Emerging Markets for Kiwi Farmers

Pursuit of Yield
February 21, 2024
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From goat farming to agritourism, New Zealand’s farming industry is discovering a whole range of new and exciting possibilities. With so many challenges, farming is continuously changing and there is a big shift towards sustainable practices. While this can be overwhelming for farmers, it also offers the opportunity to think outside the box and try something new.

Untapped markets like sunflower oil are proving successful around the globe with excellent profit margins, sustainable solutions and new employment opportunities. With fewer competition and high financial growth, these markets are opening new doors for our farming community.

In this issue, we will explore some of the most promising emerging markets for kiwi farmers, with useful stats and resources to get you started.


Over the last few years, staff shortages, wage increases and changes to migrant work visas have become a constant battle for farmers. Luckily, with the emergence of new technology, the future's looking brighter. Farmers who embrace the shift towards new tools like drones and robotics, will be able to boost their productivity without relying so heavily on staff.

According to FMG, the move towards robotics will become more prevalent over the next five years. Why? Well, agricultural robots are currently being developed for planting, pollinating, harvesting and even sorting produce. This will alleviate some of the staffing challenges and increase growing capabilities. With the ability to operate 24/7, this type of technology can also reduce heat stress on produce.

Alongside herd and flock management, drones are currently being developed to undertake other farming tasks such as pasture measurement. Other farm management tools like MINDA are being used to enhance remote data collection to make compliance easier.

What does this mean for farmers? Well, with so many technological advancements, there are tons of opportunities to increase productivity and grow your yield. To get ahead of the game, New Zealand farmers are already investing in new tools like drones. This will enable you to increase efficiency and boost profitability from the start.

Sunflower oil

More than just birdseed, sunflower seeds are becoming an increasingly profitable market. Growers in New Zealand are starting to use the seeds to make sunflower oil and the benefits are huge. Sunflower oil may not be the first thing you think of when considering emerging markets for kiwi farmers, but it actually offers a huge potential for growth. Used for frying food, sunflower oil has a long shelf life and is used in infant formula. According to the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), high oleic sunflower oil shows great potential and is a viable New Zealand crop.

In 2019, a three year research project was launched by FAR with funding from the Sustainable Food and Fibres Future fund (formerly known as the Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Farming Fund). The aim of the project was to find crops that offer alternate land uses and a high profitability. High-oleic varieties of sunflowers came out on top with potato chip manufacturers using the oil for frying. According to the research, the crop had a yield potential of 4.5 tonnes per hectare. The project also found that farmers would need to invest in around 60,000 plants for a successful crop.

Overall, the results of the project were a success and the research concluded that the crop was low maintenance and offered a low cost per hectare. The study also found that sunflowers require minimal use of chemicals and fertilisers, and are an excellent predecessor crop for wheat.

Another benefit of using sunflower seeds for oil is that once the oil has been pressed, the leftovers can be used to make animal feed products. As they can be planted in spring, sunflowers are an excellent way to increase financial growth during the off-peak growing season.

Trading off the Buy NZ Made brand

Despite the current cost of living, the Buy NZ Made trademark remains a huge selling point throughout New Zealand, Asia, Europe and North America. In fact, it is estimated that 87% of New Zealanders try to buy New Zealand made products wherever possible and 75% of global consumers list brand origin as a key purchasing driver.

The Buy NZ Made trademark is celebrated and sought after by consumers around the world. It tells a consumer that the farming and manufacturing process took place in New Zealand, which automatically gives it a premium price tag. It is also well known for its level of quality and sustainable values, attracting ethically minded consumers from all over the world.

To build opportunities, this trademark can also be applied to products that don't currently have a high volume of export like sunflower oil. It is also a great selling point if you are moving towards a direct-to-consumer (DTC) business model. To keep up with consistency, it’s important that any Buy NZ Made claims are accurate. Producers should list all ingredients and clearly detail their origin.


If you have a farm that can accommodate visitors in some way, then agritourism is an exciting possibility. The term is used to describe experiences that connect visitors with the land, animals, and people. Agritourism is a global industry with endless opportunities for New Zealand’s farmers. With such a big reach, this sector has the ability to diversify income streams, bolster cash flow, profile local communities and provide new job opportunities.

In a report conducted by the Ministry of Primary Industries, food tourism is a growing trend with 57% of international visitors identifying local and regional food as a big culinary motivator during their travels. In the survey, people who visited a vineyard or attended a wine event in New Zealand, spent 25% more than the average tourist.

From luxury farm stays, like the one at Cabot Lodge in Fiordland, to informative tours, there are plenty of ways for farmers to engage with visitors. Other examples of agritourism include farmers’ markets, roadside markets, farming museums, petting farms, pumpkin patches, strawberry farms, and more.

Photo Credit: Cabot Lodge

Future Outlook

While farmers are faced with many challenges, there is still plenty of room for growth. Of course, we don't suggest you sell the herd and move to dairy, but we love seeing kiwi farmers who are testing out new things in pursuit of greater yield. With opportunities to diversify crops and engage with consumers, the future is certainly looking bright.

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