Agrifood Week: Coming Together for Food Sustainability

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Arama Kukutai, Ngati Tipa, Tainui, Maniapoto and Te Aupouri, is a seasoned entrepreneur and visionary leader in the agritech industry. 

In January 2022 he was appointed CEO of Plenty Unlimited Inc., an indoor, vertical farming technology company that can grow clean produce year-round, anywhere in the world. Kukutai has over two decades of leadership within farming, agriculture investment and sustainability. He also serves as co-founder and partner at Finistere Ventures, a pioneering venture firm dedicated to identifying and nurturing promising agribusiness and food tech companies. 

Kukutai began his career working with Iwi to develop a dairy farming platform, after a settlement had been reached with the government. During this period he was exposed to the many new technologies coming out of agriculture, and this led to his involvement with Israel. 

Kukutai is now based in San Diego, California. He has just attended the AgriFood week in Tel Aviv and has written the following report. 

 

This past week saw an international gathering of startups, investors and corporate come together in Israel for the first time since 2019.  The Future Food Tech and Agrivest events roared back to life with record numbers as business travelers returned to the “Startup Nation” in the wake of COVID-19 travel limitations and challenges.  

Remarkably in a time of multiple economic and geo-political shocks, these events were a testament to resilience and optimism in the power of technology and entrepreneurship to help shape tangible responses to the current food and climate crises.  

Strauss Chairwomen, Ofra Strauss gave a ringing endorsement to the power of collaboration and shared purpose in her opening speech, the Future Food Tech event.  Beyond the multitude of startups, the buzz in the room and trade displays, Strauss’ simple message was clear:  we have a responsibility to come together to ensure sustainable food for all, and to use our innovation culture as a “Tribe” to help save the planet.  

There were many parallels to the efforts by the New Zealand Ag and food communities to find a way forward in the face of some unprecedented challenges whether in the form of climate impact, adaptation of Ag, changing regulatory and legislative impacts on land, carbon and investment.  Focus areas included frank discussion on the viability and speed bumps being experienced in Alt-proteins, and climate adaptation in Ag, as well as digitizing the farm and decarbonization.

Another clear message was the importance of these events in creating a forum for knowledge sharing, and breaking down barriers of distance and culture.  It was fantastic as a kiwi to see a strong presence from New Zealand through Agritech NZ, NZ Trade & Enterprise, and Ambassador Zoe Coulson-Sinclair at these events, on the other side of the world.  With our own startup aspirations, one cannot discount the value of learning and connectedness.  

The Plenty Team in Tel Aviv

Personally this was a great opportunity to renew the fellowship with so many great Israeli companies and leaders, as we explore the opportunity to grow indoor Ag footprint for our company Plenty.  There is a wealth of compelling technology that can feed into the development of these new farming approaches, and we look forward to being back in the Startup nation soon.