Consumer focus needed: speaker Event puts spotlight on the future

NZX Limited head of analytics Julia Jones speaks at DairyNZ's Spotlight on Future of Southern Farming event in Invercargill last Thursday. She is watched by neXtgen director Mark Ferguson (centre) and DairyNZ's Richard Kyte.
NZX Limited head of analytics Julia Jones speaks at DairyNZ's Spotlight on Future of Southern Farming event in Invercargill last Thursday. She is watched by neXtgen director Mark Ferguson (centre) and DairyNZ's Richard Kyte. Photo: Ken Muir
The need for farmers to engage directly with their end consumers was the key refrain at DairyNZ's Spotlight on Future of Southern Farming event in Invercargill last Thursday.

In opening the event, Longwood farmer Ewen Matheson said farmers have traditionally focused on their systems and not enough on the viewpoint of the consumers they needed to engage with.

''Once people understand more clearly what farmers are doing, they will be more accepting and able to place farming practices in a more informed context,'' he said.

''The focus on the environment and emissions is not going to go away and we not only need to take action but we also have to explain ourselves better.''

One of the keynote speakers, Dr Mark Ferguson from neXtgen , told the 150 attendees at the Invercargill Workingmen's club that overseas people love our farming activity but there was a need tell our story properly and paint a clear picture of our ethical farming practices.

''While we do need to address practices in parts of our dairy industry, it's important we don't get too distracted,'' he said.

''We still have a positive story to tell about the efforts at mitigation of less desirable impacts we are making.''

He said there was now a need to make changes in one hit, although there was a need to continue progress as well as adjusting our sights on the premium consumer market.

''We need to make sure we have the energy to innovate while focusing on doing the best job we can.''

Julia Jones, head of analytics at NZX Limited, said there was a need to come to terms with the rate of change facing farmers.

''We shouldn't get distracted by new fads such as artificial protein,'' she said. ''We need to play the game the best we can in the face of disrupters.''

She said farmers also needed to come to terms with the fact there was not just one type of consumer out there, and addressing their demands was not just a ''set and forget'' exercise.

''Farmers need to stay ahead of the curve,'' she said. ''We have to keep listening and keep moving.''

She said targeting premium markets may mean farmers' products might just be an ingredient in another product.

''We need to make sure we are not anonymous inside someone else's output.

''Without making sure we have recognition, we will be condemned to being a commodity producer.''

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