Rural round-up


Important not to let China dominate red meat sector – Allan Barber:

It’s a scary thought how quickly things have changed, but China has become one of New Zealand’s biggest markets for red meat, almost without any warning.

After years of thinking of UK/Europe as our biggest market for sheepmeat and the USA for beef with all other countries way down the chart, China has surged to reach the status of our biggest destination by volume for sheepmeat with 60,000 tonnes in the last 12 months compared with 55,000 to the UK.

The rise in beef is less dramatic, although year on year volume increased by more than 600% to 27,500 tonnes. However this volume is larger than exports to any single market other than the USA. The increases are less pronounced if measured in dollars, but the message is the same. . . .

Innovation from grassroots:

Retaining primary sector research and development to maintain competitiveness while at the same time diversifying into other key areas is important, says industry body DairyNZ.

Commenting on the launch of a new book, Get Off the Grass: Kickstarting New Zealand’s Innovation Economy, by Shaun Hendy and Paul Callaghan, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says dairying in New Zealand has not been ‘backed’ at the expense of other sectors.

“Its export value has grown by 83% in the last 10 years because our industry is innovative, resilient and highly competitive,” he says. “And I agree that diversifying our economic base is important,” says Mackle.

“Some of the research I’ve seen points to the importance of cities and regions being powerful drivers of knowledge economies. They are associated with significant productivity gains and innovation and high densities of businesses in related industries. The new Lincoln Agri Hub that DairyNZ is a part of is an agricultural response to that for Christchurch and Canterbury. There is a food one in Palmerston North and we are looking to develop a hub in the Waikato too,” he says. . .

Primary industry mobile tech forum draws the digerati – sticK:

Numbers tell a story on their own.

And the fact that over 220 attendees ponyed up at the Mobile Tech Summit 2013 in Wellington on August 7 & 8 underscores the message that our natural resources aren’t as old-hat as some would like to believe.

This new event is designed to showcase current and upcoming mobile innovations in New Zealand’s principle food and fibre sections.

In other words; the application of smartphones and mobile devices across our biological industries – which for all the movies made in New Zealand and talk of standalone digital businesses, still underpin our economy. . .

Farm compliance and water breakthroughs:

Figures obtained by the Dominion Post show a significant fall in the number of dairy farmers receiving infringement and abatement notices.  This follows hard on the heels of the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) reporting in 90 percent of monitored sites, water quality over 2000-2010, was either stable or showed improvement

“The numbers from the Dominion Post tell the full story and that is one of marked improvement,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“While the Dominion Post has singled out dairy farming over the past five seasons, we are buoyed to see the number of abatement notices almost halve while infringement notices have more than halved.  . .

Changes to farming regulations on the horizon:

Federated Farmers supports Government proposals to change the Resource Management Act (RMA) but there are some changes still to be made.

“The principles behind the changes are to give certainty to the planning process and to consenting,” said Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers’ Environment spokesperson.

“I’m sure everyone will welcome greater consistency and faster decision making. The changes should make local authorities better to deal with and more accountable.

“We are disappointed that the Government is still not addressing inconsistencies with the framework of the National Policy Statement for Fresh Water; devised to protect indigenous aquatic flora, fauna and habitat. The proposed RMA changes continue to protect introduced predator species, such as trout. You cannot have it both ways. . .

Best plants for bees – Raymond Huber:

Honey bees are the glue that holds our agricultural system together…Hannah Nordhaus

It’s Bee Week and Time magazine features The Plight of the Honeybee (hey Mr. Time Editor, it’s ‘honey bee’, two words, not one). One cause of bee decline is monocultural farming: bees are starving because of a lack of flower diversity. You can help by planting bee-friendly fruit trees, bushes, herbs and wild flowers:
  • Plant nectar-rich flowers: clovers and mimosa; rosemary, thyme and sage; koromiko and veronicas; brassicas; dandelion, sunflower, dahlias, cosmos, and zinnia
  • Bees like bluish-purple flowers such as Californian lilac, erica, and lavender . . .

Science success should be celebrated like sporting success


If someone had won hundreds of thousands of dollars for sporting achievement a few days ago they’d now be household names. But how many know who Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, Dr Robin Dykstra,  Dr Mark Hunter, Dr Andrew Coy and Dr Craig Eccles are?

The first three are from Victoria University, the other two are from Magritek and together they won the Prime Minister’s Science prize worth $500,000.

Scientists who have turned world-leading research into a multi-million dollar technology company have won the top award at the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes, New Zealand’s most prestigious and valuable science awards.

Prime Minister John Key today announced the prizes, which have total prize money of $1 million, at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Clubrooms in Auckland.

The top award, the Prime Minister’s Science Prize, went to the Magnetic Resonance Innovation team of Victoria University of Wellington and spin-off company Magritek.

Magnetic resonance uses radio waves and magnetic fields to find out information about molecules.  Discoveries by the team are widely used in medicine and science, and have applications in agriculture and industry.

Magritek are selling products based on magnetic resonance around the world, with the company rapidly growing and generating millions in export revenues.

Others recognised with an award were:

  • Bailey Lovett, 17, of James Hargest College in Invercargill who won the Prime Minister’s 2010 Future Scientist Prize and received $50,000 towards her university studies.
  •  Steve Martin, Howick College, won the Prime Minister’s 2010 Science Teacher Prize. He received $50,000 and his school received  $100,000.
  • Dr Donna Rose Addis, University of Auckland won the Prime Minister’s 2010 MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist and received $200,000, with $150,000 to be used for research.
  •  Dr Cornel de Ronde, GNS Science won the Prime Minister’s 2010Science Media Communications Prize. He received $100,000, half of which of which will be used to develop his science communication skills.

In announcing the awards the PM said the prizes recognise the winners and highlight the importance of science to this country.

They do, but these and other top scientists and their achievements still don’t get the publicity and public appreciation they deserve. Nor do they achieve the hero status accorded to their sporting equivalents.

They should.

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