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Horizons 08 – agriculture’s future value or volume

Horizons ‘08 – agriculture’s future: value or volume?

International and local industry leaders will front one of Australasia’s major science and agribusiness conferences, being held in Christchurch next week (28 -30 October).

The 5th Horizons in Livestock Sciences Conference, jointly hosted by AgResearch and Australia’s CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Livestock Industries Division, will address the increasingly contentious issue of ‘The future of agriculture: value or volume?’ and is expected to generate strong debate on the future for trans-Tasman livestock industries, in light of increasing global concern about food security.

AgResearch CEO, Dr Andrew West, says as there is increasing pressure to feed the world, there will be a need to improve agricultural productivity. “More food needs to be produced on every hectare of agricultural land. However this achievement faces considerable challenges. A simple increase in agricultural volume is not the solution alone. We need to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment. Moreover, given New Zealand’s and Australia’s cost structures, should we increase the value of our agricultural production rather than the volume?” he says.

Dr West says in order for agriculture to continue contributing to the New Zealand (and Australian) economy, our farmers are increasingly likely to need to produce products – food and textiles – for which the world is prepared to pay premium prices. “Our products need to have valuable elements that are scarce and of such a quality that they can not easily be imitated by our competitors. New Zealand can feed roughly 30 million people at this time when there are six thousand 300 million people on the planet.”

He says the purpose of this conference is to debate these issues and find answers to the key question: Should our agricultural sectors’ future emphasis be on value or on volume?”

The conference will see Bill Falconer, Meat Industry Association Chairman, and recently appointed to Chair of the Board of the New Zealand Fast Forward Fund, as but one of the keynote speakers. He joins business commentator Rod Oram and Dr Rosalind Gibson from the University of Otago in the opening session, promising a stimulating first day to kick off the three-day event.

Other speakers will include:

Dr Manny Noakes (CSIRO Human Nutrition): Dr Noakes, is the leader of the team that developed the “Total Wellbeing Diet”, which is aimed at minimising the health risks experienced by overweight people through better nutrition and weight management and which draws upon some key health benefits to higher protein dietary patterns including assisting people lose weight without feeling excessively hungry. Her book The Total Wellbeing Diet, released in 2004, broke several sales records and inspired thousands of people worldwide to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Dr Marcos Fava Neves (Brazil), an expert on strategies to solve the food inflation problem, will look at the question of competition vs cooperation when it comes to animal agriculture in the Southern Hemisphere.

Canadian Brian Stirling will address the issue of the traceability of products. Traceability is seen as a critical enabler for the vitality and viability of the agriculture and agri-food industry, which is dependent upon buyer and consumer confidence in the safety and quality of its products.

Dr Tim Doran -- a researcher using RNA interference technology in a bid to control animal diseases – will be sharing his experience with transgenic chickens.

Several other internationally recognised scientists and agribusiness leaders will also make presentations during the three day conference at the Christchurch Convention Centre.

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