The new Value Chain Innovation Programme

Innovating for our fast-changing
value chains.

A recent addition to The New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust’s cache of programmes is the VIP. The Value Chain Innovation Programme delivers a truly immersive experience, created to meet a growing need for strategically capable leaders in our food and fibre systems.

It is for those who are passionate about developing their leadership style, growing their networks, and contributing to their business and community.

Driving innovation in food and fibre.

The Value Chain Innovation Programme delivers two weeks of immersive learning, focused on strategic value chain analysis and design. The programme is a facilitated journey along ten or more established, disruptive, and novel value chains, delivering a sector and pan-sector view.

It connects participants to New Zealand’s key value chain influencers and accelerates their ability to adapt to a fast-changing environment.

  • It expands their entrepreneurial capability.

  • It builds advanced competencies.

  • And it develops a new mindset on food and fibre innovation in domestic and international markets.

Applications are open until 28 November 2021.

The programme spans two weeks for the industries immersion. Participants then return home and have three weeks to produce a value chain innovation report.
The course structure is as follows:

Phase 1: Virtual masterclass.

As a build-up to the journey, participants attend a virtual masterclass via zoom, of 1 -2 hours. This covers the current landscape within New Zealand’s value chains and what is likely to emerge in the future.

Participants then submit a short PowerPoint overview on their own value chain, or one they wish to explore.

Phase 2: Value chain immersion 16-28 January 2022.

Participants assemble in Auckland on the 16th. They then undertake two weeks of facilitated field trips through the North and South Islands.

The tour culminates in Christchurch on the 28th.

Phase 3: Extramural value chain innovation report.

Work on an individual value chain innovation report. This may be submitted as a PowerPoint.

Ready to take the next step?

For any queries contact Lisa Rogers +64 21 139 6881 or email lisarogers@ruralleaders.co.nz

Nuffield five for five.

Image:Nuffield Scholars in study [supplied]

With five days to go until applications for the 2022 Nuffield Scholarship close, we thought we’d give five reasons as to why receiving a scholarship now, may represent a quantum gain in benefits over previous years. So calling all potential Nuffield Scholars, here’s some more food for thought.

  1. There have never been so many of New Zealand’s best business leaders and innovators in the country at the same time.
    There are a few silver linings to the global pandemic. One might be the number of influential people affiliated to innovation and the food and fibre sector, who have returned home. While their move may not be permanent, now is the time to meet and connect with them. Nuffield can help with that.

  2. With a programme that has adapted to the global pandemic, scholars currently have more flexibility, closer to home.
    We face many challenges right now. So, being away from family, farm and work could be tough on some. As a result of the global pandemic restrictions, the programme has adapted successfully by adding a deeper local layer, along with virtual and global input.

  3. No matter what happens with regard to global travel, Scholarship recipients still receive $40,000 to conduct research.
    Whether the borders open up or not in the short to medium term, the Scholarship funds are not adjusted. In a situation where the borders do open, your global travel component will continue, safely.

  4. Nuffield Scholars’ experiences and enhanced skillsets are increasingly in demand.
    As the rate of change in food and fibre and beyond increases exponentially, Nuffield Scholars’ exposure to research, innovation and leadership development, means their knowledge is always needed in governance and industry.

  5. Scholars will be part of the new Value Chain Innovation Programme (VIP).
    Two weeks’ immersion into more than ten of New Zealand’s established, novel and disruptive value chains.

    The Value Chain Innovation Programme introduces Scholars to value chains beyond their own. It represents an opportunity to meet, draw ideas from and connect with people across many industries.

    Thinking of launching a product, or adding another to a range? This is just one way the VIP can help.

Want to be part of this? Apply now.

Back to the August 2021 issue of The Rural Leader.

Mandi McLeod on succession, animal welfare and mental health.

We caught up with 2009 Nuffield Scholar Mandi McLeod, who was speaking to us from Pirongia, Waikato. Mandi is an agri-business consultant who specialises in farm animal welfare, on both sides of the supply chain.

Internationally certified in dairy cow auditing and trained as a Cow Signals Master, she uses her passion, knowledge and experience to create animal welfare audit programmes for her clients.

With a degree in agricultural science and a master’s degree in rural systems management, Mandi is also highly experienced in group facilitation and farm business management, transition and succession planning.

A start in succession planning. 

I grew up on a family dairy farm in Morrinsville, and we transitioned out of that through our own succession plan about five and a half years ago. We now have an urban ranch with a beef cattle herd. It keeps me grounded.

Twelve years ago, when I did my Nuffield Scholarship, there wasn’t much research out there on succession planning. Not just how the assets in a family farm business are transitioned, but also how values, knowledge and skills are transferred from one generation to the next. So, I looked at this for my Nuffield research paper. I was able to create my own business through what I learned. It became my focus for the following decade.

 At the time, succession planning was only found in an urban business context. Crazy when you consider that in our farming communities, we usually live and work on farm, so business is very close to home. In fact, it can be sitting right there at the kitchen table with you.

I’d like to think a lot of the work done in those years has now been picked up by other professionals. The fact there’s now a career for people in succession planning, and that farming families are getting more access to quality information and help. That’s really exciting to me.

What makes good succession planning?

The important thing is communication. Sounds obvious, but it is the most overlooked element.

How do we create the right environment for discussions? How do we ask the questions that matter? How do we really listen to the answers we get to those questions? It’s more critical now, than ever, because both the incoming and the outgoing generations have such different communication styles. It’s a recipe for problems if it isn’t handled well.

Once we resolve those differences, everything else can start to fall into place. It’s understanding the needs, wants, fears and expectations of both parties, and then saying, can we marry these up to some shared values?

If the family hasn’t got their values aligned, or if they’re not communicating well, then it doesn’t matter what solution you come up with on paper, it’s not going to work long term.

Sometimes the best resolution for both the family and the farm business is not having a succession within that family? It’s having another family come in. That can work very well too.

It’s more than a chat and a cuppa. But that’s a good start. 

People are often looking for a silver bullet. It can take a year, or it can take ten years to get everything set up. You can’t do it in 24 hours.

I think it’s going to continue to be an issue because we’re in a period where the pace of change in food and fibre is increasing exponentially – yet succession planning needs time. There’s a conflict there that can be tricky to navigate.

A quick guide to success with succession.

Now this is by no means a definitive guide, but it gives you some idea of what’s involved and roughly, in what order.

  1. What are your goals for the succession (and your retirement for example)?
  2. Ask, who needs to be involved?
  3. Agree on someone to facilitate. There are now professional facilitators out there.
  4. Gather key documents. Like the last few sets of accounts for starters.
  5. Keep lines of communication open between all parties.
  6. Build a clear picture of the 1, 5, 10 year transition path ahead.
  7. Share the emerging plan with all parties.
  8. Keep talking.

Chickens and eggs.

A lack of good succession planning can have a huge impact on animal welfare. It can be where the next generation have not wanted to farm. As a consequence, the current generation can hold on too long, beyond a point where they are physically or mentally capable. The animals suffer.

If we help the farmer, the animals will benefit as well. There’s a big circular picture there, where everything is interrelated. But if we can intervene at various stages, whether it’s through facilitating a transition, or introducing an innovative approach to handling cattle for example, we can improve mental health across the board and improve animal welfare. Or vice versa.

It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg. Is a farm animal welfare issue causing poor mental health, or is poor mental health leading to an animal welfare issue? One can lead into the other.

There’s been a lot of valuable work done highlighting the need for mental health support and services for farmers, which is fantastic. There’s also a group of people that support those farmers that are often also in need. Like vets and consultants to name a few. When we turn up on farm, and if there’s a serious animal welfare issue, we’re impacted by that.

I think the link between farm succession, mental health and animal welfare is an important one. To me it highlights just how interconnected we are to our land and our animals.

When we feel great about our farm and its future, everything else benefits.

The nowhere-near complete guide to writing your Nuffield Scholarship application.

So, you’re looking to craft a cut-through Nuffield Scholarship application. If you’re like most people, the real struggle is getting started. There is something you can do while you stare blankly at the blinking cursor – ask yourself why?

Why are you applying for a Nuffield Scholarship? Your motivation is important. It will help you form a plan. A plan almost always leads to a better crafted anything really.  

Let a strong, singular motivation shine through, in not only the way your writing sounds, but how it feels too. For the reader, it’s the difference between wanting to read something compelling, and words on a page. 

Now, we can’t give you tips on what your motivation might be, but let’s just say anything along the lines of ‘I want to give back to the food and fibre sector’, is a good place to start. Remember you are submitting to a panel of smart, motivated people like yourself, who are determined to see New Zealand leading the future of food and fibre on the global stage.

Here are some tips from those who have read a few applications, to make the answering-questions-brilliantly-bit easier.  

1. Be clear and concise as to why you want a Nuffield Scholarship. 
Choose your words well and be economical. A good answer does not have to be a long-winded one. The more concise you are, the more the reader will gain a sense of your single-mindedness. That your motivation is clear.  
2. You’re likely to be clear about what a Nuffield Scholarship can do for you.
Make sure the reader is clear about what you will do for Nuffield. The reader, also known as ‘The Selection Panel ’, will want to know about your propensity for giving back. That’s a big part of Nuffield. Bringing back the thinking and ideas that might advance New Zealand’s food and fibre sector. 

A good application will show an understanding of how a Nuffield Scholarship will enable you to develop and implement strategic ideas and opportunities. Put simply, show you understand what a Nuffield Scholarship is.  

3. Sell yourself, but don’t overcook it. 
A critical piece of your sell is including examples of community leadership involvement, and ideally sector leadership experience as well. Recent is best. Play any ace cards up front, don’t bury them. 

Before you submit your application. 

Have you read it out loud? 
Does it sound the way you imagined it would when you wrote it? Try reading it out loud, it will help you find the things that aren’t quite working. 

Can you make it shorter? 
Less is more. There will always be a few words you don’t need. 

Have you asked someone else to read it? 
As great at writing as you may be, a second pair of eyes helps proof and sense check. When you’re the one writing, you’re often too close to see the obvious, like, glaring errors the spellcheck missed. 

Any big words you can replace with simpler ones? 
Enough said. 

Did you enjoy writing it? 
Are you pleased with what you’ve written? If so, chances are your reader will enjoy reading it too. 

Sophie Stanley on agri-tech, AI and art classes

Sophie has been busy. Passionate about creating meaningful changes to the way we eat, and how that connects back to our planet – each step on her career path seems well placed to help make that happen.

Sophie’s Nuffield research paper, ‘Harnessing Social Media in Agriculture’, was followed by joining agri-tech start-up Figured, moving to Nebraska to launch it in the United States.

She returned to New Zealand in 2019 to join Autogrow and later WayBeyond, providers of artificial intelligence solutions for controlled environment farms. Sophie joined the board of the Dairy Women’s Network not long after.

Now standing at the intersection of agriculture, digital technology and innovation, we asked how the Nuffield Scholarship has helped expand her thinking.

“Before I received a Nuffield Scholarship, I was focused on the pastoral farming sector. But then [on the Global Focus Programme] you’re thrown into everything from row cropping to aquaculture. You get to see so many things. I met lots of interesting people in the agri-tech space too, from all over the world. I was exposed to a lot of diverse thinking, ways to solve problems, and to technology being used in different contexts. So yeah, the interest in agri-tech was sparked.”

On the potential of technology.

“When I came back to New Zealand, I noticed huge gaps, particularly with growers. Some hadn’t innovated for twenty years. And so, they were struggling to satisfactorily address challenges like consumer dietary preferences, traceability demands and sustainability evidence. New technology is the perfect solution to help address those things.

We can have a thriving, efficient agriculture sector using technology and at the same time achieve the sustainability and climate change goals we might have as a nation.

This is where social media is beneficial. There are always trends or signals that appear, often first on social media – signposts of the future. We need to start proactively picking up on those signals. One of my personal beliefs is to have a bias towards action – just make decisions and course correct later.

In the tech industry we have this concept of MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. It’s the quickest time you can get something of value out to a customer, so that they can try it, then you improve it.

We’re seeing the same thing across agriculture. People are asking, why don’t we just try something and see how it goes? And it doesn’t have to be solving climate change. Because that’s a big problem. It’s a very complex problem.”

We should instead ask, what is the smallest piece that we can carve off and solve? We need lots of players solving little pieces of that bigger problem. And eventually, we’ll all solve it.

On thinking differently.

“I started going to art classes recently – learning to look at problems in new and creative ways. It’s interesting to see people’s differing approaches to the same task – like painting a chair in the middle of a room. We all saw it from different perspectives – but from those perspectives you build a new picture. I like thinking about how we can apply that to the way we look at things in our industry – even just allowing me to approach my job differently.

I attended BOMA, E Tipu recently. One common thread running through many of the speakers was this idea of reframing challenges so that we tackle them from the opportunity rather than the problem.

What really stood out for me was hearing from Geoff Ross. He studied agriculture, but then he focused on creating great consumer brands like 42 Below Vodka.

He presented an aspirational and inspirational idea, something that could galvanise the primary sector. This idea was, could New Zealand be the world’s first climate positive farm? That’s an idea worth exploring. With that idea we know consumers would want to buy from us.

This ties back to my Nuffield social media research as well. Three years ago, you probably wouldn’t have heard about regenerative agriculture for example. Now, because of stories shared on social media, consumers have started to ask – is this produce from a regenerative agriculture ecosystem? Supermarkets like Whole Foods in the United States recognise this too, awarding New Zealand lamb company Atkins Ranch with their Supplier Award for Regenerative Agriculture Commitment.”

I’m interested in how we might catch the tailwind of these signals and ideas to get ahead of the curve too. I think telling better work stories can make that happen.

On Artificial Intelligence in agriculture.

“AI, the version without the gloves, is well and truly here – even still, people get scared of those two letters, AI. That it’s going to take everyone’s jobs and make us all irrelevant. For a different viewpoint, I went to TEDx Auckland recently.

There, Will Hewitt spoke about how medicine is using AI. He quoted Eric Topol who said, “AI won’t replace doctors, but doctors that use it will replace doctors that don’t”. And I think in turn you can replace ‘doctors’ with growers or farmers.

…AI won't replace doctors, but doctors that use it will replace doctors that don't. And I think in turn you can replace that word with growers or farmers.

At WayBeyond we find AI is most useful to growers for modelling six weeks ahead, to predict how many tomatoes they’ll have to meet their commitments to supermarkets. They’ve got thousands of data points, from temperature, from plant growth measurements, from colour change, so many things. That’s a lot of complex data for a human to process. They might get to 80% accuracy in a model.

Now, if you can use AI, you can continuously look at these data points and at the correlations between them. You go from 80% to 90% pretty quickly. The impact of that could be millions of dollars to the bottom line for large scale growers – and hugely reduced food waste.

There’s plenty happening within an operation that a computer just isn’t going to see though. You still need to walk the greenhouse. There are tweaks the grower needs to backfill with their experience.”

So, AI is a support tool for people to make better decisions, not the end of all our jobs.

On the next big leaps in agri-tech.

“They’ll be around solutions that are focused on sustainability. Because it’s something that consumers are driving and it’s important in terms of our shared planetary goals.

We’re going to see more around planetary accounting and carbon, things like that. Consumers want produce they can feel good about, produce that contributes to their morals and ethics.

We’re starting to think about how we can be more sustainable in aquaculture and commercial fisheries. We heard a bit about that at BOMA as well.

We’re in the very early stages of where we could be with artificial intelligence and neural networks. There’s likely to be many more technology applications here.”

…creating a digital twin of a plant or even a cow, would mean we can model and predict so many possible outcomes.

“Things like creating digital twins* of biological systems, and plants too. Digital twins have already been used with aircraft engines and other complex machines. Bringing it into a biological space and creating a digital twin of a plant or even a cow, would mean we can model and predict so many possible outcomes
– like the impact of disease. It’s something we’re looking at within controlled environment growing.”

On making good things happen.

“We’re really focused on return on investment for our grower customers – being able to show the benefits of an innovative change. The innovation must provide value back to them. So, whenever we’re doing a proposal, we’re always showing what the return on investment will be – to the bottom line and to the environment too.

Real industry-wide change will only happen if we hear those stories. Stories about the leaders breaking new ground for the rest of us to follow. And again, social media is key here.

At the end of the day, our customer is that person on the other end of the tweet, or the Instagram post. They’re buying our products, especially when we’re using all the technology at our disposal to do things better, not just by the environment but by future generations too.

I want to help make meaningful change in the way we eat, and the way that connects back to the planet. I’d like to be part of telling the stories that help connect and create solutions for change.”

I think by tackling little parts of big problems, using technology and sharing the stories that inspire others to act, we’ll get there together.

*A Digital Twin is a virtual representation of a physical object or process. It enables the testing of scenarios under varying conditions.

Obituary – Frederick Arthur “Fred” Walsh C.M.

It is with sadness that we announce the peaceful passing of 1960 Canadian Scholar Frederick Arthur “Fred” Walsh C.M. – age 91, of Berwick, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Fred Walsh was one of the stalwarts that helped keep Nuffield Canada alive during its early days and we are pleased to share his obituary with you all.

Fred grew up in Halifax and as a teenager he spent time working on farms in the Annapolis Valley or on his Grandfather’s dairy farm in Coverdale, New Brunswick.

He attended LeMarchant St. School and Rothesay Collegiate in New Brunswick. He entered NSAC and graduated from MacDonald College of McGill University in 1952 with a BSc. in Agriculture with a major in Horticulture. 

Upon graduation Fred moved to the Valley and purchased a farm in Rockland where he grew apples, pears, peaches and plums. He also grew Gladiolis which he shipped all over Atlantic Canada as well as farming hogs, laying hens and beef cattle.

In 1954 he married Mary Mackay and they started their family of six children.

(Blake Vice, 2013 Scholar Chair of Nuffield Canada, spoke to Waldo Walsh, Fred’s son, yesterday. Waldo shared that he was born when his father was away on his Nuffield travels).

Fred had also worked off the farm with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing, first as a Resource Development Officer from 1972-76 and later as an Agricultural Representative, before retiring in 1994.

After his retirement, Fred spent much time working in his gardens, advising his children on their farming operations and volunteering in the community. Fred had been a member of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association since 1952 and had actively served in many capacities, including Director, Chairman of various committees, and President in 1997.

Fred’s lifetime of volunteering culminated when he was recognized nationally with the Order of Canada in 2007.

Fred received many awards including:

Nuffield Farming Scholarship (1960)
Award of Merit-Canadian Parks and Recreation Association
Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International
CNIB Volunteer Awards
Distinguished Life Member of the Nova Scotia Institute of Agrologists
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Fred devoted much time to many organizations, often in a major role, some of which are:

Kings County Councillor
Scotian Gold Cooperative, Member from 1957
Scotian Gold Cooperative, Director
ACA Poultry Cooperative, Past Chairman
Canadian National Institute for the Blind – 18 years as a Board Member, Past Chairman of the N.S. – PEI Divisional Board and three years on the National Council
N.S. Farm Health and Safety Committee
N.S. Rural Beautification Program
N.S. Institute of Agrologists, Past President
Kings Mutual Insurance, Board of Directors

Fred’s ornamental gardens were his passion. He believed in planting shrubs, trees and flowers to celebrate marriages, births, and to honour peoples’ lives. He gave trees he had collected and nurtured from seedling to friends and families to celebrate their special events.

His gardens were the backdrop for numerous photographs of family and community events, marriages and reunions for over 50 years. His tireless work became the “Garden of Memories”, inscribed on a bronze plaque mounted on a large granite rock, dedicated to his family. Ending with the phrase “A Gardener by The Grace of God”, Fred was a man of great faith.

He attended the Berwick United Church where he was a member for over 60 years and held various positions. He was often asked to give the sermon, a request he thoroughly enjoyed because of his ability to effectively communicate his positive outlook on life.

In his role as an Agricultural Representative, Fred dealt with farmers on a daily basis and understood the realities of farming. He was able to inform them of new policies or grants and counsel those experiencing challenges in their farm operations.

Later in life Fred visited local nursing homes because he knew that the residents appreciated the company. It was also common for him to deliver freshly cut flowers from his garden to family, friends, and visitors – just to brighten their day!

He was active in the Elder-Hostel program at Acadia University acting as a tour guide. It was not uncommon for a large bus to appear unannounced in the driveway of the family farm.

Fred was very proud that two of his sons and a grandson continue in the tree fruit industry.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, six children and extended family members.

E TIPU – The Boma NZ Agri Summit

Mark your calendar and get your tickets for E Tipu 2021: The Boma NZ Agri Summit on 11–12 May at Christchurch Town Hall.

This is the must-attend event of the year: two days of international and national speakers, interactive workshops, valuable cross-sector networking, and more.

Learn about new trends, innovative tech, and exponential changes coming at us. Most importantly, you’ll learn how we can adapt our food and fibre sectors to be more innovative, sustainable, collaborative, and profitable now and in the future.

Get full details and secure your place now at etipu.boma.global.

Developing Whanganui region’s agribusiness sector

From left to right: Colleen Sheldon, Whanganui & Partners, David Eade, 2021 Nuffield Scholar, Andrew Watters, NZ Rural Leaders Chair

Rural Leaders & Whanganui & Partners

developing Whanganui region’s agribusiness sector

NZ Rural Leaders and Whanganui & Partners entered into a multi-year agreement last year to offer scholarships to Whanganui residents who directly contribute to the regions agribusiness sector. To be eligible for a Scholarship, candidates must undertake either a Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme or Nuffield Farming Scholarship.

David Eade, 2021 Nuffield NZ Scholar was selected as the first recipient of a Scholarship.

Read more about our partnership with Whanganui & Partners, and about David Eade in this article on page 10 in the Farmers Weekly virtual newspaper:

Rural Leaders partners with Whanganui & Partners to build rural leadership in Wanganui region

Rural Leaders are delighted to announce our new partnership with Whanganui and Partners to help grow regional leaders and entrepreneurial capital in Whanganui’s food and fibre sector.

As part of the sponsorship, two scholarships will be granted to Whanganui residents, or those scholars who directly contribute to Whanganui’s agribusiness sector, who are undertaking a Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme or a Nuffield Farming Scholarship.

Find out more about the new partnership here.

Step up in 2021 – be part of the Kellogg Rural Leadership programme in Tai Tokerau!

Take the next step in your development and do the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme in Tai Tokerau in 2021.

Course dates: 4 May – 21 October  

Applications close on 31 January 2021

Click here for more information on the Kellogg Tai Tokerau Course