Delegations from nearly 20 countries are coming to June’s National Agricultural Fieldays as the Southern Hemisphere’s largest agricultural event underlines its reputation as an essential tool in the country’s trade relationships.
The 49th Fieldays at Mystery Creek is gearing up to be another massive event following on from last year when despite very tough economic conditions for dairying, Fieldays attracted its second highest attendance ever.
Many of the 1100 exhibitors have begun the often significant job of erecting sites and New Zealand National Fieldays Society chief executive Peter Nation says staff have inducted more than 7000 tradespeople to work on the 114 hectare property. Meanwhile volunteer numbers have been expanded this year to nearly 300 for the June 14 event.
Fieldays’ theme this year is “Leading Change” and one vital element of that is leveraging off Fieldays’ international representation, says Peter.
“We have nearly 20 countries coming to exhibit or visit.”
He says this includes a United Kingdom delegation which has extra significance in the post-Brexit era, while the many other delegations include teams from Mexican and Vietnam.
“Meanwhile China is bringing out two or three large trade missions and the Koreans are putting two entries into the Innovation Centre.”
“Trade missions are looking at either distribution in or distribution out so the platform of Fieldays enables willing buyers and sellers to come together and form trade relationships. That is why we have the International Business Centre.”
The theme “Leading Change” relates to Fieldays’ two underling goals which are growing agriculture through innovation, internationalisation and education and bringing town and country closer together.
The “pillars” of internationalisation, innovation and education are represented at the event through the International Business Centre, the Innovations Centre, and the Careers and Education Hub.
“We hope ‘Leading Change’ is a theme that our partners and exhibitors will embrace,” says Peter. “The dairy downturn has been challenging for many, but with visionary leadership and fresh, innovative thinking we can transform the future of primary production in this country.”
Peter emphasises the huge international interest in what is on offer at Fieldays.
“We are giving the licence to our 1100 exhibitors to come and show off their technology to the world,” says Peter.
“We will have about 300 media accredited here. These guys come from all over the world. Last year I was interviewed by CNN Chile.”
Last year Fieldays grew its Innovation Centre to nearly 70 entrants and Peter says an essential element added in recent years is the “wraparound” support services. A range of experts in areas such as intellectual property and attracting investment support participants in their quest to launch products to the market.
Peter says in recent years Fieldays bought into a national high level industry strategy of doubling the country’s primary industry exports by 2025. To accomplish that 50,000 more people would need to join the industry. Education is crucial and Fieldays supports this in a variety of ways.
This includes the $100,000 a year it provides to St Paul’s Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Science and Business, now rolled out to 14 schools to encourage Year 12 and 13 students into agribusiness.
“Also, last year we opened the inaugural Careers and Education Hub at Fieldays which enabled many businesses that provide scholarships and education in agribusiness to exhibit. This allowed people of all ages to come to a central point and talk about education and careers.
“That went exceptionally well and we will open it again this year.”
Peter also emphasises the impact of the Fieldays society’s work during the year which includes its Heritage Village which teaches about 6000 children annually about agriculture and heritage.
Another vital element in the education sphere is health so this year Fieldays is launching its inaugural Fieldays Health Hub.
“If you are going to get young people to move to more isolated places like Turangi or Ohura they need to know that they have health support, especially if they have young families,” says Peter.
“They need to take control of their health, not only mental health because that gets brought to the fore by a number of organisations now but also things like having an annual checkup for prostate cancer or melanoma.
“By highlighting it here we are hoping that we will get people to talk about it and increase awareness.”
He says the hub is also a great place to display innovation in the health sector such as virtual GP consultations.
Peter says such forums as the education and health hubs are vital because Fieldays is seen as a politically neutral environment where people can mix and discuss such things openly.
“That is an important part of us leading change in agriculture.”
Last year the Fieldays generated $430 million in sales revenue for New Zealand firms. There were 1507 exhibitor sites and 130,684 people through the gates over the four-day event.
New Zealand National Fieldays Society Inc is a charitable organisation founded in 1968 for the purpose of advancing primary industry.