Disrupt or be disrupted

25 Sep 2017

organic apple buds in september

Change is rapidly coming to the primary sector. Our traditional approaches to farming and growing are going to change radically change in the next decade, in the form of changing eating habits, technological advances, and the robotic revolution. The by-line coming from the leaders and thought creators, for horticulture in particular, is that we need to disrupt or be disrupted; doing nothing is not an option. 

Two major influences in New Zealand will be climate change and how fast New Zealand will adopt meeting its Emissions Trading Scheme. As the traditional forms of agriculture are forced to change their growing operations, there will likely be an increase in diversification into horticulture, and it is apparent that this will coincide with changes in the eating habits of our premium paying consumers, with a move away from animal based products towards newer, less conventional proteins.

In the United States, investment is aiming at the agri-food sector, with an emphasis on plant based technologies and foods. It is predicted that the change coming to the food sector will be so rapid that eight of the top ten food companies will be out of business in the next decade, simply by not keeping ahead of innovation and meeting consumers’ preference. The success of products like kiwifruit and apples has come from delivering what the consumer wants. 

In the next few years, keeping an eye on what consumers want will be vital for our continued success. Diet diversity is the big thing, with sustainable diets based on plants being the new trend. To succeed, we will need to deliver what our consumers want to pay for, which may not be what we have traditionally grown. If we do not move with what consumers will pay a premium for, be innovative, adopt new technologies and employ robots, we will be left behind.

Our new Government will also have a pivotal role to play, ensuring that our producers have the ability to respond to these new trends. Increased research and development, giving New Zealand businesses an innovative advantage, is vital. To do all this the primary sector needs to have funds to invest, both from the Government and from its own profits. It also needs to have a Government which supports innovation and growth, which will ultimately earn more for New Zealand than additional taxes ever could. 

So regardless of whoever enters Government, we will be encouraging them to take a long view and, instead of disrupting horticulture, work with the industry to let us become the disruptors.


- Mike Chapman, CEO