The Ecological/Generational shift in Agriculture

Peak cow, polluted lagoons, lakes and rivers, increasing regulations, public sentiment and its recognition/impact at a political level; all these factors are combining to drive radical and positive change in NZ agriculture.

As of right now, it may not be recognised outside a small community of people. It may not be particularly conspicuous or obvious but it is undeniably underway.

Councils/regulators are increasingly compelled, required and actively seeking ways to address water quality, primarily through improved farming practice and nutrient management/impact.

This is forcing farm management practice to change.

This change is not necessarily happening solely through existing managers or management embracing change, although that is happening to some extent, but through a range of factors including personnel change, i.e. farmers leaving, selling up, retiring and new capital being attracted by the same factors driving existing farmers out. A case of where some see challenge, burden and a situation antagonistic to farming practice, others see opportunity, advantage and a window to implementing sophisticated future farming systems.

In some cases this may be as ‘simple’ as converting an existing conventionally managed dairy farm to organic status. In others it may be totally transformational land use change where an existing conventional dairy farm shifts to a multi-enterprise system based on an integrated ecological growing system made up of multiple enterprises based around high value food output and even tourism. A shift to multiple income streams with environmental performance underpinning those income streams.

We live in the agri-sector at a time of disruption – bovis, water quality, climate change, regulation – and of market opportunity; growth in food safety, food quality, health, provenance and environmental impact concerns as drivers of consumption patterns globally, and particularly in Asia. These macro themes are creating the environment for this shift.

It is not, and is unlikely to be so for some time, a wholesale widespread shift. Inevitably in markets it is a small subset of those who are able to recognise the opportunity presented at a micro level by evolving macro themes and also be able to shape and execute the strategy to take advantage of this recognition and insight.

Excitingly, the great shift provides the opportunity to drive material and measurable environmental improvement on farm. This results in improvements at a catchment, provincial and bio-zone level, whilst at the same time delivering higher value output designed to take advantage of the fastest growing and most robust sectors of the global food market.

Through recognising that there is a seismic societal/cultural move underway, farmers and investors are able to position themselves to take advantage of ‘The Great Shift’.