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How might New Zealand and New Zealand agriculture look in 10 years’ time?

Inspiration often comes to me when flying. What do you do with your brain when travelling, because mine just won't stay in neutral.

In 10 years New Zealand will not look like it does today. Sure the farmland will still be all there and the cities still the same, but the pricing and structures will have changed forever.

The number of dairy farms will have halved. There will be many more boutique dairy factories starting to compete with Fonterra. There will be a lot of leasing of land where the owners are the barons and the tenants are the serfs. The 50/50 sharemilker as we know it may well be a thing of the past.

The water will have been taken out of the milk at the farm, and the tankers will only take away the raw product. Interestingly, the technology for this is already here. Everything will be done by computers and they will control every part of our lives and our farms. They will track all food from gate to plate with electronics, and everybody will be accountable.

The non-economic blocks of land which have been cut away from the larger dairy farms, now called lifestyle blocks, will be in strong demand, as people exit the cities for space and naturally gown food in their vegetable gardens.

The supermarkets will have been through the domination of the food source and chain, and will be on the way out as people go to the farmers markets, where they can purchase fresh food direct from the grower. This is very prominent overseas, and I see already there is a farmers market being started at Tamahere, a small country village just out of Hamilton.

If you produce a food crop, you will be in clover, so to speak. The demand for fresh food will be very strong. Much of your domestic food will arrive at your door by courier, having been ordered on the internet the night before. The public will be demanding naturally grown food as distinct from organic.

Interestingly, we personally have just started Avodirect, which will see us courier avocados all over New Zealand, naturally grown, export quality right to people's door, and it will be all internet based.

Cancer will be more prevalent as we grapple with the food nutrient balances, and too much processed food. We will all be looking very carefully at what we eat, in an effort to stay away from nasties and stay alive. The GE food will be in our food chain by then, and the flow on effect from this has yet to be seen.

A number of our farms will have been rendered toxic from years of excess nitrogen, phosphorus and potash applications. These farms will have to beretired to light grazing, to allow the imbalances to be rectified, and the nutrient levels brought back into balance.

And if you think land is expensive now, in 10 years you won't be able to buy it, because with inflation raging, land prices will have have doubled, if not trebled by then, putting land further out of the reach for many.

There will be much more security fencing around productive land. There will be gates, censors and video surveillance everywhere. This will be to stop people helping themselves to farmers crops. Again, you only have to look at the avocado industry, which now look like deer farms. Where the hinds were behind the fence, they have been taken away and replaced with avocado trees. Sadly the gap between the haves and the have nots will increase rapidly.

Fuel prices will be $5.00 - $10.00 per litre, and this will have also caused the economy to slow. We will have been through peak oil. That is the day demand exceeds supply, and petrol by then may be $10.00 per litre. Cars will be small and they will all be a combination of fuel and electricity. Farmers will be walking, and the old farm hack will be used to save fuel. Imagine oiling up that old saddle, and going to get the cows on the horse.

Dairy production may well have moved back towards all grass farming, as fuel prices make it prohibitive to have high input farming with machinery running everywhere. Well maybe the demand for our good quality food will have pushed the prices higher, which enable the farmers to afford to run all that gear.

Wind power and solar power will be everywhere, as we try to reduce our reliance on fuel. We will have wet-backs for hot water cylinders and so on. We will be collecting our roof water into rain water tanks and pumping it back into the house, rather than using chlorine fortified water to drink. Water will be a much more scarce resource, and there will be competition for it, as demand exceeds supply. There will be big issues around supply of irrigation water, particularly in the South Island.

Families will be arriving home from around the world to get space and peace on the farm. The family unit will strengthen as people team together to make a better life, using the farm as a base and a food source. Furthermore, the family will go back to doing much of the work on the farm as the pricing of labour and the difficulties of supply will be very prevalent.

In summary, these are some of the thoughts that course through my brain, which won't stay in neutral as I wait for the next flight, and ponder the possibilities that might affect our future and how New Zealand and New Zealand agriculture might look.

My advice is that if you own land you keep it, but more than, that look closely at the ownership structures and the succession issues, so it stays available for your family. Land is becoming a scarce resource, and should be treated accordingly.


 

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