Whilst Wharf42 is probably best known for its connectivity with Silicon Valley’s rapidly growing AgriTech ecosystem, our global connections go a little further.

During Fieldays in June, many farmers and agribusinesses will have visited the different UK exhibitors taking part in the Great Britain Pavilion. The Pavilion was funded by the UK Department of International Trade (UKDIT), its first such presence at Fieldays in 17 years.

Great Britain Pavilion, Fieldays

UK High Commissioner to NZ, Jonathan Sinclair, at Fieldays 2017

At the time, I wanted to get a better understanding of just how committed UKDIT was to the agritech space and so contacted UKDIT’s New Zealand Head of Investment, Paul Wilkinson. It was a good catch-up. We hadn’t spoken for a little while and I had not realised just how significant the agritech sector focus had become within UKDIT; not only in New Zealand, but also back in Blighty. It became apparent very quickly that UKDIT was making some serious global investment into the space.

So, let’s look at some of the context and then potentially at the opportunity.

Since the Brexit vote back in June last year, I have had the feeling that many Kiwi businesses have begun to question its impact on trade with the UK. Against that backdrop, it’s important to remember that the UK is still New Zealand’s biggest export destination in the EU with 35 per cent of all our EU exports going there. New Zealand exports more to the UK than to Germany France and Italy combined. And whether inside or outside the EU, the UK is still the world’s fifth largest economy. This is big boys and girls trousers. It’s a view shared by the British High Commission in Wellington. (Not too sure about the trousers though).

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to spend time in Tauranga with the UK’s High Commissioner to NZ, Jonathan Sinclair. We were joined by Colin Leeman, the recently appointed High Commission’s First Secretary, Trade Policy. I am personally an alumnus of the UKTI Global Entrepreneur Program and so there was a fair amount of common ground in terms of conversation.

We talked at some length about developments in both country’s AgriTech sectors. This discussion extended to the importance of the FTA which will eventually be negotiated between NZ & the UK, post-Brexit. Colin will be heading up the UK negotiating team in Wellington.

From my perspective, and as one of the first cabs of the rank, I believe that an FTA can and will be a significant win-win for both countries. Whilst the focus of the negotiations will be on the word ‘trade’, my preferred moniker for these discussions will be ‘trade and investment’. Investment will be the key driver to improving trade relations long-term and our joint interest in the AgriTech sector has a role to play. Linking those post-Brexit trade negotiations with UKDIT’s current appetite for investing into the AgriTech sector fills me with ‘relentless positivity’. Hey. It’s worked for some!

Following Thursday’s discussions in Tauranga, my plan now is to meet up with some of the UKDIT team working on the Department’s global AgriTech strategy when I visit London in a few weeks time. I hope to learn more from those discussions and maybe provide an answer to the question that heads this post. ‘London Calling. Can NZ’s AgriTech sector benefit?’

After my meeting with Jonathan & Colin, both head and heart say ‘yes’.