The next generation is leading the way in diversifying agriculture. If you think “angus beef” when you think about “farm grown protein”, you’re probably thinking along the same lines as 99% of the population. However, if you ask Jack Keeys he may hit you with a slightly different response that would have you thinking twice about that protein shake.
The truth is insects can provide the most efficient source of protein in the world. Jack knows this all too well, with a cricket farm already established, he has his sights set on a Weta farm next. Before anyone starts questioning the sustainability of that tiny milking shed; Jack is breeding the Weta partially as a conservation effort and partially for sale as a luxury food item for international markets.
Professor Jacqueline Rowarth the University of Waikato has been a key influencer in Jack’s alternative value added production system. The pair concur that Kiwi farmers need to get consumer conscious production behind the farm gate right first, before considering value added products. Jacqueline is a passionate advocate for agri and explains that we “under-appreciate the market value we’re getting, we don’t realise that consumers appreciate our country’s image that we have and are retaining”. With this in mind Jack adds that “sustainability is no longer a point of difference but an expectation” for New Zealand.
Jack makes a point to highlight that in future if NZ agri is to progress we cannot just be meeting expectations, but we must be exceeding them. The goal of improvement in agri isn’t just the responsibility for farmers but should be a focus for everyday kiwis. New Zealanders enjoying their culture and the interaction between both urban & rural dwellers is a necessity to achieve full understanding for all parties.
Recently Jack helped lead the Rabobank Agri Leadership Programme. The initiative aimed to open people’s eyes to the opportunities and challenges in agri by visiting 11 agribusiness companies with a group of school aged students. Jack hoped to show these young people that “agri is more than farming, it’s agribusiness, if you don’t understand the whole economy before the farm gate you’re not going to get it right in the market place.”
Jack voiced these opinions and others at the official launch of 2016 New Zealand Agri Investment Week. He presented to, and impressed, the select audience of high-profile, agribusiness leaders. Keep an eye out as Jack continues to blaze his trail in the agri world.