Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand

A growing agri-food-tech legacy

The 2035 Oceania Summit in Auckland delivered on its ambitions to be more than just a two-day meeting, according to convenor Peter Wren Hilton: “Its core aim is to deliver long-term impact. This really is a platform to grow and develop new opportunities.”

Despite having to postpone initially due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the inaugural event attracted 350 high-quality delegates to Auckland’s Aotea Centre (10-11 October) to hear more than 45 regional and international experts providing insights into the future of global agri-food production against the backdrop of our changing climate. It included breakout panels, an exhibition showcasing current research being undertaken across the region and extensive networking opportunities. In fitting with the event’s ethos, the Summit was also certified as Carbon Neutral by internationally recognised accreditation Toitū Envirocare.

“This was an incredible showcase of Auckland’s agri-tech strengths to global leaders in sustainability.”

Wren-Hilton, founding executive director of membership organisation AgriTech New Zealand and founder of global agritech consultancy Wharf42, says: “By bringing together the region’s scientific and research community, agritech companies, farmers and growers, investors and policymakers, the 2035 Oceania Summit was designed to showcase local solutions for global climate impact. We are highly satisfied with the big outcomes. It is amazing we started so many new conversations.”

The event was supported by Auckland’s cultural and economic development agency Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, Tourism New Zealand’s Business Events team, AgriTech New Zealand, and the Australian AgriTech Association.

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand

Ken Pereira, Head of the Auckland Convention Bureau, a division of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, says: “This was an incredible showcase of Auckland’s agri-tech strengths, introducing our innovative ideas and products to global leaders in sustainability. The summit provided an excellent platform for local researchers, growers and entrepreneurs to learn, network and expand their work.”

Tourism New Zealand General Manager NZ & Business Events Bjoern Spreitzer adds: “This event attracted high-quality visitors who travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand for business and pleasure post-event. Beyond this boost to our visitor economy, they’ve also left a legacy of agreements and collaborations that will benefit New Zealand’s agri-food-tech sector for years to come.”

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand


Specific impacts from the Oceania 2035 Summit in Auckland included:


One of the Summit’s longer-term aims was to increase research and commercialisation collaboration in agri-food-tech across the Oceania region and wider global community. As part of this remit, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross, delivered a keynote speech as well as leading a delegation of key California stakeholders to identify New Zealand agri-food technology solutions that can help address key challenges facing growers in California, including prolonged drought. The delegation had the opportunity to meet growers and orchardists in South Auckland on a field trip immediately following the Summit.

Secretary Ross said: “The calibre of the speakers was so impressive, and people were so great about networking. I think you’ve created real momentum here.”

LETTER OF INTENT – Future collaboration

During the Summit, Secretary Ross and New Zealand’s Agriculture Minister Hon Damien O’Connor signed a Letter of Intent to accelerate collaboration in ‘smart agriculture’ between New Zealand and California, the United States’ largest food producer. This includes expediting research links and agricultural technology development and deployment.

Supporting the purpose of the LOI, the 2035 Oceania Summit is now partnering with US-based Western Growers to host a major ‘Growers Summit’ in Salinas, North California in June 2023 focused on biologicals. Wren-Hilton says: “We’ll be inviting New Zealand researchers and agritech companies who work in this space to join us in California to share their knowledge and product with the growers who produce over 50% of all fresh produce in North America.”

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand

REGIONAL LEGACY– Spotlight on the Pacific

The Summit attracted six Pacific Island Agricultural Departmental leaders to address the impact of climate change on the long-term food security needs in the Pacific via panels and keynote speeches. Given the very significant Pacific Island presence, MFAT (the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade) capitalised on this audience by hosting a successful one-day ‘Pacific Island, Food Security & Climate Change’ Symposium in Auckland the day after the Summit. “One hundred people gathered at the Cordis Auckland. That event would not have happened without the Summit,” Wren-Hilton notes.

RESEARCH AND INVESTMENT – Accelerating the seaweed opportunity

During the Summit, attendees representing the Aotearoa New Zealand Seaweed Association and the Australia Seaweed Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding. It signalled the intent of both organisations to work more closely together to build and scale each country’s seaweed sectors to leverage the many benefits that seaweed can offer, including reducing ruminant livestock methane emissions.

SHOWCASE OF CARBON-ZERO NZ – Sustainability on the menu

Delegates were treated to two days of fresh New Zealand produce via conference catering curated by renowned New Zealand chef, Peter Gordon. The ‘Festival of Food’ delivered a low to neutral carbon footprint by only working with producers operating with a zero-carbon footprint, regenerative farming or other sustainable practices. The result: a delicious showcase for local producers and some superb conference catering. Wren-Hilton adds: “Conference food will never be the same again.”

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand


The 2035 Oceania Summit also attracted 10 accredited journalists, with international panellists sharing their knowledge in interviews on local television, radio, and via special appearances at other venues. Aimee Christensen, a Hillary Laureate, spoke at a number of Edmund Hillary Fellowship-sponsored events around the Summit.

Global sustainability and ESG expert Jaime Nack, President of Three Squares Inc., was featured in a NZTech Connect event on Scaling Digital Sustainability hosted by The University of Auckland Business School. Nack also held a roundtable with Tātaki Auckland Unlimited’s Investment & Innovation and Major Events teams. The discussion focused on her experience designing sustainable event strategies for mega-events ranging from the
Olympics to the Oscars.

When asked about her first visit to New Zealand, Nack said: “It was fantastic to see the level of engagement from the business community around embedding sustainability into their operations. The Oceania 2035 Summit made it clear that Ag, Food, and Tech companies here are working on some interesting solutions that have the ability to positively impact the rest of the world.”

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