Improving to take on the world

by Andy Bryenton

New Zealand’s primary sector is the undisputed powerhouse of our economy, set to generate close to $48 billion of export revenue in 2017. Our produce feeds close to 40 million people, making our output of dairy, beef, lamb and arable crops vital, not just to our own economic survival, but to the day-to-day survival of whole nations.

The dairy industry especially is poised to surge this year as the global economic environment begins to look more favourable. But playing on the world stage means staying ahead of the game in terms of best practices, and this vital part of the primary sector is working through a raft of farm by farm infrastructure changes to boost the quality of our finished product, and hence its desirability on the open market. 

Dairy farmers already face strict environmental restrictions, imposed by local council bodies, with regard to the treatment, storage and usage of effluent. Part of the force driving change toward better practices in this regard is the perception of, and interaction with, the wider public — a public relations and image push which prioritises cleaner waterways and an understanding that the industry is working hard to decrease its environmental footprint. Great success in this overhaul of effluent containment and reuse as fertiliser is often under-reported, but with the application of science and an investment in new tech, farms are becoming cleaner and greener than ever. 

To keep up with the expectations of the global market, the dairy industry has been extremely pro-active in self regulation. Measures such as ensuring better, healthier water supplies have come not from without but from within, with initiatives for water purity spearheaded by industry giant Fonterra seeing new standards propagated and enforced, making diary sheds more hygienic places.

To further ensure the quality of milk at collection, the next phase of the compliance programme to come into effect looks to centre around milk chiller plant and equipment.

New rules set to come into play in 2018 will require a faster cooldown for milk, direct from the cow to the pre-chiller to the vat. This may require an overhaul of some of the nation’s ‘fleet’ of chillers, and the appropriation of new tech such as ice banks, improved heat exchangers and pre-cooling add-ons. The upshot f all this investment, however, will be a more robust brand image for New Zealand’s dairy products — something which will bring tangible gains and more leverage at the trading table.