I am writing this (depressing / optimistic post depending on your point of view) wearing my Wharf42 investment hat.

As a co-founder and limited partner in WNT Ventures, I know something about disruption. When you look at some of WNT’s investments, disrupting existing technologies & business models is a core part of the mandate: Think Nyriad, Avertana & Mint Innovation.

These companies are not focused on incremental innovation. They are focused on bringing fundamental change to existing technology & business process environments.

Disruptive technology

Are New Zealand’s major agribsuinesses prepared?

The same thing is beginning to happen in agriculture. During National Fieldays in June, I will be hosting a number of significant offshore agritech players (multi-national AND early stage) who are looking to disrupt global agriculture. They have moved beyond concept stage.

One of the companies visiting (very early stage) has raised over $200M in venture funding to-date. The international capital markets are betting big that these companies will disrupt in a major way. So what does this mean for New Zealand?

Being thousands of miles away from these emerging players is no safety net for the country’s established agribusinesses. Disruption is a cross border activity and New Zealand is very much in its firing line. For some of New Zealand’s larger agribusinesses, this creates a cultural challenge. Internal R&D ‘innovation’ is largely incremental. And severe disruption creates major challenges for Boards and leadership teams. They can become defensive & inward looking. Think Kodak. Think Blockbuster.

One thing is certain. Disruption is not going away. It’s going to get bigger and more impactful. There is however an alternative for New Zealand agribusiness. I strongly believe that we should embrace the opportunity and become a nation of agri disrupters.

It’s one of the reasons why Farm2050 announced that New Zealand would become their first ‘Country Partner’ back in August last year. This collective of major international agribusinesses and global venture firms recognised that opportunity. As a nation, we have a strong science community, and deep domain knowledge in dairy, beef, lamb, horticulture & other key agriculture sectors. We also have a strong emerging agritech sector with many entrepreneurs seeking to build new digital platforms and applications to disrupt.

Over the coming months (wearing my Agritech New Zealand hat), a number of major NZ-focused initiatives are to be announced. I’m confident that the vast majority of those emerging businesses will grasp the opportunity that these initiatives will offer.

I’m ever hopeful that the Boards and leadership teams of our major agribusinesses will have the courage and wisdom to do the same.

There really is no alternative.