Agriculture news from week 25

New Zealand

new technology

Hydroponic tower gives Kiwis easy option to grow up and feed themselves

Mark and Debbie Crarer have presented an idea they hope will grow on urban dwellers looking to become self-sufficient food producers.

The Hamilton couple launched their My Greens initiative at the National Fieldays at Mystery Creek on Thursday, a hydroponic home garden system.

The hydroponic garden tower was created for city gardeners keen to grow and harvest their own fresh produce around their urban homes and apartments.

Salad greens and herbs adorn the frame of the display tower at the Crarer’s site in the Rural Living Marquee, showing how food can grow up, instead of out along the ground.

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Fish efficiency research building block for ‘$3 billion industry’

Five years of research into fish feeding efficiency is just the start of cooperation between business and science to grow a billion-dollar industry, sector experts hope.

Cawthron Institute hosted industry leaders from NZ King Salmon, Sanford, and Mt Cook Alpine Salmon for a final conference of the MBIE-funded study into “feed conversion efficiency” – how well a salmon turns food into body-mass – which is coming to its end.

Much of the research was conducted at Cawthron’s finfish research centre, which opened in 2018. The research centre’s co-leader, Dr Jane Symonds, said improving this efficiency was “probably one of the key priorities for the industry”.

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agriculture staff in New Zealand

Staff shortage ‘train wreck’ waiting to happen: Dairy farmer

The owner of five Southland dairy farms says the staffing shortage hitting the industry is a safety and environmental disaster waiting to happen.

Abe de Wolde​ owns five Heddon Bush farms which milk 4500 cows and hires between 30 and 35 staff, depending on the season.

For the past two months his HR staffer has been trying to fill three 2IC roles on his farms, but without luck.

“It’s very slim pickings,” de Wolde said, adding his business offered above average pay rates.

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Pioneering agrichem changes for the NZ rural sector

The agriculture sector has always been the powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy. But for decades agricultural chemicals have been used to kill pests and enrich soil, which, research now shows, has had a negative effect on the environment.

However, the sector is committed to change and Ballance Agri-Nutrients is at the forefront of this. They are currently leading a five-year programme with the aim of significantly reducing the environmental footprint of the sector, at the same time boosting growth. The programme aims to discover how new nutrient enhancing technologies can be used, and the potential impact or benefit they provide.

The science strategy manager for Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Warwick Catto explains that the company is future-focussed, and this new strategy aims to address the sector’s needs as we near the middle of the 21st century.

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Wool prices are at rock bottom, the only way is up 

While many of the country’s primary products, including dairy, wood and meat, saw prices rise in the 15 months since Covid hit, it has been a much gloomier picture for our country’s wool growers.

Mainstream wool prices have nose-dived since the start of last year, with strong wool selling for as little as $2 per kilogram, a third of what it was worth five years ago.

While prices have continued to bounce around at low levels, for many farmers the cost of shearing is now more than they earn from selling the wool, making it a net cost to their business.

For the moment, many farmers are prepared to carry the cost of shearing, seeing it as an animal health cost, but the current situation is not sustainable.

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grain production

Importance of sustainable grain production

THE markets available to Western Australian growers are changing rapidly in both the sustainability certification space and the carbon neutral space according to CBH Group.

Speaking at the $15 million Climate Resilience Fund Forum at the Muresk Institute last Wednesday, CBH marketing and trading head of accumulation Trevor Lucas said evolving market and customer preferences required innovation from the State’s growers.

By increasing the roughly 18 per cent of WA’s grain which is non-differentiated, Mr Lucas said CBH would be able to access greater premiums for WA growers.

“In 2008 the European Union moved a decade before anybody and demanded all grain that be sold there be certified sustainable, so we have been doing that successfully since 2008,” Mr Lucas said.

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Rain pushes farmer confidence sky high

THE spirits of farmers in Western Australia are high after the “best start in a decade” to the State’s winter cropping cropping program.

The latest quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey, released on Tuesday, has found WA farmer confidence remained close to last quarter’s stellar level and at one of the top 10 readings in the survey’s 20-year history.

The near perfect start to the season and strong commodity prices were expected to flow into the balance sheets of the State’s farming businesses.

More than a third of WA farmers surveyed expect to generate a higher income in 2021/22, with this figure increasing to half of those in the grain sector.

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cotton industry

Cotton industry looks to use waste for soil health

A TRIAL project in southern Queensland could help markedly improve sustainability and cut waste within the cotton industry.

The project, to be trialled at a farm at Goondiwindi, will look at seeing whether cotton textile waste can be broken down and used as a soil ameliorant and a means to limit carbon emissions.

Project leaders are hoping the fabric will break down in the soil, increase microbial activity, lock in carbon and provide cover to improve soil moisture.

Predictions show the potential for 2.25 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 e) into the atmosphere will be mitigated through the breakdown of the two tonnes of garments used in the trial in soil, rather than going to landfill.

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Domestic grain prices buck overseas declines

Local grain prices finished the week steady despite declines in overseas futures markets.

United States grain and oilseed futures ended the week solidly lower in a see-sawing week. Grain and oilseed futures were sold sharply lower as weather forecasts added much-needed rain for struggling corn and soybean crops in the Midwest.

News that the US Federal Reserve may start lifting interest rates earlier than expected as they move to head off inflationary fears was also bearish for commodity markets. The US dollar climbed sharply making global commodities more expensive, putting pressure on global prices, including grains.

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Advancing dairy industry by adoption of animal monitoring tech

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation is delivering a digital activity monitoring program to provide better health management systems in the industry after securing a $200,000 digital transformation grant through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Agribusiness Digital Solutions Grant Program.

The funding has been established through the Palaszczuk government’s Queensland Economic Recovery plan to enhance digital skills, drive business efficiencies, and create regional jobs across Queensland.

The grant will support the QDO’s program with a total project value just shy of $650,000.

Financial assistance will be provided to over 10 eligible Queensland dairy businesses to adopt digital herd activity monitoring and management systems and serve as producer demonstration sites for the industry.

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South America


Argentine freezes meat prices, exports to resume next week but not of all cuts

Argentine Minister of Productive Development Matías Kulfas Sunday admitted the administration of President Alberto Fernández plans to both ban exports of the beef cuts most coveted by local consumers and freeze domestic prices until late this year.

Kulfas addressed these subjects during a radio interview but the official announcement is expected to be made by Fernández himself at the Casa Rosada on Tuesday after Monday’s national holiday.

The minister spoke of a “comprehensive livestock plan” in which, in addition to resuming exports, greater availability of cuts at low prices in the domestic market will be sought “to guarantee affordable prices for the cuts most consumed by Argentines.“

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table grapes

2020/21 Global Table Grape Exports Expected To Hit Record High

Like the rest of the global agricultural sector, the table grape industry has had to face a variety of challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic this past year, including soaring freight costs, labor shortfalls, worldwide shipping delays and refrigerated container shortages. In Peru, worker strikes hampered shipments in December as the country’s table grape exports were hitting one of their busiest months. In Chile, unseasonal downpours in January led to losses of up to 80% in the O’Higgins Region, the country’s largest grape production area. Meanwhile, the blockage of the Suez Canal in March created a substantial traffic jam on both sides, bringing Indian grape exports destined for Europe to a standstill.

Despite these obstacles, the table grape industry has experienced a successful season, with very little impact on the global table grape output in marketing year (MY)* 2020/21. According to a recent report by the U.S. 

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Argentina hopes to resume beef exports next week

Argentina’s Minister of Productive Development, Matías Kulfas, Thursday said meat exports are to resume next week after details to ensure proper supply to local consumers are fine-tuned.

Kulfas spoke of “a virtuous solution” being sought to give producers alternatives with “a new scheme of rules of the game” to be released at the earliest.

The current 30-day ban on meat exports ends Sunday,

“The idea is that with a new scheme of rules of the game that we have finished adjusting, next week we can resume the export path, seeking to ensure that the Argentine table is well supplied,” Kulfas said in a radio interview.

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Food Updates


Enhancing olives for highest taste and nutritional benefit

The fruits of one of the world’s oldest known cultivated trees, olives have long been revered for both their strong unique taste and health benefits. New research from China has now paved the way for enhancement of these qualities to satisfy their high demand.

The enormous popularity of the oil derived from olives, well-known for its redolent bitter taste, can largely be attributed to its health benefits, ranging from antiviral to anti-cancer, and even antihypertensive effects. These benefits are thanks to oleuropein, a bitter compound which is the most abundant olive secoiridoid found in the fruit.

An effective method for enhancing the quality of plant products is using molecular methods to manipulate their genes and enhance their yield. Until now, however, this has proved challenging with olives, owing to the lack of sufficient genome data.

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plant based food

Plant-based foods seek to shift the ‘us and them’ mentality

he newly-formed representative group for plant-based food, the Alternative Proteins Council, has warned the senate inquiry into food labelling such as vegan bacon and plant beef must be fair and evidence-based.

SEE: Senate inquiry into food labelling

To do so, the inquiry must avoid mischaracterising the matter as ‘conventional proteins versus new proteins’, as that suggests that new protein industries will grow at the expense of more conventional industries, APC said.

The organisation issued a statement on the inquiry which said the success of both industries would be necessary to meet the clear challenge ahead: to feed a world of 10 billion people by 2050 with finite resources.

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FSS publishes report on beef mince after survey finds E.coli in samples

The Scottish food safety authority has published the report after a 2019 survey found dangerous pathogens present in some beef mince samples.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has published a new report designed to address knowledge gaps around the microbial quality of beef mince sold in Scotland, after a recent survey of beef mince found Salmonella and STEC E.coli in some samples.

The survey, conducted in 2019 with 1,009 samples of beef mince on retail sale across the country, had three core objectives.

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The rise of the non-dairy consumer

Here, for New Food, Lorraine Kelly of Synergy Flavours reflects on how the increased choice of plant-based products has created a new type of buyer.

The dairy alternatives market has seen substantial growth in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. Valued at an estimated $22.6 billion globally in 2020, the non-dairy market is projected to reach $40.6 billion worldwide by 2026.1

However, recent research has found that, of the consumers who purchase non-dairy products, nearly 60 percent of those questioned in the UK and US did not consider themselves vegan.2 It is clear to see that innovation in the plant-based category is attracting more people than ever before, and building upon the ’flexitarian’ consumer profile – ie, those who choose plant-based alternatives, despite not being vegan or vegetarian.   

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Could organic farming alone feed Europe by 2050?

Scientists from France’s CNRS suggest that a more sustainable food system is possible in Europe, but certain criteria need to be fulfilled in order to achieve the ambitious goal.

Food has become one of the major challenges of the 21st century. According to a study carried out by scientists from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) as well as other European universities, an organic, sustainable, biodiversity-friendly agro-food system could be enough to feed Europe within the next 30 years or so. Implementing such a system would rely on three different processes according to the research team, all of which would need to be fulfilled in order to build an organic food system capable of sustaining the continent.  

The first would involve a change in diet. Less consumption of animal products would be pivotal to making the organic system work, as it would enable farmers to limit intensive livestock farming and eliminate feed imports – leaving more resource available for crop farming.  

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