The government is planning a transformation of the agritech sector, shifting its focus from volume to value.

Outgoing Economic Development Minister David Parker announced a call to action to develop new ideas and partnerships with the government when speaking to dozens of business leaders at the Beehive this morning.

Parker said many agritech industries – those involved in agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and forestries – suffered cost disadvantages because of the country’s high-wage economy.

He said if more automation like robotic pruning and fruit-picking was introduced it would boost production and ease pressure on things like waterways.

“Key to this transition is upskilling your existing workforce, because otherwise people are left behind. So through the Future of Work programme that’s being led by Grant Robertson we’ve got a real focus on re-training people so as their occupations and tasks change within work they have the skills to do the new things,” he said.

Parker said a capital gains tax would have helped with investment but that was blocked by New Zealand First, so now it was a case of relying on things like the Venture Capital Fund announced in this year’s Budget.

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller said agritech was about taking the fastest growing part of the economy – technology – and putting it with the most successful part – agriculture.

“An example would be Halter: put a thing around a cow’s neck, use artificial intelligence to guide a cow around the farm, take away the gates, make the cow happier. That sort of thing is really interesting,” he said.

Muller said lots of agritech products were exported and now it was about using them in New Zealand.

Phil Twyford has taken over the economic development portfolio from Parker after last week’s reshuffle.

Parker said he was happy to give it up as he had plenty on his plate already.

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