Boot Camp looks at the future of NZ's food and fibre industry

Leadership Network member Florence Van Dyke recently attended the Te Hono Bootcamp - a conference that brought together business leaders, iwi and government agencies to discuss the future of New Zealand’s food and fibre sector. In this article, she outlines some of her key takeaways from the te hono, including New Zealand's unique selling points and the threat of climate change. Florence was supported to attend with a Leadership Network travel grant.
Florence Van Dyke

Florence: "We delved into and debated some of the big questions around the future of the food and fibre sector in Aotearoa"

In the last week of June I spent four days at Te Hono Bootcamp hosted by Ngāpuhi at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Te Hono is a partnership between the leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand’s food and fibre sector, businesses, iwi and government agencies. I was invited on behalf of Future Food Aotearoa: a founders movement to accelerate the growth and impact of future food businesses from New Zealand

We listened and learned from Stanford University’s top business school professors including Robert Burgleman the brain behind the ‘blue triangle’ ‘green triangle’ business models; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the opportunities and challenges facing New Zealand’s agricultural sector; and a global leader on Climate Change Johan Rockström Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. 

Most importantly we had the opportunity to ‘hono’, to ‘connect’ with leaders across dairy, meat, wool, horticulture, foresty, crop, plant-based foods, iwi, government and trade. We connected in true ‘bootcamp’ style at 5:30am boxing classes, conference by day and hangi and Kono wines by evening, all from a special place of connection for Aotearoa: the grounds of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We delved into and debated some of the big questions around the future of the food and fibre sector in Aotearoa.

Here are my top learnings:

  1. In Aotearoa we have a unique opportunity learn from Te Ao Māori, a Maori worldview. The manaaki by Ngāpuhi at Waitangi, from the pōwhiri to the kapa haka to the whakawātea was felt by all across the week. We have the opportunity to learn from Maori to understand manaakitanga and to understand whakapapa. If we can do this in the right way we will have our own unique blueprint for sustainability and best business practice. We will have a leading edge on the world stage and an authentic story worth sharing.
  2. Climate change is the biggest threat to our generation. Unless we make radical changes, it will have severe consequences for the generations to come. The impacts of climate change on market behaviour will affect all of the New Zealand food and fibre sector. Mark Kennedy of Kantar discussed the history of consumer demands. This history began with quality products that were rare and desired and defined demand. Today, businesses and products that make a positive impact are rare and desired and define demand. Taking leadership on sustainability and in particular climate change is not only the right thing to do for the planet; but a core driver of business growth today and in the future.
  3. Hannah Tucker of Disruption Dinners and former co-worker of U.S. Vice President Al Gore at Generation Investment Management led us through the future of the meat sector globally, which she says is set to diverge on two distinct paths: regenerative meats, purchased at a premium; and artificial meats made in a lab or from plants. New Zealand has the opportunity to succeed in the former, and if we play our cards right, the latter too. They are not mutually exclusive. As market trends shift towards more sustainable options we will see growth in sources of protein that are less intensive on the environment. New Zealand has the opportunity to become a genuine and authentic leader in regenerative, low-carbon, and sustainable farming and can and should be open to partnering and learning from the plant protein sector too. 
  4. "Change is essential! Change is lonely! Change is rewarding!” :John Brackenridge, NZ Merino. We learned from Robert Bugleman of Stanford on change in the corporate world and the tensions between ‘blue triangles’ and ‘green triangles’. The bigger a company grows, the bigger the ‘blue triangle’ and the more difficult it is to integrate, innovative, radical ideas known as the ‘green triangle’. This green triangle is what John Brackenridge would describe as essential change. The processes that make a core business strong may also impede positive change and innovation. For ‘blue triangles’ making space for corporate entrepreneurship, through collaboration and partnership, is a critical tool for growth of new ideas. There are opportunities for big and small businesses in New Zealand to collaborate and partner more often. This will enable our biggest companies to remain innovative with the addition of green triangles and it will enable our brightest ideas to gain traction with the resource of our blue triangles. I wondered leaving this session how New Zealand businesses and organisations can get better and talking, learning, and sharing with each other; not just at conferences but in genuine, trusting partnerships.

Florence is the CEO at Chia Sisters, a FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) company creating healthy bottled beverages. Florence is a lawyer by training, previously working with one of New Zealand’s leading corporate law firms and for the UN in Cambodia on the Khmer Rouge Trials. Florence has a long-standing interest in sustainability and is a founding member of youth environment organisation Generation Zero. She has also represented New Zealand in triathlon. In 2019 she was named a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. Florence joined the Leadership Network in 2016.