Saturday, 20 April 2019 10:50

Embrace challenges – don’t run from them

Written by  Pam Tipa
NZ Merino’s Dave Maslen. NZ Merino’s Dave Maslen.

Disruption is happening whether we like it or not, says Dave Maslen, NZ Merino general manager for markets and sustainability.

“We need to embrace that and turn it into an opportunity and remain distinct. 

“We are a very small part of a very big world and our need for consumer intimacy has never been greater than today.”

Maslen spoke to Rural News at the Rabobank Farm2Fork seminar in Sydney on March 28 where a NZ Merino display of Icebreaker, All Birds and ZQ was drawing the crowds.

Maslen said it has been hugely useful to attend the event.

“Every time you get a gathering of rural professionals together in the same room ideas tend to bounce. As an organisation we are constantly on the lookout for what is coming over the horizon at us that is going to impact on the brands we work with and is going to impact on the growers that supply us.

“This is a great way for us to put a way-point in the ground in terms of what is coming over the horizon, be it environmentally, animal welfare, social responsibility and those sorts of things. It has been fascinating.”

The main message for him was the rate of change and the rate of disruption occurring in the primary sector “whether we like it or not”.

“And the challenge to industry to build resistance to that level of disruption. So how are we going to embrace it and turn it into an opportunity? That has been to me the key theme that has come out of it. 

“That is something [in which] we are pretty well versed in New Zealand in our industries and it will continue in the long term as well -- the constant need to reinvent, be aware of what consumers are asking for, customise our supply bases to what those consumers need constantly.”

NZ Merino is already doing that. 

“That is fundamental to our business model; the consumers that are using the wool out there in the market, the people who are buying the All Birds or Icebreaker, trying to understand what it is they need today and tomorrow and signalling that clearly to our growers so that they are forewarned and future-proofed.”

Earlier Maslen was in a panel discussion on why the ag sector needs to transform. He said at that discussion that the disconnect between consumer and producer is widening. 

“You get disrupted by not being aware of what is going on around you. While exceptional R&D is occurring, whether or not it is actually the R&D required to drive the industry forward in the eyes of the consumers is another big question. 

Business and educational institutes needed to develop the talent to take our economies to the market and make the best of that new technology.

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