Future farms will provide high value customers what they eat for love and joy
Finding niche markets, disrupting existing ones, and going the extra mile are essential if New Zealand is to retain its position as a top level agricultural producer.
That's the view of KPMG's global head of rural Ian Proudfoot.
"What we've assumed to be a farm in the past would not necessarily be a farm in the future," he told the Future Farms conference in Palmerston North on Wednesday.
"The average farmer doesn't exist, the average consumer doesn't exist. To create value we need to dig down and find the niche," he said, suggesting age and religious beliefs could be two areas to look at tailoring products for.
"We need to solve our consumers' problems."
With the sector changing rapidly, disrupting current markets won't be enough to keep up though as constant change will be key.
For example, Dolly the cloned sheep was a world first just 20 years ago and now China is spending huge sums to mass produce GM animals, he said.
While New Zealand agricultural products have a good environmental and sustainable reputation globally, there is more that can be done to increase value.
"If you just do what the law says [around environmental regulation], you will never get paid a premium because nobody pays you a premium for doing what you have to," Proudfoot said.
"But if you do what's right [sustainably] then you create a story and that's what people pay for.
"High value customers have the desire to eat for love and joy. The opportunity is high and farmers will chose if we embrace that," Proudfoot said.
It's not all doom and gloom for New Zealand despite the latest drop in milk prices, an economics professor also told the conference.
Waikato University's Frank Scrimgeour said many countries globally were predicting economic growth and that would flow through to New Zealand.
"In the general scheme of things, things aren't too bad at the moment. We're not in one of the very depressing moments in our history,"
That said, there were big differences across the agricultural sectors with dairy the most pressured and more consolidation was inevitable,
This was likely to come in the form of continued foreign investment, but care should be taken over rash reports of a China takeover.
"Cash is still cheap offshore. We shouldn't be surprised if overseas investors continue to seek opportunities here.
"Australia is still the biggest source [of overseas investment], China is still a long way down the list despite the amount of press comment it generates," Scrimgeour said.
"We need to keep our hats on about foreigners coming in and buying assets here.
"If we expect to be able to invest in agriculture around the world,surely we need to play the same game with people coming here," he said.