I admit it – I’m a townie. Those who know me also know that I’m a technologist. However, like almost all Kiwi’s, I appreciate the incredible contribution of our rural sector – to our economy and our way of life. I especially appreciate the innovation I see in the rural economy, and the efforts many are making to look after our land and delicate natural resources. At the risk of being accused of being an optimist, I believe most farmers care about the land in their care, and try to produce the best products they can in the best way they know.
I don’t know if it is those factors, or the call of my ancestors who have been farming in the South Island since the 1870’s, but whatever it is I’ve often looked at how I can help improve life on the farm.
I’ve seen many technical innovations brought to the farm over the years – soil, water and silo / vat monitors; RFID systems; precision farming solutions and yield measurement and forecasting systems. I’ve also seen farmers dealing with more and more farm data, compliance requirements and an ever-increasing information flow. At times I wonder if farmers are having to spend almost as much time behind a computer screen as I do.
At Leftfield Innovation I’ve been fortunate to team up with people who know far more about farming and food production than I do, and in turn, I can bring my technology skills to help connect different parts of the food chain. It is exciting to be part of such a truly collaborative group, and we continue to build momentum.
As the technologist, I see huge opportunities to leverage all the information that is currently flowing in new ways, and that is part of what we are doing in our work at LFI. By increasing not only the visibility of what we are doing, but being able to tell our food production story in new ways, allows our producers to capture more value in the markets they ultimately serve, while giving consumers more confidence in what they are purchasing.
Beyond simply sharing our good story, I also see a future where we can enable new innovations to find value that we haven’t even thought of yet, using tools such as Artificial Intelligence to identify efficiencies and market opportunities that are not visible to us currently. Innovators will emerge who can leverage abstracted data which may combine nutritional analysis with yield forecasts and market predictors, creating high-value opportunities for crafted foods to meet new market demand.
I have spoken at conferences around the world with some of the largest food and beverage companies to explain where some of the most advanced technologies are heading, with consumers having enormous capability delivered directly to their hand via their smart devices, supported with AI technology.
There is a growing awareness that food brands are now being looked at with increasing scrutiny, and their values, nutrition, environmental practices and ethics matter.
In short, I see a data-enabled future, where good foods with good information will win. One without the other isn’t enough.
The exciting thing about being in New Zealand is that we can sit around a table with a diverse group of people, all collaborating to rapidly innovate to meet this opportunity. I genuinely believe that New Zealand has a distinct advantage not just because of the history of our rural sector, but because of the future of it, through our technology and primary experts working together.
We're out there doing it, and look forward to sharing more of our story as we progress.
Leftfield Innovation Ltd.