The future of technology in agri-food

By: Emma Wheeler, KPMG Agri-food manager

Agriculture and food are often viewed as separate sectors. Increasingly, they are becoming integrated and the interconnectedness between the two cannot be ignored.

There is a holistic view of the entire agriculture and food systems that needs to be adopted. Individuals and organisations come together with different intentions and desired outcomes but all contribute to the innovation and technology advances that are being seen across the entire value chain of agri-food as we fuse agriculture, food, and technology.

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With an expectation to feed an estimated global population of 9.7 billion by 2050, agriculture and our food systems are being challenged, as there are diminishing natural resources and land available. Farms are consequently being ‘teched up’ when it comes to growing food to be both sustainable and profitable. 

Globally, the agri-food sector is valued at $7.8 trillion. It’s responsible for employing more than 40% of the population. Factors such as environmental change, climate change, and natural resource constraint, changing consumer demands, chronic illnesses and health issues, and food waste are all driving the exponential growth in technology and innovation in the sector.

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Emma Wheeler 

As we need the ability to produce more with less, the urgency to innovate is larger than ever. Agricultural systems around the world are rapidly being redesigned and innovated as a wave of digital technologies, science-based innovations, and novel approaches find their way into the agri-food supply chain.

Technology innovation includes advancements that sweep right across the farm into the supply chain, and how the end use ultimate interact with the end product.

Retail technologies are seeing massive growth periods as consumers demand convenience. They want their food to be delivered to them, no matter the location, and they want it quick and tailored to their specialist diet.

Sustainable farming practices, reduced wastage along the agri-food supply chain, and an eye on changing consumer tastes are all contributing to the way we produce, distribute, and eat food.

New Zealand is globally renowned for our clean, green environment and has high-quality agricultural outputs. With a significant agricultural industry, we benefit from a large testing ground for new technologies and approaches. There has been significant growth in our agri-tech ecosystem across investors, researchers, creators, and customers.

Innovation and research are what keeps our nation as world leaders in farming. This is crucial when it comes to ensuring we make the most of our precious resources, particularly with increasing pressure to reduce waste and contribute to this clean, green New Zealand we aspire.


Digital technology has been identified as the single largest factor driving innovation in agricultural systems. A massive portfolio of new technology solutions are being created: mobile apps, big data, digital mapping, field sensors, drones, robotics, autonomous vehicles, smart farming equipment, and more.

An agri-tech value chain exists that encompasses the first input into the production of our food and continues all the way through to delivery to the customer. The customer ultimately drives change by providing the demand for emerging and innovative types of food, a desire to understand the source of food, seeing new ways to receive food, and looking for opportunities to reduce food wastage.

Improved connectedness across each link of this chain will enable producers to be better able to provide a sufficient and sustainable food supply to meet customers’ needs. Agri-tech, biotech, genetech, foodtech, and food e-commerce are all important elements of the integrated value chain.

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Across the entire value chain, producers, processors, distributors, and brands are transforming and adapting their strategies in response to the megatrends: future world citizens, growing populations, urbanisation, technology, sustainability, biotechnology, and value chain advances.

Strong innovation in technology is crucial for the agri-food sector we are operating in today. Access to data and the ability to innovate tools empowering smart decisions for farmers and businesses is vital. As innovation evolves, the benefits of technology can be shared and facilitate in nurturing those that need to feed the world.

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