In the rush to all things digital, are we missing a biological trick?

New Zealand is missing a trick when it comes to the startup weekend, incubator, accelerator programme ecosystem that’s got lots of attention lately.

And sure, I can appreciate how the digital side of things is extremely quick at developing and validating a business through processes such as Lightning Lab.

Where I wonder if we’re underplaying to one of our strengths, is in the biology/technology economy (the analogue economy perhaps?).

What would be the new research and commercialisation projects if we had fired up scientists, engineers, manufacturers,  hands-on finance and distribution people, digital experts and some other odd and even people hothoused in a similar way to the incubator models?

How much learning, cross-fertilisation and ‘ideas-worth-pursuing’ could we generate?

Would the intersection of different peoples’ thinking create new opportunities?

The answer is surely it would.

But still, you’ve got to wonder whether the gift that mother nature has given us to produce biological raw materials isn’t being leveraged to anywhere near the extent we can and should be doing.

As far as I’m aware, there’s no forum that brings a width of sector participants together to collaboratively cook up new schemes.

Obviously, the dairy, meat, wool, forestry, and fishing sectors have their conferences – but they tend to be only mildly looking-over-the-horizon talk fests.

It is rare that people come away from such events with the attitude “I didn’t realise that,” or “I wonder if there’s an opportunity with…”

Now, the last thing I’m suggesting is our country should be either digital or analogue; we should do both, and both should and do inform each other.

Examples include TracMap, started by a former Wrightson colleague Colin Brown – which has expanded from using GPS and other clever computing to expand from helping fertiliser to be applied more accurately, to a range of markets under the heading ‘Situation awareness made easy’.

In fact there’s any number of digital/analogue connections for New Zealand’s primary industry – as evidenced at last year’s initial mobile tech forum.

However, we’re less good at the market end, adding value in areas such as functional foods, or ramping up the use of wood fibre as a multi-talented resource.

I appreciate I’m merely stating the problem without coming up with many answers.

But, how can we as self-described inventive Kiwis, create and explore biological/technologydigital opportunities better; much better?




About sticknz

sticK is by Peter Kerr, a writer for hire. I have a broad science and technology background and interest, with an original degree in agricultural science. My writing speciality is making the complex understandable. I am available for outside consultancy work, and for general discussions of converting a good idea into something positive
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4 Responses to In the rush to all things digital, are we missing a biological trick?

  1. I believe the proposed incubators are supposed to be covering the analogue space (and I also agree that it’s not a black and white distinction). Certainly the Minister and Callaghan Innovation have a stated vision to see successful commercialisation of a wide range of technological opportunities. where { (tech) > (digital) }.

  2. Jane Shearer says:

    I don’t think the scenario is quite as bad as you are painting it. The PGP has definitely incentivised a large number of industries to combine technology with primary industry; many of these are still in the developmental phase so you won’t have seen the outcomes. But they include high tech fish harvesting equipment, in-flight land mapping for best aerial distribution of fertiliser, use of technology to reframe how the avocado industry approaches its sales, distribution and quality standards, amongst others. Another example would be how the STIC Consortium brought an engineering approach to developing long span timber buildings and adding value to timber. It is amazing how much the availability of money creates incentives!

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  4. drllau says:

    The Do-it-Yourself bio scene is active … let’s consider fact that NZ is only 4 million people, and the percentage interested in this rather than say 3d printer is probably small in absolute numbers. What you might need is an artifact that intersects everything like bioprinting, lab on chip and financial incentives to improve agritech.

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