The weather gods smiled and Fieldays drew a healthy crowd of 128,747 as the agricultural showpiece notched up its 51st year.
Politicians and business leaders were notable for their presence, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attending on two days.
The event’s growing significance was further underlined for chief executive Peter Nation by a comment from the Ireland Minister of Trade that Fieldays is seen as a world class agricultural event.
He said Fieldays, which has been based on technology and innovation, is becoming a meeting and networking event as well. “Because you know that definitely on the Wednesday and Thursday you’ll find most of the senior leaders of the big companies.”
With more than 300 international delegates visiting for trade opportunities, Nation said for him one of the proudest moments was at the opening, when the flags of 11 countries were flying.
“There’s no other non-government event that can pull that many countries and put New Zealand on the world stage,” he said.
“The feedback I’ve had from a lot of organisations is for them it was full of lots of opportunities for meetings with other organisations and interactions with international visitors.”
Post-event he said he met one government official who asked whether Fieldays could supply more meeting rooms because she could fill them with trade and agri discussions.
Sales of big ticket items like tractors were “probably a bit reserved”, but some other companies reported record sales, Nation said.
Meanwhile, tweaks to technology are bearing fruit, with Nation saying at peak they were processing more than 300 ticket holders a minute through the gates, many using pre-issued etickets downloaded to their phones. Nation said pre-sales were well up on last year.
“At 8 oclock on Wednesday morning, on the cameras at gate 1, I could see people standing there and could see the glow of their phones, so they were all standing in line with their phone open on their ticket, which is really cool because it means they get the technology.”
Also up on last year were downloads of the app, with more than 40,000 compared with last year’s 34,000. Nation said there was also good uptake of the new wrist bands, with more than 10,000 issued on day one alone. “Some of the exhibitors are reporting huge referral through the wristband so that system has worked really well.”
Nation was also pleased with use of the Health Hub. “I’ve seen the early numbers and they are well up. Those people go to the Health Hub because they want to learn about health and wellbeing, and as we know from last year we saved some lives, so that’s pretty cool.”
Waikato organisations made a healthy showing at the Innovations Centre, with Future Post, St Paul’s Collegiate and ModuSense all picking up awards, along with Gallagher, which teamed up with inventor Murray Jones to win the International Innovation Award.