Riddet Institute female scientists leading the future of food

A sell out audience packed the Globe Theatre in Palmerston North last week for a breakfast event with eight female leaders across the primary industries. The panel, including three scientists from the Riddet Institute, came together for a thought provoking and problem solving boardroom style discussion. Debating the confidence, collaboration, capability and curiosity of the sector, the panellists agreed it is time for New Zealand to tell its food story to the world, get to know our customers better and promote technology we can all trust.

The theme of ASB Perspective 2025 was the future of food production in New Zealand; developing a cross-industry food strategy to provide New Zealand with a stronger position as a global market leader in high value foods, whilst improving our responsibility as environmental guardians. The audience watching the discussion chaired by Rural Exchange host Sarah Perriam, and live streamed via the CEDA Facebook page, agreed with the panel. Over 85% of those taking part in the live survey decided it is time to unite around a national agrifood strategy that brings together farmers, scientists, technologists, producers and leaders.

Some of the country’s most influential women in the agrifood area, seated around the discussion breakfast table included among others; Professor Juliet Gerrard, Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and Riddet Institute Principal investigator, Dr Abby Thompson, FoodHQ CEO and Riddet Institute Associate Investigator and Fonterra Riddet Chair in Consumer and Sensory Science, Professor Joanne Hort. These innovative leaders in food production, research and policy are changing the way food is researched, produced, marketed and sold around New Zealand and the world. Topics discussed included national market trends and current confidence of food producers, consumer insights, attracting young capability into the sector, how far into the future we can plan and operate, and the opportunities New Zealand companies can create for themselves if they collaborate.

Professor Hort stressed the need to understand who we are producing food for “We need to understand our consumers, not at the top level, but deep down. To mitigate any risk of our agrifood strategy, we need to understand our consumer. The stories we hear from them involve sustainability, health, values and wellness – but this story is different for consumers in US for example, to consumers in China. Once we understand this, New Zealand can get out there and sell our story to the world. Communicate our science at conferences and sell our capability to ensure in 10 years, we have produced the right skills and talent to extend our industry further”

Dr Abby Thompson, Food HQ agrees ” No one can be quite sure what the future is going to look like, but we can be confident that the status quo is not going to work. We need a multidisciplinary approach with combinations of skills we have not seen before. Combining disciplines of robotics and plant physiology for example, and this is where the magic happens. We need to keep moving and developing, while we formulate our future strategy, so we ensure that we keep making progress while still creating value in our products, trust in our innovations and ourselves. Our industry is a very exciting one to be involved with and there is nowhere else one earth I would rather be.”

About ASB Perspective 2025

The ASB P2025 event, sponsored by Central Ecomonic Development Agency (CEDA), Fonterra and ASB was the start of a week-long celebration of NZ Agrifood week, taking place in the Manawatu from 11-17th March and encompassing Central Field days, AgResearch Future Feeders and Plate of Origin, as well as other high profile and community events. The week showcases New Zealand as a Food Nation and highlights the expertise we have in the Manawatu in agriculture, food and technology. Complementary events that sit at the intersection of agriculture, food and technology provide a platform for influential thought leaders from all sectors to meet, build relationships and unite for one conversation about the current state of New Zealand’s primary sector and the future of food in this country and beyond

The other speakers included Jocelyn Eason (Plant and Food Research)

Mavis Mullins, Atihau Whanganui Inc, Agri-Women’s Development Trust, Accelerate 25

Nicky Molloy, Callaghan Innovation

Mel Croad, AgriHQ

Jacqui Cottrell, Kiwi Quinoa

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