<em>Floreat Scientia: Celebrating New Zealand’s Agrifood Innovation</em>
New Zealand’s agrifood innovation is very much more than Gallagher’s, Trutest and Glaxo; Floreat Scientia makes that abundantly clear across sectors and the value chain. As one reads through the history and potential, it is clear that New Zealand agrifood, from paddock to plate and block to bowl, has always pushed the frontiers of conventional practice. Innovation rules – far more than the number-8 wire concept – enabling the New Zealand agrifood industry to meet the needs, wants and desires of the consumer, noting that the list includes ‘value’ as well as variety, taste, novelty and health.
Within that list can be included ‘sustainability’. This aspect is part of the story, and chapters by Dr Bert Quin on fertiliser technologies and Professor Ian Yule on precision agriculture show the importance of their ideas to New Zealand’s ability to produce food with minimum environmental impact.
Overall, however, consumers want value, and although value means different things to different socio-economic groups, New Zealand agrifood has continued to meet the range of requirements and expectations. This is why agrifood has remained the backbone of the economy, despite all expectations and government statements to the contrary.
The book is divided into three main sections – Preamble, Innovation: exemplars, and Looking to the Future. The Preamble contains the rationale for the book, a quotable chapter on innovation and economic growth (innovation requires dispersion and absorption, not just ideas) and a brief history of innovation in agrifood. From this platform the exemplars cover meat, milk, mussels, fruit and cereals, as well as pasture and grazing. There is no obvious pattern to the presentation of topics. Lactose comes between kiwifruit and apples, for instance, and spreadable butter between ryegrass endophyte and animal breeding… but for night-time reading it might be that variety enables interest to be maintained. The exemplar chapters are perfect for school science project information, and for general interest.
The chapters in the third section (Looking to the Future) build from what has already been conceived in the agrifood sector, and is already being done. Genetically engineered plants, functional foods and nutrigenomics have been in the lexicon for some time. Food of the Future (written by Professor Mike Boland) suggests that the most likely changes in food will be towards more foods of vegetable origin as meat extenders or substitutes. For most people this is not an unnatural concept, whereas the snail porridge and bacon-and-egg icecream from the previous chapter might cause some eyebrows to be raised and some taste buds to shrivel…
The final chapter (written by Mark Ward) focuses on how to achieve the future of food and ensure that New Zealand continues to play a major role in its development. Building capability, capacity and international linkages is still the answer.
Floreat Scientia has been written by experts in individual fields. The experts come from Crown research institutes, universities and agrifood businesses. Each chapter is complete unto itself. This leads to a certain amount of overlap in such introductory statements as ‘agriculture is and has always been the backbone of the country’ but as the book is most likely to be read a chapter or two at a time, overlap does emphasise the importance of the industry.
The Riddet Institute has done a service to the country by bringing these stories together. Floreat Scientia should be in all libraries so that everybody in New Zealand has the opportunity to learn easily about the agrifood heritage as well as the great opportunities for the future.
Jacqueline Rowarth is Professor of Pastoral Agriculture, Massey University. She is also President of the New Zealand Grassland Association and a member of the Biological and Life Sciences Advisory Committee of the Royal Society of New Zealand.