KiwiNet News 21 September 2011

KiwiNet forum focuses on role of digital technology in agricultural sector innovation and profitability

Christchurch - Wednesday 21 September, 2011 - The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is hosting a forum today to gain insights into how digital technology can improve farm, orchard and vineyard sustainable profitability and grow high tech manufacturing. The commercialisation consortium of universities and crown research institutes aims to identify the steps that New Zealand needs to take to ensure that we turn technological leadership into an innovative and world leading agri-tech sector.

The industry forsighting initiative will bring together farmers, viticulturists, orchardists, hi-tech companies, researchers, and government organisations across the agricultural value chain. The intended outcome is to identify and overcome any barriers to commercial success in digital agriculture.

David Hughes, Group General Manager Commercial, Plant & Food Research says, "By improving collaboration we can unlock significant economic value both in the primary industry, and high-tech manufacturing and ICT sectors. For New Zealand to lead the world in this area we need to ensure that the whole value chain is aligned. Ensuring that New Zealand's science and technology development capability is aligned behind this opportunity is only half of the story. We also need to find out whether there are any blockages to commercial success that could stop digital agriculture from flourishing, such as an innovation or regulatory gap or a lack of industry standards."

Dr Peter John, Director of Research & Commercialisation at Lincoln University says, "The workshop will further enhance our understanding of the needs of end-users - from dairy and dry stock farmers through to orchardists and wine growers. The insights gained will be used to inform and direct collaborative programmes capable of delivering on those needs. Collectively, the various stakeholder groups, including manufacturers and ICT companies, have a wealth of valuable knowledge and technologies, from robotics to sensors to yield mapping software, capable of providing cost-effective solutions.

"We will not be encouraging research for research's sake. Solutions to knowledge or technology gaps often already exist, at least in part, and it's often a matter of establishing how these can be adapted to meet an identified need. The workshop will also produce a more complete understanding of the commercial landscape. This will allow identification of blockages to market success and, thus, ensure that innovations really add-value to the industry and New Zealand."

The AIC (Australian Institute for Commercialisation) will facilitate the forum with their TechClinic® approach which uses a structured environment to focus the entire innovation value chain on a specific opportunity, area or need. Industry representatives outline the market gaps and commercial success criteria, researchers identify technologies available to address these gaps and government can provide critical support and national direction.

The forum follows a highly successful Precision Ag forum that was held in Christchurch last month which brought together 140 people from across the field of precision agriculture to discuss the current state of the industry.

KiwiNet was launched in July to increase the scale and impact of commercialisation in New Zealand by facilitating a more collaborative and capable commercialisation system. KiwiNet acts as a hub for commercialisation for its member organisations as well as the wider innovation system.

KiwiNet was originally founded by a collaboration of nine universities and crown research institutes including WaikatoLink, Plant & Food Research, Otago Innovation, Lincoln University, AUT Enterprises, AgResearch, Industrial Research, VicLink and the University of Canterbury. The founding organisations alone encompass a large proportion of NZ's science capability, with a total combined research expenditure of more than $500 million.

KiwiNet's collaborative commercialisation model enables members to share resources, networks, best practise, IP and experience to create more commercially viable IP and start-ups from research based ventures. Industry forsighting initiatives and other commercialisation events will be held regularly to maximise collaborative opportunities and knowledge sharing.