-Seaver Izatt / Business Development Manager / NZTE Europe
Two themes that have had more than their fair share of negative press in the last few years – Europe and dairy. But here’s a good news story for a change, and the protagonist is the Emerald Isle itself, Ireland.
Ireland is in the middle of a dairy boom. Two and a half years into a five-year industry plan, it is set to smash its ambitious targets set for 2020.
When EU quotas were lifted in 2015, Ireland stated that it was going to increase milk output by 50 percent in five years. It is on track to deliver this result in just three.
Whilst the Irish government is responsible for managing the delivery of this strategy, it is clear that the success lies in a cross-industry joined-up approach. And this was made blatantly clear on 19-21 September during the annual ritual of Ireland’s agricultural community, the National Ploughing Championships. Central government agencies, local government bodies, industry associations and farmers across Ireland were actively engaging with one another.
Issues appear to be well-communicated top-down and bottom-up, shaping policy and farm behaviours.
What does all this mean for New Zealand? Despite churning out huge dairy volume increases, Ireland still faces challenges – some of which New Zealand can help it overcome.
There are a few caveats: New Zealand companies won’t play a major role in some localised issues – such as how to navigate the exit of Ireland’s largest customer, Britain, from the single market union of the EU; how to diversify product sales into new emerging markets; and how to create a “fair” policy to ensure more money is transferred back to the farmer rather than retained in high retailer margins.
But New Zealand companies are well-placed to help Ireland with the on-farm challenges of how to address labour shortages through technology, increase efficiency, increase productivity, and improve farm safety. Irish farmers want to work smarter, not harder.
The revolution in Ireland’s farming industry is a movement away from the farmer mentality of being a livestock manager, towards being a business manager. A mental shift that has long-since occurred in New Zealand.
For the second year running, NZTE has hosted a New Zealand pavilion at Ireland’s Ploughing Championships to provide a platform for farmers to engage directly with smart farming solutions generated from New Zealand.
The dairy systems in Ireland are almost directly parallel to those in New Zealand (95 percent pasture-based), so Irish farmers look to New Zealand for ideas and inspiration.
Where better to present these ideas than the Irish equivalent to New Zealand’s Agricultural Fieldays?
The Ploughing Championships at Screggan, County Offaly attracts twice the number of attendees as Fieldays (292,000 which constitutes five percent of the Irish population) with such significance that Ireland’s President, Prime Minister, Government Ministers, Heads of Associations, and every farmer and their family attends.
And for the first time in four years, farmers are spending again.
At the New Zealand pavilion, five companies exhibited together with exposure to this enormous crowd of attendees. Two weeks later, all have benefited in some way – either from new deals, new leads or new orders.
NZTE created a ‘smart farming’ theme for the New Zealand pavilion with a virtual reality (VR) experience taking people to a virtual New Zealand dairy farm.
The use of VR was designed to attract attendees to the pavilion and leave them excited and engaged about New Zealand farming innovation, primed to talk to New Zealand companies and the NZTE team about their specific needs