Staying relevant in uncertain times

Describing 2019 in New Zealand agriculture as the ‘Year of Fear’ due to the mounting pressures and uncertainty from every direction on our food and fibre producers, Sarah Perriam is a rural broadcaster who aspires to be part of a movement of creative thinking during the challenging times ahead for Canterbury farming.

By Sarah Perriam

latitude ISSUE 67  Dec-Jan 2019

Whether it’s the dramatic changes to the national freshwater policy, methane’s uncertain inclusion in the emission trading scheme, overseas-owned pine trees crawling across good farmland, not to mention Mycoplasma Bovis, it’s no wonder anxiety in our rural community is at a record high.

This is one of my favourite quotes from the book Emotional Equations by Chip Conley: ‘Anxiety has two component parts. It’s what you don’t know and what you can’t control. Anxiety = Uncertainty X Powerlessness.’

I believe our nation’s food producers and growers must lean into the rising demands from the consumer to protect our natural resources and food production for future generations as it’s not going away, so we must harness our anxiety by controlling what we can control. Within the heart of New Zealand’s first Envirotown, Lincoln, I found my tribe of like-minded, curious collaborators who also like to challenge the status quo, Blinc Innovation.

Blinc Innovation describes itself as the connector that helps facilitate and grow an exponential innovation ecosystem in agriculture, food and technology, something the sector desperately needs right now.

In November 2018, I had to face my own perceived fears and self-doubt about my career as a rural broadcaster and how I was going to ensure a certain future too.

I was working for MediaWorks as a co-host and producer of Rural Exchange on RadioLIVE. It was my favourite time of the year, the NZ Agricultural Show, and I was in my element doing a live cross to the AM Show, doing interviews with fabulous farming folk and compering a seminar on the future of food.

We then learnt whilst at the Show that RadioLIVE was to no longer continue, with many of my work colleagues’ jobs shattered.

It was a call that you could have totally seen coming if you were conscious to your surroundings. Systemic industry structure issues, a massive shift in media consumption trends and global advertising spend dramatically going to digital.

But for many, it was a call that they were blind-sided to as they were going to their job every day unconscious of the timeframe of their relevance to the consumer.

Media is very similar to farming. The future is uncertain and is being dramatically disrupted in a short period of time. However, I believe that being conscious, collaborative and having connected thinking can help us adapt to these challenges, but we have to do things differently.

I tell this story a year on writing from my desk as a tenant at Blinc Innovation. Being a tenant here gives you the space to nurture and grow new ideas, learn how to be courageous and vulnerable and think outside the square.

Just like my desk buddies from Leaft Foods, a start-up founded by John and Maury Leyland-Penno (formerly from dairy giants Fonterra and Synlait), who are looking into how to extract plant protein that both humans and animals can share.

Since I have moved to Canterbury, Blinc Innovation has hosted some awesome events open to the public such as ‘Sustainable Protein: Healthy People & Planet’ attended by the Governor-General, Her Excellency the Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, and ‘Safeguarding Our Water’.

Blinc Innovation is the neutral ground the industry needs right now to leave agendas at the door and find new solutions to old problems, as the old solutions are proving to no longer apply in these uncertain times.

My decision to leave the Auckland newsroom chasing daily drama to move to Canterbury with its curiously spirited agri-food hub is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I owe it to Blinc Innovation.

This article was first published in latitude magazine. latitude is a magazine for people with a passion for reading interesting features about Canterbury and its people. Telling the tales of extraordinary Cantabrian’s it is a great local read with a focus on local charm, local people and local issues.

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