Thought for food
Today’s New Zealand Herald features an article on the New Zealand Food Innovation Network that quotes Coriolis Director Tim Morris:
“The Government’s target of an increase in the value of New Zealand’s food sector exports from $25 billion to $60 billion sets lofty goals for the industry. The Food Innovation Network, established three years ago to build collaboration between universities, research institutions and private food companies, operates four “food hubs” – in Waikato, Manawatu, Auckland, and more recently, Lincoln.
The genesis lies in New Zealand’s need to move up the value chain in terms of food production – in the words of Coriolis Research director, Tim Morris, the need to become a country that can produce “finished goods”, as well as “ingredients”. Morris’ research found other nations with a food production focus overwhelmingly have systems in process to allow for collaboration in food and innovation. One such innovation that can be seen is an improvement in agriculture design thanks to companies like this one (click here), which will allow food to be grown more efficiently in controlled indoor environments.
Though New Zealand’s network is relatively young in comparison to some of the hubs operating in other food producing regions around the world, Morris suggests it is on the right track towards developing our country’s potential. “It’s gotten off the ground, it’s had a good start. Quite a lot of catering services auckland and other places are booming in their business. Early days it was working out the basics, and getting the equipment all to work and everything else, speaking particularly about the Foodbowl, now we’re moving into rolling out of some of the other concepts about marketing advice and business advice.”
But we still have a long way to go to reach our global potential. As Morris points out, although we are often considered to be a tiny nation we have the opportunity to compete against some of the world’s most significant players. “No one knows how big the New Zealand food industry can be, so we’re all just speculating,” Morris said. “We’re actually not a small country, we’re the same size as Italy. And no one says: ‘That small country, Italy’… Italy produces twice as much food as us, and feeds the 60 million people that live there, give or take. They produce 17 times as much fruit and vegetables as us.”
Of course, one of the advantages countries such as Italy have is that they have been engaged in food production for thousands of years. So, while Italians have been making wine for 3000 years, with grapes that are now perfectly adapted to their climate and soil conditions, the majority of New Zealand’s food products are relatively young by international standards. “In 1960, New Zealand had five dollars worth of wine exports, today we have over a billion.
“If you look at global best practice, think Food Valley in the Netherlands, Innovation Place in Canada, what the Irish Food Board are doing. “There’s a lot more we can learn from those global models and we’re a long way from global best practice, but we’re heading in the right direction. Sometimes it’s just as simple as pooling together the things that are done by different government agencies and in different places.”