Yesterday, Dennis Donohue, Director, Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology and Dr. Jeana Cadby, Director, Western Growers Climate & Environment (Science), flew into New Zealand from California. The visit is intended to provide insights into some of New Zealand’s great agricultural science and capability, as well as showcasing real world examples of its practical implementation.

The visit has another purpose.

Wharf42 has enjoyed a long history with Dennis and the team at Western Growers. For some context, Western Grower members produce over 50% of all fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, nuts and organics) in North America. Plus a number of Western Grower members have extensive growing interests in Mexico, Peru, Chile and broader parts of LATAM.

We first met in 2015. Last year, we co-hosted the 2023 Salinas Biological Summit. In June this year, we’ll be co-hosting the 2024 Summit. The partnership between Wharf42 & Western Growers led to the creation of Platform10, an international, multi-year collaboration that will accelerate promising biopesticide companies, rigorously assess products, enhance grower confidence, and facilitate market development and adoption.

For Californian, New Zealand and growers everywhere, this initiative has huge significance. Growers are up against mounting pest and disease challenges due to climate change, reduced efficacy, and diminishing availability of traditional pest control tools. The specialty crop / fresh produce industry in particular requires new crop input technologies due to governmental regulations and consumer demands. Bio-based and novel pest control options to address existing and anticipated gaps in pest management are sorely needed to ensure that our growers are properly equipped with the tools to address these challenges.

Given Wharf42’s home base, it was appropriate that Dennis & Jeana had the opportunity to meet Todd Muller (pictured) yesterday in Tauranga. Todd is Chair of Priority One, the Western Bay of Plenty’s Economic Development Agency (Wharf42 is a long-time member) and a former senior member of both Fonterra & Zespri leadership teams. Over an hour, interesting insights and thoughts were shared. It was clear that the strong relationship being developed between New Zealand & California is creating new and potentially significant opportunities in the area of climate smart agriculture collaboration. CDFA Secretary Karen Ross’s attendance at the 2035 Oceania Summit in Auckland in 2022 was testament to that.

In this week’s edition of Farmers Weekly, Daniel Eb asked the question; ‘Does New Zealand have the courage to punch above its weight’? I would like to pose a related question. What role can New Zealand Inc. play in the development of the global Platform10 program?

It’s going to be an interesting few days ahead.