Opportunities for agri-technology in a weightless economy

The company I am privileged to lead, AbacusBio, plays a role in using science and technology to improve agriculture internationally.  We work in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China and close to 30% of our revenue comes from off-shore.

Often I am asked by New Zealand farmers whether we should be exporting our know-how:
  Does that undercut our competitive advantage? 

It’s a good question and one I have considered a lot. 

In some cases, we need to protect what we have and the trials and tribulations of the kiwifruit industry have shown us that.  In general though, I believe the opportunities internationally for “productising” and selling our knowledge, far outweigh the risks.

The concept of a weightless economy was first mooted a decade ago and at the time, it felt like an either-or scenario; either we sell agricultural food products or we sell weightless goods like software. 

I think we have matured into realising that weightless and weighted exports can exist side-by-side and we should be growing both pies. 

Think about a company like Xero, who can sell the same product over-and-over again to the same customers. Wouldn’t it be great if we could sell the same glass of milk over-and-over again to the same consumers? 

That might not be possible, but elements of the know-how we have built from years and years of being at the forefront of pastoral farming can be productised and sold over-and-over again if we package it up in a smart way.

Food production skills are in demand internationally as countries attempt to increase trade and/or become more self-sufficient. In my travels, I have found that there are incredibly smart agriculturalists wherever you go and these people will find a way to better their industries with or without New Zealand support. 

For me it makes sense to be part of an international food production community.  In fact, by working internationally we gain more than we receive. Seeing different ways of doing things, working across different cultures and challenging ourselves to always make a difference, means we can continue to be innovative for both New Zealand agriculture and international agriculture. 

Within the New Zealand agricultural community, we have the skills to lead the country in both the weightless and the weighted economy. 

The attitude and skills of the Gen-X and Millennial generations blow my mind.  They have been brought up in a world where sharing knowledge across global boundaries is nothing new. 

As an agricultural industry, we need to harness people with that attitude and develop our own “Xeros”; companies which make use of the advances in agri-technology and allow us to be at the forefront of the weightless economy. 

This is a proposition to be excited by, not scared of. 


An innovative and strategic thinker, Anna specialises in using commercially focused science to improve agricultural food products.

She has broad industry experience in both the meat and cereal sectors and a drive to use science and technology to improve such industries globally.

Anna is a strong advocate for science and industry working together to find solutions to challenges associated with global food security. She believes solutions will be driven by trusted relationships across countries and mutual understanding of commercial imperatives.