Anna Campbell2

New boss hungry for answers

Anna Campbell is already running a busy professional and family life. On April 1, she takes over the reins of AbacusBio to add to her farming interests.

Neville Jopson, who after five years heading AbacusBio, will return to science and consultancy work for the company.

A desire to add value to agriculture, Anna says, is what gets her out of bed every morning. But there is more depth to her passion for agriculture than that, evident by goals that are much broader than her core business of adding value to meat, milk, and fibre.

How do we breach the urban-rural divide? How do we make all New Zealanders proud of the quality of food we produce? How do we make agricultural careers much more attractive to young people?

Anna believes a starting point must be reducing our reliance on exporting commodities and instead adding more value to our products.

Anna refers to research – carried out by a summer intern at AbacusBio – that revealed the more value added to a product, the more elastic it is to changes in the commodity cycle, hence the more it can withstand fluctuations in prices.

The real question now is how do we do that and how fast, Anna says.

A study of Shanghai consumers showed that New Zealand was the high-end food supplier of choice but New Zealand needed more work to maintain that privileged place.

Part of that includes ensuring claims such as health benefits, production inputs, or provenance were verifiable and that was even more so given the power and influence of social media.

In China, there is a highly influential group of mothers known as netizens who use social media to investigate integrity claims with food. They then spread their findings around their social network.

“Their influence is huge and this use of social media is vitally important for modern day food producers.”

Claims must be backed up by science and practice.

“If we say our food is better eating quality then we need evidence and the place where we get that evidence is science.”

After graduating from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Science with first class honours, Anna moved to Lincoln University to complete a PhD in plant biotechnology.

She was then a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Southern Queensland where she specialised in wheat breeding and genetics.

Anna soon returned to Otago to work for AgResearch, Invermay as a senior scientist in animal genomics.

Since joining AbacusBio in 2007, Anna has been a director and partner, specialising in using science to improve value of export products in Asian markets.

Anna and husband Kevin Wilson, who have three school aged-children, were runners-up in the Otago Sharemilker of the Year competition in 2004.

Her mother came from a Gisborne farm and her father was a doctor. Campbell said her mother now owns three farms in Otago covering 1200ha.

Campbell said that gives her a foot in both camps.

Sourced content from NZX Agri 

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