Boma Grow Agri-Summit in Christchurch

Boma Grow, Agri Summit. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

How is technology going to transform the way we grow and sell? Every piece of the supply chain is up for the disruption. How is the market changing? Consumer tastes are evolving, and so are their expectations: of quality, transparency, and social responsibility. What business models should we be exploring? How can we focus less on volume and more on value? How can we shift away from the unhelpful friction between urban and rural? What is our actual responsibility when it comes to land use, or clean waterways—and who should pay? These are some of the questions that were tackled by the 30 speakers and 400 attendees at the inaugural Boma Grow Agri-Summit in Christchurch (partially sponsored by the U.S. Embassy)

Opened by the Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Biosecurity, Food Safety, and Rural Communities, Hon Damien O’Connor, the conference focused on the technological advances in the food and fibre sector to become more sustainable, collaborative, profitable, and data driven.

There was a heavy American speaker/company lineup including:

  • Abi Ramanan co-founder and CEO of U.S. food-technology company ImpactVision, which interprets hyperspectral images (a combination of spectroscopy and digital imaging) to give food producers & retailers real-time information in a non-invasive manner, facilitating superior decision-making while optimising food chain processes;
  • Tim Cannon an American software developer, entrepreneur, and biohacker based in Pittsburgh who lead the biohacker group Grindhouse Wetware and currently serves as the CEO of Livestock Labs – a biotechnology startup company that creates implantable technology for cattle and other animals;
  • Harry She (formerly worked for CERN, NASA, and RocketLab) – Head of Data Science at Halter, a US/NZ company that set out to create the future of farming, through a commitment to reducing the intensive hours farmers work, supporting farmers to meet growing global food demand, enhancing animal welfare, and protecting our environment;
  • Raymond McCauley who talked on the latest in biotech & advances in reading DNA, serves as Principal at Exponential Biosciences, a privately-held consultancy focused on the design and development of integrated systems in genomics, bioinformatics, systems biology, and practical nanotechnology;
  • Amy Keller, Founder of PurePlus+ plant based powder created from up-cycled fruits and vegetables that otherwise would be wasted, used to add a nutrient boost into a range of food products including beverages, nutrition bars, superfood powder blends, and baking products

All-in-all a successful conference with a wider debate on whether New Zealand should remain an export nation of traditional premium quality agricultural & horticultural produce, or follow other nations (such as the U.S.) and introduce enhancements with GE & GM biotechnologies. Listen out for the podcast interviews, coming soon to the Embassy podcast channel.