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Te Hono says move to value from volume now accepted; biggest challenge is talent

Monday 5th February 2018

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The Te Hono movement, which aims to increase the value of New Zealand's primary sector production, says its mission is now well accepted and its biggest future challenge is getting the right people to help shape the country's businesses.

Te Hono started in 2012, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when New Zealand Merino chief executive John Brakenridge arranged for a group of 23 chief executives from New Zealand primary sector companies to attend the first 'primary sector bootcamp' at Stanford University in Silicon Valley, California, together with key government officials and ministers, to brainstorm ways to work together to improve performance.

The group now includes more than 220 members from companies with a combined turnover of more than 80 percent of the country's primary sector exports, spanning the biggest primary sector businesses as well as smaller start-ups. The collaboration has spawned more than 300 projects including the creation of a hub for New Zealand primary producers in Shanghai wanting to gain a foothold in China.

"We are super encouraged by the fact that we are now not having to have the discussion about shifting from volume to value, shifting from being price takers to market shapers. It's shifting the mindset in New Zealand from one of producing bulk commodities into a far more sophisticated value approach to what we are producing," Brakenridge said.

"The important area that we are now onto is moving past the why but into the how and the what. You just don’t turn this on a dime."

Brakenridge said given that the country and its primary sector was geared up around commodities, every single aspect needed a "rethink" about the value play, from universities to research institutes, and businesses.

"For many organisations it is changing the whole DNA of the organisation," he said.

While developing the right structures was important, the single biggest future challenge was talent to ensure the country had people who could take New Zealand into the value play, he said.

"Our institutions really haven't been nurturing the type of skill that is going to help us to be successful in that field," Brakenridge said.

Te Hono chair Greg Muir, who has headed the group since 2013, noted the development of new technologies such as plant-based food posed challenges for New Zealand primary production in the future.

"If you think disruptive marketplaces are going to be the single biggest challenge that we face in the next decade, then being able to deal with that requires superior talent," he said, citing the need to find the right people and getting the people that you have got informed and educated in the right way.

While the country's primary producers were vulnerable, they also had great opportunities ahead, Brakenridge said.

"As a country we are probably poised for some of the best opportunity for our food and fibre industries, our primary sector, the best and biggest opportunity that there has probably been in decades but at the same time they are probably some of the biggest vulnerabilities that we have ever had so it’s such a critical time from my perspective in terms of this country where it is at and to paraphrase what someone has said, if not this then what, if not us then who, and if not now then when," Brakenridge said.


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