10 Billion Mouths - Co-hosted by Wharf42, sponsored by Yamaha - Headline event at Techweek Tauranga 18
The new boss of agriculture isn’t a government regulator, it’s consumers seeking a wide range of foods they can trace back to their source.
Alternative proteins and traceability were two themes during Techweek’s headline conference called 10 Billion Mouths. The event featured agritech innovators and funders from all over the world.
Co-founder of Fall Line Capital Eric O’Brien said his US-based firm is using $325 million to help make farms more productive. He said consumer tastes are changing, and Millennials, who drive food trends, will comprise three-quarters of the workforce by 2050. “There are tremendous opportunities in healthy foods, natural foods and food as medicine to some extent. Does the New Zealand Dairy industry need to fear yellow pea milk? Will Impossible Burgers replace meat? I don’t think so. It’s a consumer choice.” O’Brien said alternative protein products would supplement animal proteins, not replace them.
Beef & Lamb New Zealand market innovation manager Lee-Ann Marsh said there was a rise in people calling themselves ‘flexitarians,’ who still eat traditional meat, along with vegetarian meals.
Food futurist Rosie Bosworth said we must consider what our children and their children will eat. She said if alternative proteins start to match taste, flavour and cost profiles of traditional meat and dairy products without the need for feeding, watering and slaughtering animals, alternative foods will become increasingly relevant.
Dr Adrian Percy with Bayer CropScience said consumers didn’t always welcome innovation like gene editing of crops. He said traceability and transparency in the food chain are critical. “Growers are getting more active in telling their story. Consumers trust farmers more than any other population...they may not always like the methods farmers use, but there’s a general trust in those growers.” Dr Percy said the current production system isn’t sustainable, due to impacts on water and other resources. He was confident agtech would help farmers produce food more effectively.
Attendee and kiwifruit grower Trish Jones of Te Puke said she knows the importance of telling her crop’s story. “Something we have on the Zespri portal site is you can go in and see exactly where your fruit has gone.” Jones said 137,000 of her orchards’ trays had been exported this year to 15 places worldwide. “Because I’m in the orchard, I look at one piece of fruit and wonder, ‘Who’s going to be eating you in the world?’”
Ray Vagana, who travelled from Auckland for 10 Billion Mouths, said he wanted to know whether chemicals his employer, Ixom, sold were part of the traceability chain. “The consumer’s becoming the regulator now, and we want to understand where do we fit into that.”
Other expert panelists included George Kellerman of Yamaha Motor Ventures, which recently invested in Tauranga-based Robotics Plus; Kirk Haney, CEO of Radicle Growth; Nicky Molloy with Callaghan Innovation; David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London; and plant and fruit researcher Dr. Ian Ferguson.
10 Billion Mouths’ primary sponsor and partners were Yamaha Motor Ventures and Wharf42.
Techweek is New Zealand’s annual festival of innovation which included more than 500 events nationwide from 19-27 May 2018. It featured regional, national and international speakers and companies. This year’s theme: innovation that’s good for the world.
Techweek Tauranga 2018 is curated, coordinated and promoted by Venture Centre.
Venture Centre works to connect people on enterprising journeys - with each other and the mindset, skillset, toolsets, networks and resources they need - to build an ecosystem that delivers real-world, learn-by-doing events, activities, projects and experiences.
Techweek Tauranga 2018 is supported by Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District councils.