Māori landowner’s contribution to feeding the world

By Jessica Tyson

In 2050 the world population is estimated to reach 10 billion and one of humankind's biggest challenges will be sourcing sustainable food. That’s according to Arama Kukutai who says New Zealand agriculture innovation and Māori landowners can help towards finding solutions.

Kukutai grew up in Ngaruawahia and is of Ngāti Maniapoto and Tainui descent.  For the past decade, he’s worked as the co-founder of a global investment company, Finistere Ventures, in the United States.

This week he’s back in New Zealand to invest in agricultural companies.

"We produce enough food in New Zealand to feed about 40 million people.  Most of our food is being exported by big companies like Fonterra, Zespri, the wine industry,” he says.

Other major challenges affecting food production around the world include the shrinking amount of land available to grow crops, urbanisation and deforestation.  There’s also the dire effects climate change and pollution on the environment.

Māori landowners

Kukutai says companies around the world should to follow in the footsteps of Māori landowners to minimise pollution in order to grow more food.

"New Zealand's at least taking on and confronting the challenge.  This is not news to Māori landowners who have a long-term view as kaitiaki, thinking about the stewardship of land which I think there’s a lot to learn from.”

That environmental emphasis reflects the strong spiritual bonds between Māori and Papatuanuku, the land.

Kukutai says Māori knowledge, practice and culture could be beneficial for other groups around the world to follow.

“Māori landowners are amongst the largest private landowners in New Zealand and have a long-lasting commitment to improving the use of those lands,” he says.

Technology

Technology is another key to improving productivity and sustainability, according to Kukutai.

 "One that was created here by maanaki whenua, Land Care- and a company called CropX.  They’re using sensors in the ground to tell how much water there is and where nutrients are flowing."

His company Finistere Ventures has been investing in New Zealand agritech since 2014 along with other companies including Zeakal, Biolumic and Invert Robotics, which provides remote robotic inspection services for the food and beverage industry.

Kukutai is setting up a new office for Finistere Ventures in Palmerston North where he plans to build relationships with more New Zealand companies and iwi.