Kate Scott: Meeting food and fibre’s challenges, together.

Kate Scott is a 2018 Nuffield Scholar and Chair of the Board of the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust and is part of the team behind Forefront: 2023 Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit and its line up of speakers and panelists.

Pulling together a speaker ensemble of this calibre has been no easy task, but as Kate explains the chance to bring industry together for one day – makes the effort well worthwhile. 

Forefront, the Summit theme, will focus on those businesses making change now – those providing solutions to the sector’s and the world’s biggest agribusiness challenges and opportunities.

Forefront - Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit

Bryan Gibson – Managing Editor of Farmer’s Weekly.

I’m Bryan Gibson, Managing Editor of Farmers Weekly. And with me I have my first repeat visitor to the podcast, Kate Scott. How’s it going?

Kate Scott – 2018 Nuffield Scholar and Chair of the Board of Rural Leaders.

I’m good. Thank you, Bryan. And yourself?

The 2023 Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit - Together for a day.

Bryan: Yeah, really good. So, today we’re here to talk about the upcoming Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit, which is at the Christchurch Town Hall on the 27 March. Kate, you’ve been involved in putting this together.

Kate: Yes, I have. There’s a great team of people have been working hard to bring not only the one-day, Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit together, but also the Nuffield Triennial Conference together too.

We started planning this event back in 2020, but we were a casualty of Covid like many events. And so, we’re now looking forward to March when we can host our Summit. It’s going to be amazing to not only welcome some of our international guests who will be attending the as part of their involvement with the Nuffield Triennial, but also really looking forward to getting a broad and diverse range of New Zealand farmers, agribusiness and rural professionals along to hear our great line up speak at the Agribusiness Summit.

Bryan: Now, when we talked a while back, your [Nuffield] research was on the evolution of New Zealand farming into a more sustainable place and I guess that’s something that’s going to be a focus of the [Summit] day, isn’t it?

Challenges and opportunities in a fast-changing world.

Kate:  Yeah, it is. And it will probably be of interest to some of the listeners that we’ve chosen to theme our conference for the day ‘Forefront’.

The reason behind choosing Forefront was about not only getting in front of all the challenges that the primary sector are facing, but also looking at it through a lens of opportunity.

How can we be at the front of this change and find ways to innovate and take advantage of a changing world? I guess that’s then gone on to help us to create the speaker themes for the conference.

Summit day themes and speakers – Our World.

Kate:  We’ve split the day into three broad topic areas. The first is taking a more global picture. It’s called Our World. Here we’re talking about some of those big challenges in our natural environment.

We’ve got some speakers touching on climate change. Doctor Harry Clark will share his incredible breadth of knowledge [on climate change] with us.

We’ve got a speaker talking to us about the role of solar, particularly from a farming perspective – a woman by the name of Karin Stark. Karin and her husband farm in Australia. She’s done a lot of work using solar energy and developing solar panels within their farming business and how they integrate that more generally. So that’s going to be an interesting part of that first Our World theme.

Then we also have a speaker talking about the opportunity the sea brings and how we utilise our oceans as a resource and as an opportunity to grow our primary sector.

Summit day themes and speakers – Our People.

Kate:  Then we move into our second, which is Our People. That will look at consumer trends and trade. I guess we’ve seen a massive shift in international trends and how that’s changed over the last few years, particularly on the back of COVID and what other trends might emerge around the agrifood and the consumer side of things.

So, to help us to understand both the challenges and the opportunities there, we have Vengalis Vitalis who many of you will know as our Deputy Secretary of Trade here in New Zealand. He’ll be talking about a global view of trade from a New Zealand perspective.

We have Lain Jager joining us to talk about what the role of future food and genetic modification might mean for food production in New Zealand. Then we’ve also got Emma Parsons from Fonterra who’s going to be talking to us about what Fonterra see from that consumer trends and trade perspective. Already a great line-up of speakers.

Summit day themes and speakers – Our Future.

Kate:  Our last session for the day is called Our Future. We’re wanting to try to change that up a little bit. So, we’ve got four or five speakers who are going to talk for a shorter period of time – a little bit snappier – talking about all those opportunities around entrepreneurship, leadership, the future, social, economic and environmental wellbeing.

We have Traci Houpapa talking to us about future leadership and a Te Ao Maori perspective – and possible new business models. We have Angus Brown from Arepa, Mark McLeod Smith from Halter, and we also have Dr Ellen Nelson, who will be talking to us about the future of work.

I’ve just given you a big download of the programme! But it’s exciting to have a broad range of topics and people to be able to come together to look at our sector in a positive light. To take some motivation and opportunity to challenge what we’re doing, look for what’s new and the what next? for our sector.

Bryan:  It’s great that with the world opened up again, getting some of these global perspectives on the shared challenges that agriculture faces. Some of those people will be in the room. Sometimes these changing consumer perceptions, along with the ins-and-outs of trade deals and that sort of thing, sometimes is second hand knowledge to a lot of the agricultural community here – so it’s good to get a view from the ground, but a different ground.

Devry Boughner Vorwerk - Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit Keynote Speaker.

Kate:  Exactly. I think it’s an integral part of what we do, but unless we’re actively doing it, it’s almost one of those back-end functions. We don’t always think about these things if we’re down on the farm driving our tractor or milking our cows.

To that point, our keynote speaker is a woman by the name of Devry Boughner Vorwerk. Devry is coming out to see us from the States and she has amazing background in terms of having been Chief Communications Officer and Global Head of Corporate Affairs at Cargill.

She has her own sustainability entrepreneurship business and is going to be talking big picture setting for us around international business and development. She’s going to be able to do an amazing job of setting the scene initially and then helping us to draw in all the pieces of the puzzle as we hear from our other speakers throughout the course of the day.

Bryan:  I did some reading on her earlier in the week and sounds like she’s going to bring some real amazing insight. I mean, Cargill is one of the biggest meat producers in the United States – and then she moved to, I think, Grubhub for a while, didn’t she?

Kate:  That’s my understanding as well. And then having done both that policy side of things and the international business, I’m really looking forward to hearing Devry speak. The fact that she’ll be able to join us in person is really a good outcome given only a few years ago we were having to cancel the Summit.

Bryan:  In that last session too, when we talk about challenges, quite rightly, I guess people often see that as cost and loss of opportunity. But in fact, there are people out there capitalising on meeting those challenges and there’s going to be some real-world examples of how you can do that.

Kate:  Listeners may have heard of Ellen Nelson through her role in helping to secure places for the Afghani refugees last year. Ellen has done a world of research into the way in which we work. She challenges us to think about can we look at the world with ‘can we work school hours’?

Ellen has some interesting insights on how we leverage a lot of our mums and dads who might want to actually be able to work different hours, and how do we do that within our farming business? So, a slightly different perspective, but one that is as applicable to agriculture as any other sector.

Open to farmers, growers, agribusiness professionals and anyone who cares about the future of food and fibre.

Bryan:   So, what sort of people are you hoping to attract?

Kate:  We’re open to all comers, but we’re keen to make sure that our on-the-ground farmers have the opportunity to attend. I guess one of the reasons we decided to make the Summit a one-day event was that we know how difficult it is for people to get off their farm for too long. We’re wanting our farmers to come. We’ve had a great number of registrations already, as you’d expect.

We’ve got a bunch of our agribusiness representatives from our food companies, from other consultancies, we’ve got bankers, we’ve got some of our more senior leaders from government organisations. A real cross section of our sector. I think that’s where we’re trying to go – that the more views and perspectives we can get in the room, the greater the conversation and the questions.

One of the key things that we wanted to be able to do through the Summit was to provide the platform for a safe and robust conversation, where when you break out from morning tea, you can pick up one of these interesting topics that we would have heard about, talk to some people about their views and get the conversation going.

So, trying to kickstart the conversations on some of these big topics.

Bryan:  And of course, everything will be kept on time, on track and on message from some pretty cool people running the show.

Bringing the Summit to life and the sector together.

Kate:  Yes, we have got Corin Dann, an experienced journalist most will probably have heard of through the National Program – on breakfast in the mornings. Corin has very kindly agreed to come and facilitate our sessions for the day. A big part of the sessions will be the panel discussions and the conversations.

At the end of the day, we’re going to have a wrap up session where we get Devry back on stage with our other guests and Corin, to have an in-depth conversation around what’s happening, what the future looks like and the opportunities.

[From] the back end, the chair of the Summit, Murray King, and a small committee of volunteers will all be working hard in the to make sure people are well fed and well-watered, and that everything is kept to time.

For those who haven’t been to an event at the Town Hall in Christchurch before, one of the highlights is always the food. They do a great job there of showcasing local produce – they try to support their local Canterbury growers. The food is also something that’s always good to look forward to in those events.

Bryan:  The building itself is something quite special. It’s such a wonderful piece of architecture.

Kate:  It is iconic, so it’s great.

Bryan:  And there’s a dinner.

The Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit Dinner.

Kate:  Yes, we have a dinner that will be hosted after the Summit. So, there are still some tickets available for that, although they are selling out very fast. The dinner will allow people to come together and to take the conversation to that next step. We will also be joined at the dinner by Minister O’Connor, who is going to be speaking. And we have some evening entertainment from Te Radar.

Another exciting part of the Summit is that it will include our international Nuffield guests who are actually going to be here in New Zealand as part of a ten day conference – where we kick off on the Saturday or the Friday night actually, prior to the Summit. It’s a bit of a traveling trip from Canterbury all the way [down the South Island] and finishing in Queenstown the following weekend. So, it’ll be a great opportunity to connect with a wide audience from around the globe.

Bryan:  Excellent. Well, that sounds [like] something for everyone to think about attending. How do people go about getting tickets if they’re interested?

Kate:  Yeah, go and have a look on the Rural Leaders website. There’s a big headline that flashes up that says Forefront. Click on that to head to the registration page to attend the Summit and/or the Dinner.

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