NZ Agribusiness - We are "The Possible" to the "Impossible"
- Published on January 28, 2020
Seven Takeaways from Harvard Business School’s 2020 Agribusiness Seminar attended by Trish Rankin, New Zealand Dairy Women's Network Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year 2019 and passionate Agvocate (Agri sector Advocate) and Dairy Farmer.
In January 2020, I attended the annual Agribusiness Seminar held at Harvard Business School in Boston, USA. I was 1 of 24 women attending out of a total 190 people. I was the only ‘grass roots’ female farmer. For 4 days we used a case study model where we discussed 12 varied and diverse Agri sector businesses from around the world. From Nigeria to South America to North America to China. From primary producers of chicken, pork, crops etc through to logistics companies (moving primary products around the world), to agrichemical/health businesses, to companies selling derivatives and futures through to chain store retailers of the products.
- New Zealand is miles (or kilometres!) ahead in our day to day thinking and planning around ‘not just dollar sign profit’ planning for our businesses. We care about our environment, communities, impact on our contributions to climate change, people, social goals as equal to our dollar profit. We think about our three ‘C’s’ (Changing Climate, Community and Consumers) as part of our everyday actions in our agricultural sector. This is absolutely not the case in the businesses we studied.
- NZ products are GMO free. They are growth hormone free. They are anti-biotic minimalised. They are ‘free from’ so many ‘standard’ things that other consumers in other parts of the world have in their products. We have banned sow stalls. We are banning the caged chicken eggs. We don’t use anti-biotics as a matter of course - only when an animal is unwell. This is not the case in the farming practices around the world. Even I wanted to start eating vegetarian meals while there - and I love meat based protein!
- NZ is the ‘Possible’ to the plant based protein ‘Impossible’ customer. The ‘Impossible’ Burger and ‘Beyond Meat’ options are not targeted at the vegan/vegetarian. They are marketed at the ‘meat eater’ who wants one less ‘environmental damaging meat/animal health/less cholesterol’ concerned meal. People who are buying them are doing it to try and do one ‘better’ thing for their environment/health/animal beliefs. NZ products when we can get to circular/regenerative/carbon neutral type brand, would be able to compete in this market.
- Very few people I spoke to at Harvard - and these are executives of top companies around the world, or owners of some of the biggest agri businesses globally, knew that NZ was a pasture based, GMO/Growth hormone/antibiotic managed/minimal pesticide/insecticide use animal protein producer. They could not believe it when we aim to keep our cows in our herd for year on year aiming for around 10 years (one person I spoke to said they aim to have 20% IN CALF rate *we aim to have a less than 10% NOT in calf rate*… and they just aim to milk their big fresians 3x a day, feeding them in barn stalls heavily GMO based feed with growth hormones…) and that we breed animals not just for production but for health, longevity, reproductive traits etc. And we pat them, and they live where they can run and forage and play and be a ‘happy’ animals loved by their farmers.
- Premium products over in the USA - are what we eat everyday here in NZ. And they pay for it. We went to a restaurant that specialises in paddock to plate type food. Where you have trace-ability from the grower to the retailer. This is what we do here. And we don’t tell everyone about it. People I spoke to just thought eating GMO/hormone/cage/antibiotic filled/chemical rich/factory farmed food was what you did. What we have here in NZ is a blessing to our consumers - you can easily access free-range, ‘free from’ food as a matter of daily shopping - not as a destination to a restaurant! You don't even have to really think about it at our supermarkets - we are just 'free from' as part of what we do!
- Farmer numbers are decreasing around the world. Food demand is increasing. To fill in the gaps farmers overseas are using tools to increase their food production (GMO etc) that we don't do here in NZ. How can NZ best take advantage of this?
- Circular Economy, reducing rubbish, water quality, fertiliser use, precision farming, reducing methane, happy animal happy life, reducing packaging etc didn’t even get a mention. Things I think about everyday, alongside my fellow NZ farmers aren’t even under consideration. When I told people that we are reducing methane by 10% by 2030 they thought I was crazy. When I went to the Natural History Museum in New York - Climate Change exhibition - not one mention about agriculture causing it. The entire display was about CO2 emissions from industry and machinery and transport. New Zealand is so far ahead of other countries and yet our farmers still get portrayed like a planet destroyer. We aren’t. We are on the journey towards reducing methane, emissions, waste etc that is world leading. While producing some of the World's best food.
The next year for me has been changed by this experience. I didn't realise that the global consumer of our products eat really low quality food daily - a meat eater in the USA will be eating chemical/growth hormone/GMO based barn/cage raised animals. This is where NZ is the ‘Possible’. We are the seller of some of the worlds best protein. We are on our way to the Primary Sector’s Council vision of ‘Fit for a Better World’. We believe in Taio, which emphasises respect for, and harmony with, the natural world. We care about our consumers, communities and climate. We are taking action towards the Paris Accord and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. My focus is on helping our sector journey towards a more circular approach to rubbish/waste. www.porohita.com has been developed to help drive education and change in Agriculture. Watch this space! #porohita #circularagriculture