Opinion: Duncan Humm, NZ Farming.
There have been calls growing louder recently about the need for New Zealand to pivot away from its natural advantage in the global food marketplace, and much like how they have in the last twenty plus years or so the reasons for doing so are much the same albeit with some newer generation techniques becoming available that promise more than the last and without the problems that may have occurred in the older tech.
The dilemma we are faced with in food production is we’re being used as the first line of defence in the global fight against climate change, the aspirational targets global leaders have signed us up for with little regard to how they’ll be achieved or the degenerative implications to rural communities especially.
It’s the perfect opportunity for someone with a patented product that could be sold to farmers who have little or no other option if they’re needing to tick some boxes on their environmental reporting.
One of the preexisting issues we have as a nation is there is no overarching vision or strategy when it comes to food production, as a result despite there being many examples of exporting success and good value food, there is a huge gap between the dollars that stay behind the farm gate and what consumers must pay for the nutrition they need.
Farmers already bear a great burden of production costs when buying things like pasture seeds retail.
If you need something like Plantain there is only one option that will help your nutrient budget which is also the more expensive while not necessarily being the best option on other factors like persistence and production compared to other varieties.
Meanwhile for the farmer that grows crops on behalf of seed companies they face tight margins relative to the high risk, and even have to pay for the fancy bags their seed is retailed in!
It is quite a broken and disjointed system that needs to be repaired or replaced before we could contemplate allowing the problem to more than likely get worse if there became a smaller number of seed varieties and their patent holders dictate the market.
In my own situation as a deer farmer I’m really proud to grow nutrient dense venison and velvet as naturally as possible, for a few years now we’ve had to sign a declaration that our animals have not been fed any GMO or GE feeds, as this is of huge importance to our markets especially in the USA where demand for NZ venison is growing in part owing to our reputation as a clean , natural food producer.
On the input side for us there has been the use of diverse pasture mixes, initially using common retail seeds but more latterly I try to source seed direct from growers who have their own seed varieties or uncommon species.
Despite seeing good results from this for our animals, soil and farm ecosystem it could have to be replaced my monoculture pastures and even a move away from deer altogether.
It all reminds me of a lyric about a Genie in a bottle…we’ve got to rub it the right way.
by Duncan Humm