So how do we stay confident about farming? How do we sell less for more?

Provocations 17 - 19

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17. Attracting and building strong capability in the primary sector.

The primary sector needs to gain insights as to the kind of skill sets it needs going into the future. There is an urgent need to lift people’s capability attracting new people to work in the primary sector. It’s important to start early in the schools highlighting the many different options and advantages of employment in the major industry. 

 If you’re brought up in a city you’ve no idea of the career opportunities in the primary sector

If you’re brought up in a city you’ve no idea of the career opportunities in the primary sector

Diverse work opportunities part of creating a new generation of workers.

Targeting university students in capturing diverse backgrounds and skills into the sector will assist a great deal in solving current industry problems. Retaining that capability within the sector is a priority. Presenting diverse work opportunities certification and recognition are all part of creating a new generation of workers. Embracing workforce mobility even across the globe could well be a reality. Tertiary support and on-the-ground training has been allowed to atrophy over the past 20 years and we have seen a migration of our best into the cities which is unfortunate. At present there is no grand plan for education in the primary sector based around future needs, rather it’s more of an ad hoc affair delivered by different government agencies so often without a common agenda.

How might we create the master education and development plan for capability, based around the future of New Zealand food production supported by exemplary farming practice?

 The need for a capability masterplan.

The need for a capability masterplan.

18. Data versus folklore and intuition.

Over time you arrive at the understanding that farming’s real basis of success is science. Yet when you spend time with a farmer, you will realise that many of the decisions he or she makes about the physical side of the business will be made intuitively. Nothing wrong with this – in fact it goes a long way still. However, it needs to be supplemented with data and evidence-based science. 

Effective use of data essential for future farmers.

Future farmers will need to be extremely effective at using data to achieve consistent levels of excellence, both environmentally and economically. Engaging in more scientific approaches to verifying their intuitions will substantially enhance their results. The precision farming of the future will be a combination of intuitive experience and data. The consumer wants verification and an understanding that the decisions made on the farm have been supported by the data he or she is reading on the label. Environmental farming with data will be an absolute necessity. Evidential food production means that data becomes a necessity. There’s plenty of data available on farms but its use is limited in making management decisions. 

How might we use data more wisely making it simple and easy to understand inside the farm gate?

 Environmental farming with data will be an absolute necessity. Image courtesy of https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/04/28/turning-potential-big-data-agriculture-farmer-consumer-benefits/

Environmental farming with data will be an absolute necessity.
Image courtesy of https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/04/28/turning-potential-big-data-agriculture-farmer-consumer-benefits/

19. It seems we innovate around the edges avoiding the big issues.

Our innovation needs to also address how we overcome our distance from market in building value chains to deliver products to these markets in new ways. We are a niche producer, we don’t need to conquer countries but rather develop high-value pathways to selected lucrative markets around the world. 

We are a small country which needs to learn to work collaboratively. 

We are small by world standards and we need to learn to work collectively to build scale in value chain developments. We cannot afford for the fragmented food and fibre industries to continue as they have for generations. An innovative and expansive industry needs to develop human capital. We have too few who can step up to the plate and lead our industries forward. This needs to be addressed across our whole education system and through the support government provides to industry. Investment is a key as is the need to keep our sovereignty. There is a role for government by nurturing emerging growth sectors and projects within them, by providing seed capital, equity and loans.

How might we become more innovative, focusing on the big picture, developing the appropriate pathways to go forward and what role should government play in this process?

 It’s time to tackle the elephant in the room and focus on the big picture in our efforts to innovate. 

It’s time to tackle the elephant in the room and focus on the big picture in our efforts to innovate.