Author: Pippa Sherratt

Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand Ran Yaakoby and Director of Economy and Trade Lisa Martin have participated in New Zealand AgriFood Week 2021, a week-long event hosted by the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA), which brought together industry leaders from the agriculture, science, food and technology sectors.

During the week’s events, they were hosted by Mayor of Palmerston North Grant Smith for a fascinating (and tasty) Emerging Proteins Dinner where they heard from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Dame Juliet Gerrard on the future of food together with the hosts of the event FoodHQ.

The following day they were hosted by the Mayor of Feilding Helen Worboys for the Meet the Market Luncheon, where they heard from local Feilding farmers’ market producers on their diverse range of high-quality, nutrient-dense and innovative products.

On the sidelines of the event, they visited Fonterra Research and Development Centre, where they met with the Head of FRDC Mark Piper, learning about the ground-breaking innovations being developed by New Zealand’s largest company, as well as The New Zealand Food Safety Science & Research Centre where they were welcomed by Chief Scientist Nigel French and his distinguished team, followed by a meeting with the Management Team for Global Engagement at Massey University.

 

The Feilding Farmers’ Market has attracted international interest and not for the first time. A ‘Eat the market’ event was organised by Feilding & District Promotion to round out the annual New Zealand AgriFood Week on Friday. The event was a chance for both NZ AgriFood Week attendees and everyday locals to sample a selection of local produce.

Israeli ambassador to New Zealand, Ran Yaakoby, travelled from Wellington to attend, saying talking about agrifood was “nothing like trying the product”.

He said he was visiting Manawatū to explore export opportunities, as well as agri-tech and food research partnerships between New Zealand and Israel.

He came to the market because “at the end of it, [agri-tech] is about farmers and the produce”.

Each participant was given a box full of local produce, combined to form six samplings. In the Sheepish Snack, Cartwheel Creamery’s marama camembert from Pohangina Valley met the Baked Dane’s cracker from Levin, and was topped with a pear from Tracey’s pears.

The Saleyard Starter had Palmerston North’s Nadia’s Kitchen falafel, Foxy Bangers from Foxton, microgreens grown by Emoyeni in Tararua, and a heritage potato from Hensons Garden. It gave Yaakoby the idea of a weekly produce box that Manawatū farmers could transport to Wellington. He said if it ever happened, he would be their first customer.

This wasn’t the first time Feilding attracted the attention of international visitors. Speaking to attendees, mayor Helen Worboys said when Prince Charles and Camilla came to New Zealand in 2012, they asked to visit the most authentic farmers market in New Zealand, and Feilding was where they went.

Local Jo Amner said the event reminded her of how proud she was about the local market. “It’s something to brag about. Something to tell your friends to do, to say, ‘hey, come visit Feilding on a Friday, try the market’.” She had gone to farmers’ markets in Melbourne and Sydney, but felt smaller ones were more authentic.

Renee Moyles also thought there was something special about small town markets. “Knowing [produce] was made just down the road adds speciality,” she said.

This year marked 16 years of the Feilding Farmers’ Market.

 

Manawatū’s annual careers expo, Sort It, has returned with a smaller, more tightly focused edition for 2021.

The Central Economic Development Agency held the first sector-specific version of the event, Sort It Careers – Food & Fibre Edition, at the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre as part of New Zealand AgriFood Week on Thursday.

Agency spokeswoman Sara Towers said while Sort It got large numbers of students and career changes through in previous years, feedback from employers and training providers showed they tended to only get shallow, one-off interactions with them.

“A sector-specific approach allows Sort It Careers to focus on value over volume, with bespoke tailored events.”

Instead of a large and wide-ranging job fair, there were 16 booths for food and fibre-related companies, and the event’s focus was shifted to six featured speakers, who gave in-depth talks on topics from craft beer to environmental sustainability and the experiences and opportunities for Māori and women in the sector.

Towers said this new approach had also opened the door for a higher proportion of local companies, and new food and fibre exhibitors who might have been lost in the crowd in previous years.

Shay Wright spoke on his experiences as a co-founder of Te Whare Hukahuka, which helped set up and grow Māori businesses, and the food and fibre trends creating opportunities for Māori.

Wright said the biggest opportunity for Māori in the sector, was that iwi and Māori land trusts owned a lot of land – much of it was under-used.

“A lot of medium or larger food businesses started as small hobby producers, but a big barrier [for new start-ups] is land which is very expensive and hard to get now.

“So there’s an opportunity for young Māori with an entrepreneurial mindset to work in partnership with their elders for access to iwi land.”

Wright said traditionally the Māori economy was based on traditional farming commodities, although there had been a recent trend towards higher value crops which could be grown on more marginal land.

A good example of that was Ngāti Kahungunu who were using sections of their rohe in Tararua, that were difficult to farm, to grow high-value hemp and Manuka honey crops.

However, because Māori business traditionally focused on production the revenue still often ended at the farm gate.

Wright said by helping Māori entrepreneurs find the land they needed, iwi could create a “vertically integrated” Māori economy – with revenue from each step from production to the consumer going back to supporting their communities.

“Doing that will take [a wide-range of] skills, from science and processing to marketing and new ideas.

“So there are heaps of job opportunities in this space for young Māori, and the opportunities are only going to grow.”

We are staring down the barrel of fundamental transformation in our food system. Environmental crises are colliding with cultural mega-trends, disruptive technology and widening social inequality.

One way or another, the way we feed people is going to change. That means the onus is on us – food producers and their supporters – to change first. Transformation is no longer a nice to have, but a necessity for survival.

This is a time for moving past the myopic debates – like alternative vs traditional protein – and looking harder at those at the cutting edge of food. It’s about understanding their perspective on positive change, and how they intend to transform their organisation, sector or indeed the world.

At New Zealand AgriFood Week 2021, we’ll hear multiple, sometimes conflicting, theories of change by the people out there, doing the mahi.

Theories like the 10X transformative power of alternative proteins, livestock as fundamental to food, supermarkets as pro-social leaders or how our domestic food system fails Kiwis.

The real question isn’t which of these ‘futures’ is the right one – but how each perspective might influence our own big, bold, scary and inevitable transformations ahead.

Find out more about events and speakers, and confirm your place at NZ AgriFood Week 2021.

On May 6, UCOL cookery students will be hard at work for one of New Zealand AgriFood Week’s most unique events – a luxurious four-course dinner showcasing the flavours and innovations possible with the use of non-animal proteins.

Ngā Kai Whakatō Whenua – Emerging Proteins Dinner is the final event of New Zealand AgriFood Week’s ‘Future of Food’ Day. It will coincide with the release of a report by FoodHQ CEO, Dr Abby Thompson, on the potential of alternative plant, lab-grown, fungi, and even insect proteins.

While they won’t be serving up any insects, UCOL’s team have developed some unique items for the menu’s entrée and dessert courses. As an entrée, guests will discover a combination shitake, enoki and flat mushroom consommé, served alongside dumplings filled with Food Nation hemp and mushroom, with a hint of Rhayne horopito spice and spirulina oil.

Meanwhile the dessert will mix the familiar with the surprising, serving Black Rooster Chai panna cotta, chocolate and hemp brownie, Kaitahi smoothie Super Green Zing gel, and a triple berry coulis.

“It certainly was a unique brief – but our student and staff chefs have really risen to the challenge,” says Ian Drew, UCOL’s Programme Leader for Chef Training and Hospitality. “We’ll have twenty of our Diploma in Cookery (Advanced) students taking part, and it’s such a fantastic opportunity for them to shape what true cuisine might look like in the coming years.

“Our approach at UCOL is to really foster those connections with industry, and this dinner fits in perfectly with what we want our students to learn. It’s about pairing experimentation with quality, so that you can serve the perfect dish to a hundred diners who are waiting on you.”

Working alongside UCOL’s team will be Catherine Edmonds (Singery, plant-based cuisine), who is leading the dinner portion of the menu for the futuristic food event.

This gourmet dinner will be hosted at Victory Venue, 20 Rangitikei Street, beginning at 6pm. Tickets are still available, and can be purchased through Eventbrite.

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