As Wharf42 prepares to pivot to a more globally-focused role, lessons from 40+ years ago come back into view.

The UK had been a member of the Common Market for just 6 years. I was Vice-Chair of the European Democrat Students (EDS) and was engaged in several pan-European initiatives. There’s nothing quite like meeting the folk from Komsomol in your very late teens. These were interesting times.

I learnt early on about the importance of collaboration and partnerships. I sat firmly in the UK’s ‘United Europe’ camp and in order to progress this, engagement with like-minded organisations and individuals across Europe was critical. It meant that I spent much of my time speaking to different people from different countries across Western Europe. (Remember – the iron curtain was still for real). One of our major ‘wins’ was the establishment of the European Youth Parliament in Strasbourg.

These discussions often reflected the cultural differences that existed within the region. One could identify the Scandinavians together as a fairly united group. Likewise the northern and southern European blocks. Recognising these differences and acknowledging them was an important part of the engagement process. These were important lessons.

In some ways, these have also been reflected in the establishment of Agritech New Zealand. Different stakeholders i.e industry, research, government and investment have different needs. Recognising those different needs and building programmes to support them was a key requirement.

Today, the challenges we face are very different to those back in the late 1970’s, but no less daunting. Closed borders mean adopting a new mindset, and for Wharf42, building a stronger regional platform is a key component in this.

Over the coming weeks and months, expect more talk about the Trans-Tasman partnership and the benefits this will offer both New Zealand and Australia’s agritech ecosystems longer-term. In September last year, I  co-hosted the launch of the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council at the annual ANZLF meeting in Auckland. This will be a key role in developing this partnership.

Positioning the region as a key global agritech hub will be a major ‘win’ in the years ahead.

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