In the heart of the lower North Island, is a small but mighty region batting above its weight on a global scale, poised to shape Aotearoa New Zealand’s evolving food narrative. The region’s rich history in food innovation and science, coupled with fertile natural resources, and backed by thriving primary, technology, distribution and logistics sectors, Manawatū is the epicentre of agrifood innovation.

A leading hub of food research, science and innovation, Manawatū is home to more than 3,100 scientists and researchers as well as three Crown Research Institutions. With many world leading organisations such as Finistere Ventures, Sprout AgriTech, Greentech Robotics, Synlait, and FoodPilot, choosing to operate from the region, Manawatū is recognised as housing the largest collection of pilot-scale food processing equipment in the southern hemisphere.

Greg Bignall, Business Development Manager, CEDA.

“Manawatū has been doing and creating exciting things in the food sector for decades, but you often don’t hear about them,” says Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) Business Development Manager, Greg Bignall. “But that’s changing. We are seeing global recognition and interest in what is happening in our corner of the world.”

“Recently the region hosted over 30 ambassadors and delegates showcasing the amazing agritech and foodtech sector we have right here in the Manawatū, including hearing from FoodHQ Innovation Limited, Sprout Agritech, BioLumic, Croptide, Agri HQ, Lindsay Irrigation, FMG and visiting Massey AgriFood Digital Lab, Levno and SeedSpider.”

“More recently the announcement that Manawatū is going to be the destination of choice for the 2024 E Tipu: The Boma Agri Summit is a credit that Aotearoa is catching on to what is growing in the region.”

The Synergy of Food Research and Production

Although the research and innovation happening throughout the region has been bubbling away quietly, Manawatū’s iconic agricultural production is well known throughout the country. This can be attributed to the food research capability of the city combined with the strength of the district in food production. The collective strength of the region creates a dynamic and resilient food sector that drives economic growth and supports the region’s reputation as a leader in food production and innovation.

Across the Bridge

In the research and development precinct of Palmerston North city is an impressive collection of organisations including FoodHQ – a collaboration of internationally recognised companies, research and educational institutions providing food companies and innovators access to one of the world’s leading clusters of food science expertise and facilities. You’ll also find AgResearch, the Riddet Institute, and of course the Fonterra Research and Development Centre, one of the largest dairy research facilities in the world, with more than 300 researchers, engineers and scientists from 46 countries, with a combined 130 PhDs. It’s no wonder that Palmerston North is home to the highest number of PhD’s per capita in New Zealand.

Jerry Shearman, CEO, CEDA.

Strength in Numbers

Perhaps the real strength in the Manawatū food space is the quality of connection and collaboration across the region. The recently released Manawatū Regional Food Strategy identified the region’s position in the agrifood ecosystem including how the region can best contribute to the New Zealand Food Story.

“This strategy sets a shared vision, ensuring a bright future for food and agriculture not only for Manawatū but for our country, guiding stakeholders across the ecosystem from field to consumer,” says CEDA CEO, Jerry Shearman.

“The success of the strategy relies on regional stakeholders contributing to the Implementation Plan and its evolution in the face of new opportunities. CEDA is well positioned to lead this implementation with a clear ability to apply a coordinated, collaborative, and focused approach uniting the entire food value web network. This work is well underway with key sector partners who bring the subject matter expertise to the conversation.”


Join us in Manawatū this June at Aotearoa’s favourite food and fibre sector event – E Tipu: The Boma Agri Summit. E Tipu has become a critical platform for informed, thoughtful, future- focused dialogue around the issues that really matter for the primary sector, so it makes sense to host the summit in the heart of agrifood excellence – Manawatū.

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