Wrightson's Seed-Coating Plant Opening, Christchurch

  • Damien O'Connor
Agriculture

Allan Freeth, Ladies and Gentlemen: It's my pleasure to join with you today to open the plant.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister launched the Growth in Innovation strategy, focussing on three sectors which had the potential to affect all aspects of our lives – it's what the policy wonks call “horizontal technologies”.

These were:
1)information and communication technology (ICT);
2)arts and creative industries; and
3)biotechnology.

The Growth through Innovation framework documents a broad consensus that has emerged over the past two years as to what needs to be done to develop New Zealand’s innovative potential.

To do that, the Government is committed to implementing policies with more emphasis on:
1)Enhancing our innovation framework;
2)Developing our skills and talents;
3)Increasing our global connectedness; and
4)Focusing interventions in those areas that can have maximum impact.

To begin with, the government has chosen to target its innovation initiatives in biotechnology, ICT and the creative industries. These areas can have a significant influence on the broad scope of the New Zealand economy.

Clearly, these three sectors are not the only sectors we want to see innovation and growth in. For our economy, to achieve the way we want it to, innovation must happen across the board.

ICT, biotechnology, and the creative industries are not about to displace dairy, meat, and tourism as the main agents of our economy. But they are three sectors of enabling technologies that are going to drive change in those sectors and in many others to help New Zealand lift its performance.

The role of agribusiness in this is critical.

Agriculture’s rate of productivity increase has exceeded that of many manufacturing and servicing sectors in recent years, and the primary production sector is well positioned to capitalise on the increasing emphasis on biotechnology.

Biotechnology could have huge benefits for agriculture and horticulture … sectors in which we are world leaders. Biotechnology will be a key driver of accelerating productivity growth in agriculture, and will also give rise to new businesses, industries, and technologies that spin off from our sector.

Today, we are here to celebrate more rural innovation, in the form of seed coating.

I’m told Coated Seeds Ltd started here in 1964, and was owned by Fletcher Challenge till 1996, when Wrightsons took over the plant.

Technology has improved markedly since then, and this plant is an example of that progress.

It now uses the most modern European technology, with local engineering expertise employed to install and develop ancillary equipment. I’m told up to 15 people will be employed here when the plant is fully operational.

The market for coated seeds has risen dramatically in recent years, as more local pastoral farmers see the benefits of quicker and more reliable pasture and greenfeed establishment.

The value to pastoral industries such as sheep, beef, dairy, and deer of having a ready supply of quality pasture and forage seeds, developed and produced in New Zealand conditions, has not been calculated, but it would have to be the primary contributor to the increased productivity from those sectors over the past 10 years.

The productivity potential of pasture and forage species is improving all the time due to the investment of companies such as Wrightsons.

From an environmental perspective, the seed coating process allows the seed to get the precise amount of fertiliser and insecticide it needs without the risk of adverse effects from the alternative practice of spreading the fertiliser and spraying the crop when it is growing.

The effective application of the chemical per hectare is substantially reduced by coating the seed, compared to direct application to the paddock.

The types of pesticides being used in coating are also generally safer to use, and safer to non-target species than the alternative older chemicals. This is an example of using technology to reduce overall pesticides use to meet the increasing demand by consumers to be fed food that is safe from paddock to the plate.

So, ladies and gentlemen, you are part of the development of the Knowledge Economy in New Zealand. Congratulations on that, and congratulations on this fine new seed coating plant. I wish you all the best in the future.