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Horticultural tech companies establish cluster

Horticultural technology companies establish cluster

New Zealand has a new horticultural technology industry cluster that plans to significantly increase the profile and success of the sector’s companies.

HortiTech NZ is a grouping of companies providing technology and services to growers, packhouses, freight firms, and other parts of the horticulture value chain. Many have developed innovative products or systems for niche markets but lack the resources required to expand their businesses into major export markets.

“That is the biggest issue for many of our members, and it is also the biggest opportunity we have as a cluster,” says HortiTech Executive Director Heather McEwen. “There are a lot of quite small, specialist companies in the horticultural technology sector. By collaborating in our marketing, information sharing and opportunities, we expect to significantly increase the number of exporters and lift the profile of the sector.”

The initial response by potential members had been enthusiastic, she said. About half the 14 founding members were already exporting but all could see the benefits in creating a unified brand for the horticulture technology sector and raising the profile of New Zealand’s innovative, high quality companies.

“We want to make it easier for members to be successful in global markets.”

NZ Trade & Enterprise Bay of Plenty Regional Manager Lionel Crawley said small companies in the horticulture technology sector faced quite a range of obstacles in exporting.

“Typically, many get started by people who are more technology-minded than marketing minded and they don’t have the skills to take the leaps that are required to export.”

By sharing expertise and market knowledge, he said, the more established export companies can assist the smaller cluster members into new markets. The bigger companies also benefit from greater scale and a broader product offering. Italy is a good example where New Zealand kiwifruit technology is already well respected. With a collaborative approach, HortiTech NZ plans to accelerate the uptake of New Zealand technology into that market.

The size and value of the horticulture technology sector had not yet been measured, Lionel Crawley said. “Its potential may be smaller than the AgriTech sector, for example, but it does have some very interesting niche markets that New Zealand companies can be very competitive in.”

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