Italian kiwifruit packhouses' experience in dealing with COVID-19 has helped New Zealand to fast-track innovation in its own packhouses to deal with stringent new safety regulations.
This was signalled in the theme ‘Our Food Future’. Chapman says attitude shifts overseas and in NZ present opportunities for the rapidly expanding industry. More and more people want and can afford a healthy diet, rich in plant based foods.
Despite the sector’s good outlook, there are major challenges ahead, such as retaining sufficient high quality land to grow crops, rather than seeing the land gobbled up by urban sprawl.
Access to water and a skilled labour force are also essential ingredients for the future of the industry, Chapman notes.
Conference speakers talked about new technologies and consumer trends, and a large exhibit area enabled attendees to talk to companies developing new products.
“If you were a grower at this conference you would have gone away with new ideas and new robotic concepts to use in your business,” Chapman told Rural News.
“The speakers and exhibitors were mixing with growers and talking about all sorts of robotic applications. We also had a good contingent from MPI talking to them about how we can integrate these robotic technologies.”
Plenty of networking time was provided and the growers appreciated this, Chapman says.