Category: Latest News

It will take someone with expansive governance experience and industry knowledge to capture and lead a stimulating public round table discussion about the future of our Agrifood industry.

We have just the woman.

Director and agricultural economist Carla Muller will be leading us in Manawatū as our ASB Perspective 2025 Chair. She will facilitate a unique ‘boardroom’ style discussion, giving the audience a first-hand glimpse into the purposeful conversation between seven female leaders, nationally and globally renowned for their work and contribution to the primary industries and food value chain.

Together, these leaders, alongside the audience, will address how we can continue to build pride, excitement and awareness of what’s happening within New Zealand to our own communities, government and investors.

With the event just around the corner, Carla took some time to answer a few quick questions.

Carla, thank you so much for joining us! What are you excited about for ASB Perspective 2025 this year?

What stuck out for me about previous events is the breadth and depth of knowledge, backgrounds and experiences, yet everyone was linked by a common passion for the New Zealand agrifood industry. What an opportunity!

The thing about this type of event is that you don’t know exactly where the conversation will go but with the strategic thinking and quality of people in the room, you know that attendees are bound to leave feeling challenged and encouraged to continue to take our industries to the next level.

You’re so right. We appreciate the fact that you will be leading the conversation along the way. What are you most proud of for the Primary Industries?

For our Primary Industries to continue to thrive we need to be proud of the work we do right across the sector, but I think we can start by being proud of our farmers and growers. I do genuinely think that the farmers and growers in Aotearoa want to do the best they can for our country, the consumer, their animals and land. We have smart, innovative, talented people right across the industry who can help and support them, but we need to work better together to move forward. Collaboration is key.

To make that collaboration a reality, who inspires you in our industry?

Anyone who can manage their bias and tries to truly understand others with the aim of genuine collaboration.

We know talking about collaboration is easy, but it is tougher to do. Events and conversations like this are such a great start. What are you hoping attendees will walk away from ASB Perspective 2025 challenged to do next?

I want people to walk away inspired about how awesome our sector is and can be. Our potential is immense and with the quality group of women around the table, I think it will be evident.

I want attendees to meet and connect with people different from themselves and challenge themselves to see things from a new perspective. I want them to walk away thinking ‘How we can work better together? And what am I personally going to do now to help?’

We know you are a busy woman with all your governance roles: President of the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management, a director for PrimaryITO and a board advisor for CyclingNZ – all in addition to your day job! So, what does a typical day in the life of Carla look like?

As with many roles in agriculture – I am not sure there is a typical day!
Generally, I would spend most of the day working on client projects in my role with Perrin Ag. This is often followed by some time outside on the farm with my partner. Finally, in the evening, I get to spend a bit of time on my board roles.

I’m lucky that my board roles and project work are all varied, as it allows me to dip in and out of industries across the agrifood ecosystem and keeps my work interesting and stimulating.


Carla is an Agricultural Economist at Perrin Ag Consultants, where she works on a range of projects for agribusinesses, iwi, industry groups and regional councils; President of the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management, an industry organisation for rural professionals; a director for PrimaryITO and a board advisor for CyclingNZ. In the past, Carla’s won the Institute of Directors Emerging Director Award in the Waikato, which saw her spend over a year with the Waikato Institute of Technology board, she was a finalist in the Westpac Women of Influence Awards, and has completed the Agri-Women’s Development Trust Escalator Programme.

Carla spends most of her time on the farm her partner manages at the top of the East Cape and is incredibly passionate about the Aotearoa food and fibre sector and the contribution it can, and does, make to the economy, environment and communities.

Have you got your ticket yet? Join us on March 18 in Manawatū, the epicentre of agrifood innovation for ASB Perspective 2025.

Meet Ian McConnel – Global Expert on Livestock at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and one of the headline speakers for AgResearch Presents: Our Food. Our Future.

“The industry has a bright future. When it is done right, beef can be one of the most sustainable proteins on the planet.”

As a 5th generation Australian beef farmer and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Global Expert on Livestock, Ian McConnel is passionate about the potential of beef and the health of our globe.

Ian McConnel

However, he also believes that potential isn’t going to become a reality without substantial culture change, collaboration and ambition.

“It’s evident that consumers are changing the way they are eating and thinking about eating. Looking at global data trends – trends that are already touching down in NZ – it’s important that we respond – and quickly. Long term goals are great but we need to move towards them with a short term urgency — much like an urgent tortoise, if he knows he needs to move across a paddock, he’ll get there.”

Currently sitting on the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Ian has an open world view of industry issues.

“In the past the rhetoric against red meat has largely gone unchallenged. With changing trends, rather than simply fight, it’s important to understand where the world is going and how our industry can align, adjust our messaging, and make important globally minded changes.

Ian doesn’t just talk about change, he walks the talk. “Even on our farm, we are making changes to respond to what we’re seeing in global trends and consumer perceptions. It’s hard but important.”

So how do we collaborate in making necessary changes to keep up with global demand?

Ian believes it’s important for environmental agencies and consumers to understand and respect why farmers do what they do – the land, the heritage, the animals, and the lifestyle.

“Change will happen when there is mutual respect, collaboration and understanding. We are a trusted industry, but we must be honest and own our role in the global needs, use the language consumers are using, and meet them where they are at”.

He believes it must start with ownership, followed closely by goals and accountability – applied to large industry and at the farm level.

“The good news? Work is already being done. We are seeing it at the Global Roundtable working group and we’re seeing regional groups drive change towards these goals.”

“That being said, we have to be honest. If we look at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, we haven’t done enough yet as an industry. We should double our input, ambition, and align our understanding if we want our industry to have a voice in future markets and trends.

Only two countries have set carbon-neutral goals – AUS and NZ – and we have such a great opportunity to be a lighthouse industry! Let’s let our ambition shine and show the world what we can do with our products – including beef.”

Join Ian and learn about how the beef industry can work towards meeting global trends at the Ag Research Presents: Our Food. Our Future.

About Ian:

Ian McConnel is World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Global Expert on Livestock and a globally recognised expert on Animal Production Systems. A 5th generation beef producer, Ian gained a Bachelor of Science in Animal Studies at the University of Queensland and then spent a year at Colorado State University supporting meat science and genetics research. He joined the Queensland government extension service in 2003 as a sheep and cattle extension officer in remote western Queensland and then continued in south east Queensland. Ian pioneered innovative extension and outreach tools in remote Australia and led the trialling and development of remote animal management systems.

After joining WWF-Australia in 2012 to lead their Australian Beef industry engagement, he then rose to become their global lead for beef in 2014. In this role, Ian is an executive committee member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and actively involved in efforts to improve the economic, social and environmental impacts of livestock production in 15 countries. His work includes developing markets for sustainably produced beef, research and extension projects, policy development and consumer facing education.

Will you join us? Get your tickets now for AgResearch Presents: Our Food. Our Future.

Meet Lee-Ann Marsh, an experienced global marketer specialising in innovation and consumer insights.

In order words, she keeps on top of key trends and disruptive signals and thinks about how New Zealand’s story fits into that and how we can leverage it to future proof our wider food and fibre sector.

“When I moved to NZ nearly 10 years ago I fell into a role at Fonterra that introduced me to the Primary Industries and I loved it. I loved the passion people have and the sense of community. A few years ago I stepped away for a stint with Nestle and while I learned a lot during that time, I found I missed the ag connection so I jumped at the chance to join Beef + Lamb New Zealand as part of their Market Development team.

With her feet back firmly in the agriculture industry, Lee-Ann found three challenges to telling the story well:

  • The average person isn’t connected to the farm.
  • The consumer is inundated with clutter, largely thanks to social media.
  • Sensational stories numb us to the good solid stories happening around us. Extremes get air time.

“None of this is surprising information, we have a powerful, deeply rooted ‘good story’ that isn’t being heard or understood above the noise. How do we share our solid story that connects people with our values in a way that feels fresh and exciting? We need to first understand and value our own story and then collaborate with others to share it in a way that truly connects.”

Lee-Ann believes this on a national and regional level. “We have an opportunity to connect the dots if we listen well to what others are doing and then sharing what we have to offer. That’s the key with collaboration – listening, responding and sharing for maximum impact.

“Here in NZ we have an incredible opportunity to tell our story. For example, what if someone travelling around NZ, whether they be from here or from overseas, found their way to Manawatū? What if we could link up a farm experience with producers with a delicious foodie experience and provide them with a ‘Buy Now’ button so that the delicious products they learned about and tasted could be shipped to their house? That would be the dream.”

Lee-Ann will share her thoughts and her research at ASB Perspective 2025 – where six female leaders, nationally and globally renowned for their work and contribution to the Primary Industries and food value chain, will gather to answer this question and more.

She will also be speaking at the AgResearch: Our Food. Our Future. discussing New Zealand’s agrifood role in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

With her experience in consumer insights and working with Beef and Lamb NZ, she is most keen to share her views around consumption, zero hunger and climate action.

“The good news is that these goals (SDGs) don’t have to be at odds with the goals of agriculture and rural communities. I think there’s a big opportunity for NZ to lead the way and the more we can collaborate in our own backyard the stronger we will all be. We can also work hand in hand with what we are already doing if we are willing to collaborate. We can actually lead the way and we should!”

Lee-Ann is excited to attend AgriFood Week 2020, not just as a speaker but an attendee. “I am looking forward to connecting with other thinkers and hearing new ideas. This is where NZ can thrive.”

About Leanne:

Lee-Ann is an experienced global marketer specialising in innovation and consumer insights. She began her career in Toronto before moving to London in 2006 where she worked with blue chip clients across FMCG, healthcare, and technology. She made the move to New Zealand at the end of 2010 and has worked for Fonterra and Nestlé prior to joining Beef & Lamb NZ in 2017.

Lee-Ann is passionate about New Zealand’s Primary Industries and the transformational opportunities available. As the Global Market Innovation Manager for Beef + Lamb NZ, Lee-Ann’s role is to create value for the red meat sector by understanding and turning disruptive shifts into competitive advantage.

In 2018, Lee-Ann led a review of alternative proteins for the sector which explored new food technologies, business models and the trends that are driving them. This work, alongside a major project to identify new pathways to market, is helping to position the industry to respond to forces of disruption to enable a sustainable future.

Lee-Ann graduated from the Agri Women’s Development Trust Escalator programme in 2019 and is committed to positioning NZ’s food and fibre sector as world-leading.

In the middle of a busy weekday morning in Palmerston North, we sat down to share a coffee with well-known local, the Hon. Steve Maharey.

Steve is one of the founders of New Zealand AgriFood Week and it was great to catch his insights about the original vision for the week.

“At Massey a group of us gathered together with the idea to create ‘the thinking-person’s Field Days’. Our focus was rooted in careers, science, and climate change,” Steve said. “We looked around and saw the resources we had in the Manawatū, and realised we needed to ask, “What does the country and the world need? Where is the future trending? How can we use our resources to meet those needs?”

With Manawatū’s rich heritage in agriculture continuing to grow in the fields outside our windows, the answer seemed obvious: food.

“Manawatū has a fantastic advantage, agriculture is in our DNA but we also need to recognise that this needs to include food. Beyond the farm gate there is food and a chain of consumption. Manawatū services that too, as the chain continues to utilise local innovation, quality, and research, including Massey and Fonterra. This special combination serves as an obvious hub and an important marriage for our story as a region.”

And so a mission to tell our agrifood story began.

In 2020 the fifth annual New Zealand AgriFood Week continues to sit at the intersection of agriculture, science and technology.

True to the ‘thinking-person’s field days’ goal, the week-long event series boasts an extensive line-up of thought-provoking events and forums that delve into the opportunities and challenges faced by our food sector. Research and development, projects and innovative solutions are given a platform to show how they meet these challenges head on.

It’s a week of striving for excellence in agrifood and agritech, inspiring the next generation of farmers, scientists, innovators and consumers.

As Massey’s Vice Chancellor at the time, Maharey and the team saw the potential for the first New Zealand AgriFood Week to mutually benefit both the city and the University. Long after his time with Massey, Maharey is still passionate about this project and believes there is more potential.

“Are we there yet? Not yet. We will be when every local cafe has menus and products year-round that boast the strengths of our nation and our region. When citizens of the city proudly cook regional products for their guests and bring them to restaurants that do the same. With events like New Zealand AgriFood Week and the exciting 3-year Strategy set to be launched, we are getting there but to truly be a proud agrifood city and region, it must be more than a week – it must be a 365-day investment by all people who live here. We are on our way.”

Maharey is the keynote speaker at the Week’s Strategy Launch and is thrilled to see the vision both cast and kick-started into action. “This is more than a vision, this is a plan in place, people are already invested, roles established, and all have been active long enough for it to matter.”

As a Te Aho Tāmaka Leader the value of this vision goes beyond the week, Steve is a strong advocate for the region.

“Palmerston North is my tūrangawaewae. The city has opened up opportunities for me throughout my life and been the place I return to after working/travelling around New Zealand and the world. It is where I have the best of friends and I know every corner of the city and its surrounding landscape.”

As a food marketing consultant and exporter, I have enjoyed spending theLucy Griffiths new year reading and contemplating food trends and how this will affect our local farmers and food producers.

One of the major trends we saw in 2019 in New Zealand’s supermarkets was people’s increasing desire for plant-based food. Countdown NZ (180 stores nationwide) reported late last year that “sales of dairy-free milk have risen 14 percent in the past six months, while the number of sales of dairy-free cheese had grown by more than 300 percent.” The supermarket said, “in the last year, demand for plant-based vegan and vegetarian meal solutions had increased 36 percent.” 1

In the UK we are seeing similar trends as shown by Sainsbury’s 2019 report about the future of food. They are expecting that a quarter of the UK will be vegetarian in 5 years’ time, stating it is “Driven by unprecedented awareness of animal welfare, health concerns and ‘eco-anxiety”.

Sainsbury’s alone has already seen a 65 percent increase in sales of plant-based products year-on-year, as customers increasingly consider a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle.

Although these trends may pose challenges for many of our primary industry businesses, the Manawatū is well poised to capture the benefits of these consumer changes and lead the change. We have some of the world’s most innovative food scientists, plant researchers, processing pilot plants and some of the country’s most fertile soils here, and our science and research sector employ more than 3,900 people.

A couple of unique superfood companies from the region that I am watching with interest are Kiwi Quinoa and Tahi NZ Spirulina.

Kiwi Quinoa won the Food Safety Primary Sector Products Award in the Massey New Zealand Food Awards and harvested 70T of quinoa last year which is being sold nationally through New World stores. Their first ever harvest was the first commercially ready quinoa crop harvested in New Zealand.

Kiwi quinoa credit
Kiwi Quinoa

Tahi Spirulina is another local premium product that is healthy and tasty! It provides a vegan source of protein, all key essential amino acids, vitamin B, antioxidants and minerals, and can easily be added to smoothies, soups and salads. Farmed at Himatangi, it is New Zealand’s first spirulina farm and is a recent recipient of funding from Sustainable Food and Fibres Futures to look at the potential of scaled production.

Tahi Spirulina
Tahi Spirulina

Having attended the launch of the Primary Sector Council ‘Fit for a Better World’ vision, which encourages ‘farmers, growers, fishers, makers and crafters’ to shape the future, I believe that our region and our producers are well positioned to ensure we are indeed producing and supporting the production of food that truly is ‘fit for a better world’.

Manawatū produces a basket of nutritious foods from organic yoghurt, boutique cheese and asparagus to large scale A2 milk, meat and potato production. Our farmers, like those across the country are tenacious, adaptive and innovative, and what separates us as a food region globally is our world-leading scientists and researchers, and it is with great excitement that I see FoodHQ aligning us as one of the world’s leading agrifood hubs.

As the home of New Zealand AgriFood Week 2020, Manawatū will once again bring this conversation and others around our food production to life. I am looking forward to watching this conversation develop over the Week and seeing what ideas and actionable outcomes are generated because of it.

Lucy Griffiths is an expert food marketing consultant and is Director of Innov8 Aoteaora Ltd which works with food and beverage companies to market, sell and export their products. Lucy is also a director of Wools of New Zealand, a Nuffield Scholar and a member of the CEDA Board. Lucy was recently appointed by to the Independent Advisory Panel for Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures and has previously provided the New Zealand AgriFood Week with her insights and expertise as both the Chair and Participant at ASB Perspective 2025. Hear from other inspirational women like Lucy at this year’s ASB Perspective 2025 , Wednesday 18 March 2020.

Subscribe to our New Zealand AgriFood Week Newsletters

Connect with us
Tweet our hashtag
Share on Linkedin