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Food hub ready to go

With the i’s almost dotted and the t’s almost crossed, the construction of Foodeast will be underway by September.

The building of Hawke’s Bay’s Food Innovation Network hub, the sixth in New Zealand, is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

It will be a place of innovation and connection, designed to add value to the region’s food, beverage and agri-tech industry by assisting businesses to develop new products and take them to market. It is forecast to add $100m to the region’s GDP over 15 years, and bring 500 new full-time jobs to Hawke’s Bay.

Heinz Wattie’s non-executive chairman and Foodeast establishment board member Mike Pretty says international demand for New Zealand products is ever-growing, and Foodeast will ensure Hawke’s Bay is at the forefront of innovative food product development.

“Innovation occurs in expansionary and challenging times, and it could be argued that the imperative to find new creative solutions is even more compelling in the latter. The timing of Foodeast, particularly given the challenges of the last year, could not be better.”

The project’s partnership approach will make it a “beacon” of innovation.

“Evidence clearly shows strong collaboration between government, universities and industry can underpin improved levels of innovation and national productivity – look to Denmark and Singapore as great examples,” Mike says.

Most of the project’s administrative requirements are completed and the $18 million funding target has been reached,  including $12m from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

“It has been a very involved and meticulous process to get to this point, but the outcome will be game-changing for Hawke’s Bay’s food, beverage and agri-tech industries,” says establishment board chairman Tony Gray.

The food innovation hub will be part of the national Food Innovation Network of New Zealand, giving the region’s food producers and the agri-tech industry access to specialised industry knowledge and experience, and mentoring.

A small, dedicated Foodeast team will help business owners connect with the right people across the national network, and also act as a conduit within Hawke’s Bay – especially matching entities with a need for facilities, such as specialised filling equipment or a commercial kitchen, with those with capacity.

Tony says the Foodeast feasibility study showed that in almost every practical area, there was capacity within the region. “But what we don’t have, is somewhere a start-up or small-to-medium business can go to find out whether, for example, a test kitchen within the region has capacity to accommodate other businesses.

“What we don’t want to do is put facilities in there that are already available in the region – this is not about reinventing the wheel.”

But, if the need for a specific piece of equipment that would be highly used became obvious, it could be able to be accommodated, he says.

“The spaces are very flexible; it has been important from the start that we ensured this place would grow with us.

“What we want to see out of this is an explosion of new, innovative products including agri-tech, that will appeal to New Zealand and export markets.

It’s about adding value. Primary production is a strong contributor to our region’s GDP and out of this initiative we will see the value in the sector grow, which will lead to sustainable high-value job growth.”