The changing face of Agritech

Industries rise, fall and evolve under the constant development of new and innovative technologies. Refrigeration changed how food was supplied, the lightbulb enabled us to utilise more hours in the day, the telephone connected people and the internet distributed information far better and quicker than ever before.

A new a wave of digital technologies is here. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoTs), blockchain, big data, robotics and automation are just some of the technologies currently impacting business. No matter whether it’s banking, engineering, retail or agriculture, these innovations are changing how each sector operates.

Humans have been around a while but we seem to think innovation, technology and disruption are just new. They’re not. But the speed of change and disruption perhaps is.

“New Zealand has a deserved reputation for being world leading in agriculture. But the world is moving fast. Are we living on the past?” said Conor English, Chairman of Agribusiness New Zealand and former CEO of Federated Farmers.

Mr English is the opening keynote presenter at this year’s agritech event, MobileTECH 2018. His presentation will outline what this means for this country’s primary sector and whether it is time for a change in mindset.

MobileTECH has, for the last six years, been the annual gathering for New Zealand’s agritech community.

“The focus has been on showcasing new digital technologies and how they are, and will be, integrated into the day-to-day running of businesses throughout the agricultural, horticultural and forestry industries,” said Ken Wilson, MobileTECH Programme Manager.

“While we are really excited about where technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are headed, this year the focus is on industry collaboration and hearing from early adopters within the sector,” said Mr Wilson.

At last year’s event a lot of new technology was presented. But one of the best questions asked was, “Is technology looking for a problem? Someone still needs to listen to my problems, understand my business and then look at the technology to help me go forward.”

In the race to innovate, is technology solving a problem or looking for one?

“Ian Gray, Business Manager for Cucumber Limited and Grant Stevenson, Orchard Manager from Mr Apple, will be one of the many presentations tackling this issue,” said Mr Wilson. “They are a great example of how tech businesses and the horticultural industry can better work together.”

Mr Gray said, “It’s about a human centred approach to solving real business problems. We use the Design Thinking approach to understand their needs and enable them to make better decisions in assessing the right technology solutions.”

James Knapp, the Health and Safety Lead at OSPRI, is another example of technology collaboration.

“I could not sleep at night knowing that we had information stuck in an Excel spreadsheet that, if effectively shared, could prevent an injury or death,” said Mr Knapp. “I wanted a tool to give remote workers immediate access to site-specific hazard information and allow them to share new hazards found in the field.”

Mr Knapp and his team at OSPRI worked with ThunderMaps to help bring that vision to a reality. Both Mr Knapp and Clint Van Marrewijk, the Managing Director (Asia Pac) of ThunderMaps will be presenting their practical insights at MobileTECH 2018.

MobileTECH 2018 will be running on 27-28 March 2018 in Rotorua, New Zealand. Further details can be found on the event website, www.mobiletech.events.