National Conference a stand out for the Institute

This year's National Conference was held at Lincoln over the 7th and 8th of August. Combining with the rural valuers seminar increased delegate numbers beyond 230 making the event one of the largest we have ever held. We were fortunate to have a great selection of speakers covering a diverse range of topics from across the primary industry, which made this year's conference a stand out for the Institute.

The programme started with an environmental focus including a joint presentation on water quality rules and what this means in practice for the farming community by Gerard Willis (Enfocus) and Lucy De Latour (Wyn Williams Lawyers). Con Williams from ANZ then spoke on the impact of land and water management plans on productivity, profitability and property values. Phill Everest followed up by providing a rural professional's perspective on farm environmental plans, and outlined skills needed for on-farm planning.

We then looked at the latest research on mitigation strategies for reducing Nitrogen losses through animal breeding and plant science with presentations by Phil Beatson (CRVAmbreed) and Grant Edwards (Lincoln University). Ron Pellow discussed his experience on improving efficiency to reduce Nitrogen losses, and in increasing performance and maintaining financial viability.

John Roche of DairyNZ considered key lessons following the very recent dairy downturn that shouldn?t be forgotten, and posed the question to delegates on whether they are providing their clients the advice they want or the advice that they need.

Our closing speaker for the first day was Ian Proudfoot of KPMG and his topic was 'If you're comfortable get out now - complacency is no longer an option'. Ian set the scene on the future challenges on the horizon and outlined his thoughts on where New Zealand food and fibre products needed to be positioned in the future.

On the second day we were fortunate to have Merlyn Hay from Vetlife speak on the recent Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in South Canterbury. Merlyn provided a firsthand account of the discovery of the disease, information about Mycoplasma bovis and symptoms to look out for.

Christine Pitt of Meat and Livestock Australia spoke on the global food and agribusiness megatrends occurring, as well as disruption likely to impact both on and off farm operations. She also described some future disruptions currently impacting the red meat industry and the need for more investment in riskier Horizon 3 research given the pace of change likely to impact the primary industry.

Hamish Gow of Massey University then outlined a design thinking approach to better engage with farmers, and lead delegates through a design thinking process, emphasising that creative problem defining is far more valuable than creative problem solving. Rob Ford (Landcorp) and Darryn Pegram (FarmIQ) then provided case studies in the application of design principles in the development of products and services within their businesses.

This session was followed by two concurrent streams. The Governance and Finance stream included the following presentations:

  • Peter Allen (Business Torque Systems): Overcoming staleness of governance within the boardroom - How to spark change
  • Brent Goldsack (PwC): Key lessons from the financial crunch - How to implement changes into the dairy farming business, and what do rural professionals need to consider in rebuilding the balance sheet
  • Chris Bloor (Reserve Bank of NZ): Rural debt profile and what this means for recapitalising debt burdened businesses, including the availability of capital

The second Extension stream including the following presentations:

  • Kate Sargeant (DairyNZ): Update on the Dairy Farm Systems Certification Scheme and Whole Farm Assessment process
  • Carolyn Bushel (DairyNZ) and James Allen (AgFirst): If the shoe fits - Supporting your clients to make informed decisions mapping out management structures and career progression options
  • Sarah Watson (People Mad): The power of negotiation and key strategies for success

In the closing session Collier Issacs (FarmIQ), Richard Fitzgerald (RMPP), Michael White (Ravensdown) and Innes Moffat (P2P) provided a summary on their Primary Growth Partnership programmes, and outlined the role and opportunities for rural professionals under their respective PGP programmes.

The final presentation was by Stephen Macaulay (NZIPIM) reporting on his Winston Churchill Fellowship on new and emerging technologies likely to impact upon the primary industry, and discussed how rural professionals might position themselves to respond to greater uncertainty in the future.

Next year's conference will be held in Hamilton in August 2018. We look forward to seeing you there.