a better person. I do not want to needlessly lose another friend, farmer, neighbour or agvocate. We need to do something.

So many people suffer silently and I know that we can’t help them all but sometime even a small gesture can have a huge impact on someone’s life. . .


Rural round-up

July 21, 2018

Crop biotech 3.0: a farmer’s perspective – Craige Mackenzie:

Here in New Zealand, we did not participate in the GE Gene Revolution. Farmers like me see an advantage in making sure that we do not miss the next one. 

You’ve seen the statistics. Farmers around the world have planted and harvested billions of acres of genetically engineered crops. Not long ago, we used to talk about GMOs and conventional crops as if they belonged in different categories. Increasingly—and especially in North and South America—GMOs are the new conventional. They’ve become an ordinary part of agriculture. 

Some nations, of course have resisted the use of GMOs, starting with members of the European Union. New Zealand has taken its own wait-and-see approach, turning it into a sort of permanent delay. The science on GMOs safety to human health and our environment may be settled but my country has wanted to preserve its clean-green image in food production, in the belief that this gives us a competitive advantage as we market ourselves to the world.  . . 

Eradicating cattle disease M. bovis in New Zealand may be costly, even impossible, but we must try – Riachard Laven:

In May this year, the New Zealand government decided that it would attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease that affects cattle.

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake.

How do we know this is a new incursion?

M. bovis causes mastitis and arthritis in adult cattle and pneumonia in calves. It is found around the world, but New Zealand was one of the last disease-free countriesuntil the detection of infected cows on a dairy farm in July 2017.  . .

Career path judged correctly – Sally Rae:

Brooke Flett never intended a career in farming.

But now, settled on the family dairy farm at Scotts Gap in Southland, it was “working out all right”.

“Most of the time, I love it,” she laughed.

Miss Flett (26), who is chairwoman of Thornbury Young Farmers Club, was recently named Young Farmers national stock-judging champion.

She grew up on the farm and boarded at Southland Girls’ High School before studying at Victoria University for a bachelor of arts in education.

But it “never really clicked” and she did not pursue a career in that area. .

Farm sales and prices ease on year June but horticulture farms shine –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Farm sales fell 7 percent on the year in the three months to June and the median price per hectare was down 16.3 percent although horticulture farm prices continued to push higher, according to the Real Estate Institute.

Overall, 427 farms were sold in the three months ended June 30 from 459 farms in the same period a year earlier. Some 1,480 farms were sold in the year to June, down 17 percent on the year. . .

Software to keep containment’s out:

Fertiliser co-op Ballance will commercially launch a new farm environment planning tool, MitAgator, by spring.

Developed by Ballance and AgResearch, MitAgator measures the loss of four main farm contaminants — nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli.

New Zealand-wide trials are pointing to a launch by late September. . .

Deer velvet looking good in Asia

Long-term prospects for NZ velvet in the major Asian markets are looking positive says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) Asia manager Rhys Griffiths.

“There has been an explosion in consumer demand for consumer-ready velvet-based products in Korea. Ten years ago this product category didn’t even exist,” he says.

“In the past six months, 23 new velvet-based healthy food products have been launched in Korea; the majority of them using NZ velvet. . .

Importers snap up cheap U.S. soybeans as China stops buying – Karl Plume:

China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans, threatened for weeks and enacted Friday, have driven down prices and triggered a wave of bargain shopping by importers in other countries stocking up on cheap U.S. supplies, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

Chinese buyers have so far this year accounted for just 17 percent of all advanced purchases of the fall U.S. soybean harvest – down from an average of 60 percent over the past decade, the analysis found. They are instead loading up on Brazilian soybeans, which now sell at a premium of up to $1.50 a bushel as U.S. soybean futures have fallen 17 percent over six weeks to about $8.50, their lowest level in nearly a decade. . .

The rise of soil carbon cowboys – Peter Byck:

Ranching is a rare occupation. Rarer still are the ranchers pioneering new ways to graze cattle, transforming their ranches and farms into vibrant ecosystems, producing black ink for their bank accounts and giving their incredibly robust animals a great life (with the exception of one bad day).

These new grazing methods have many names — mob grazing, managed intensive grazing, holistic management. Our group of scientists and ranchers call it Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) Grazing.  . .


GM could be greener

July 2, 2018

Outgoing Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it’s time to reignite the debate on genetic modification.

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A this morning, Sir Peter told Corin Dann that debate needed to be more constructive and less polarising than it had been in the past.

“The science is as settled as it will be; that is, it’s safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies. That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past,” he said.

“We’re facing issues of biosecurity; we’re facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free; we’re facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, etcetera. We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy.

“Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute. And everything about life is about rational decisions with some degree of uncertainty. But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” . . 

Anyone who thinks New Zealand is GM free is dreaming.

While GM is tightly controlled here, there is nothing to stop food with GM ingredients being imported and  imported corn and soy products are just two which are likely to have GM components.

Jo Goodhew said in her valedictory statement:

. . .  it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms to our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science. . . 

GM has been around for decades with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment.

GM has the potential to improve human and animal health; food production, reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and provide safer alternatives for disease, weed and pest control than conventional products.

GM could be a greener solution to many problems if, to paraphrase Jo, the debate moved from fear of the unknown to safe and proven science.


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