It was an absolute pleasure to see a packed Rutherford Hotel at the annual pipfruit conference a couple of weeks ago. With Nelson in a state of emergency, it was not until the 24th hour that we could actually feel comfortable to give the conference the green light.
I think it is fair to say from the feedback received and the camaraderie and networking witnessed, that we made the right call. Thanks to all of those who were working furiously behind the scenes in the days leading up, to get us to the starting line.
It was fascinating reading the survey feedback. The results underlined for me one of the most important lessons I have learned in this job so far – you can never please all of the people, all of the time. Or put another way, we often view things through a very personal prism. However, the results proved we pleased most of the people throughout, so that is a big tick.
There were some amazing highlights. The recurring themes I heard seemed to revolve around people, partnership and trust. While partnerships were always going to be a key underlying theme of adapting to new horizons, I was thrilled at just how many of the presentations touched on it directly, or indirectly. It really is how we are going to solve some of the biggest challenges facing us as an industry. We are stronger, together.
For me, Sir Ian Taylor was a superb way to finish the conference. He summed up the tone of the conference beautifully with his touching presentation and keyword, “attitude”. Much of the technology is already there, it is peoples’ attitudes that will make the difference for our future.
Walt Duflock gave us some great American food for thought. We learned there is tremendous scope for our industry to work closely with the West Coast of the US, as they roll out agritech and biologicals research and innovation. There is plenty to learn, share and gain from partnering with the United States. Western Growers and Walt provide New Zealand a gateway into the influential and well-heeled US agritech investor community.
The future of our industry was alive and well at the conference. I think the industry is in great hands. We need to double down on mobilising these young voices, they are the changemakers of tomorrow.
We heard from Zespri the value of deep partnerships and trust as the foundation for their success into the northern hemisphere. Charles Finny provided some fabulous insights into the global and domestic trade dynamics – casting a cloud over the short to medium-term prospects of the global economy. We were also given a sobering perspective on the avalanche of regulations coming down the pike and how that is affecting growers’ bottom lines.
On the sustainability front, we got some clear messages of the opportunity to complement your commercial imperatives through initiatives such as sustainability linked loans. We also heard the rallying call demanding stronger leadership and transitional spending from Wellington to help fast track the industry down the sustainability pathway.
Finally, it was a delight to see the leadership and passion of Hans Doevendans recognised with the NZAPI Outstanding Contribution to the Industry award. Hans has been an outstanding advocate for the New Zealand pipfruit industry over many years and this was a fitting reward for his service.