Technology key to needed diversification

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Job growth in Tauranga, led by horticulture, tends to be at the higher end of skill sets, according to Priority One.

That is one of the  key sectors that are performing well, Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt notes in the recent annual report.

“Our economy is being seen in an increasingly positive light to domestic and international businesses and talent alike, which in turn helps our businesses to attract the right people,” he says.

“However, while we are in a good position now, we must recognise that it is important to continue to diversify our economy so that we have ongoing and sustainable strength in
the future.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Council chair Doug Leeder said by the nature of its geography, New Zealand’s export sector had always been very much primary industry focused.

“If we look at the problems Fonterra has faced over the last few years with its up and down commodity cycles, there has to be a move towards more value add and away from
commodities.”

Aiming for higher value exports

Industry diversification is needed to produce higher value exports and to position the region well for global opportunities.

Tutt and others involved in the region’s strong agri-tech sector point to the importance of the previous government choosing to back a regional research institute here.

Daniel Faris: Thriving hort export sector in the Bay. Photo/Supplied.

The recently established PlantTech Research Institute – in which Priority One has come together with leading tech-focused local companies – will provide the local economy with access to world-class research into horticultural growing systems.

That specifically includes those in the field of artificial intelligence.

Daniel Faris, chief executive of leading industrial design company Locus Research- a Plant Tech partner –  told Bay of Plenty Business News that the decision to establish the institute  in Tauranga, and what they were working on, was “very interesting”.

Faris, who is also deputy chair of Export NZ BOP, said that New Zealand had become overly dependent on a few key sectors.

Locus had become involved in ExportNZ BOP because of the company’s strong involvement in the commercialisation of innovative new companies and products, he said.

New Zealand represented a relatively small catchment of potential customers, he added, so there was often a question of whether innovative companies could become viable without access to international markets.

“We have a thriving horticultural export industry here that is down the road to solving a number of problems faced by the sector worldwide,” he said. “We can bring our local technology and expertise to those problems.”

– By DAVID PORTER

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