Turning NZ into the eco valley of the world

Alex Worker sees a future for New Zealand as the eco valley of the world, producing ethical, technology enabled food to help feed Asia Pacific more sustainably.

That may be a big ask, but this innovator and future-focused thinker is already well on track and as a 2022 AGMARDT Leadership Scholar will be furthering his goal.

The founding Chair of Future Food Aotearoa, a collective of food entrepreneurs committed to growing New Zealand’s foodtech industry, Alex has an extensive international career in food and agribusiness.

He has over a decade’s experience in sales, marketing and management for Fonterra in China and New Zealand, and wider experience in new ventures and business development across Australasia, the Americas, Greater China, and Asia Pacific – including co-founding and directing China’s first culinary incubator, Hatchery.

Aware of the changing dynamics of the global food industry, the challenges of climate change, population growth and changing customer needs and preferences, Alex sees significant opportunity for New Zealand to transform into a modern food system.

“Like any good garden, Aotearoa’s food system requires thought, care and attention. With the right knowledge, experience and leadership, New Zealand could become to food, what Silicon Valley is to software. We could become the Eco Valley of the world producing sustainable, technology-enabled and ethical foods.

“To do this we need to take a systems approach looking globally at what’s possible, where demand is heading, and where New Zealand fits in. Understanding our role in this value chain, investing in food technology and IP, and feeding both China and US with higher quality nutrition is our opportunity”.

Having lived in Asia for over 15 years, Alex is now based in Queenstown with his wife and young family and passionately pursuing his goal. He splits his time between several ventures, including leading the launch of Impossible Foods’ meats from plants into New Zealand.

“Once New Zealanders and farmers start to experience the delicious meat taste of Impossible that’s made from plants, they’ll open to a new world of possibilities.”

Alex is also a partner in two New Zealand foodtech ventures LILO Desserts and NewFish. LILO is focused on harnessing fruit waste, the 10% that never makes it out of the orchard and turning it into novel plant-based desserts. NewFish is scaling up use of micro-algae as a powerful, protein rich future food from New Zealand.

And he sits on the steering committee of Te Hono, a partnership between food and fibre sector industry leaders, iwi, and government agencies with a vision to turn New Zealand into a global food and fibre exemplar economically, environmentally and socially. He also sits on MPI’s food and beverage industry transformation plan advisory board.

Focused on further honing his governance skills to better represent New Zealand’s growing pipeline of food entrepreneurs, Alex will be using the AGMARDT Leadership Scholarship to complete Harvard Kennedy School’s Public Leadership Credential programme.

“With the Harvard programme, my aim is to significantly upgrade my governance, public good thinking and leadership skills to have a greater impact on the betterment of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“I’m really grateful for AGMARDT’s support. It’s a progressive signal to take a risk on my type of profile. In turn I hope to de-risk their investment and use the opportunity to drive real, collective impact across New Zealand’s food and fibre sector.”

2022 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards open

We are very excited that the search has begun to find Aotearoa New Zealand’s most exceptional primary sector employers.

Entries have opened for the 2022 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards, which are run by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and AGMARDT.

“The Awards provide the opportunity to recognise and celebrate outstanding employers across the primary sector that may otherwise fly under the radar,” said MPI’s director of investment, skills and performance Cheyne Gillooly.

“The sector has been resilient throughout the pandemic and the hard mahi of farmers, growers and processors is leading our export-led recovery from COVID-19.

“Revenue from food and fibres exports is predicted to hit a record $50.8 billion in the year to 30 June 2022.”

The primary sector employs about 367,000 people, representing almost 14% of the total workforce.

“Since the Primary Industries Good Employer Awards were launched in 2018, 9 employers – ranging from transport companies, to environmental guardians and agritech innovators – have received accolades,” said Mr Gillooly.

“We’re on the lookout for employers, both large and small, who go above and beyond by creating productive, safe, supportive, and healthy work environments for their people.

“Our Fit for a Better World economic roadmap sets a goal of employing 10 percent more New Zealanders in the primary sector by 2030.”

Read more and apply for the awards here.