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A dream come true

Portrait of a woman, Kylie Horomia, with green hair.

Kylie Horomina, Growth and Transformation manager at AgriTech New Zealand.

Kylie Horomia works as Growth and Transformation manager at AgriTech New Zealand and is also on the National Executive Committee, NZ Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators. She is one of the few Maori women in a leadership role in the tech industry and first had FRUIT LOGISTICA on her bucket list twelve years ago. She even organised the first stand for the sales team of WayBeyond, but when others booked their flight, she always had to stay in New Zealand and just heard about how deals were done, money was made and long-term relationships were forged.

On LinkedIn she wrote a post about her story and how she finally managed to make her dream come true, with a little help from an award of the NZ Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators she won pre-Covid. “This green-haired kiwi will be flying to Berlin to attend my very first Fruit Logistica”, she wrote. FRUIT LOGISTICA director Kai Mangelberger saw the post, was fascinated by Kylie’s enthusiasm, and gifted her a complimentary Gold Upgrade for the event. We met Kylie after her first day ever at FRUIT LOGISTICA on Wednesday afternoon.

Kylie, how did you experience your first day at FRUIT LOGISTICA?
You have an idea for twelve years because you have heard from everyone else how big it is. And it´s crazy, the welcome party alone. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was like a house party with a DJ, a band and three dance floors at the Metropol venue. When you think of horticulture, growing and farming, you don’t imagine this. That’s what I love about it. It’s a really different way of viewing the industry we are all involved in.

And at the trade fair?
I loved the north entrance with all the flags, of course the first one I spotted was New Zealand’s. Then I walked through the door and saw this massive amount of people, but I didn’t know where anything was. I had a plan. I went through the FRUIT LOGISTICA app beforehand and tagged all the places I needed to see. But the plan for day one went out the window in half an hour. I underestimated how long it takes to get from one place to another. And I underestimated how lost I would be. At some point I was looking for Hall 3.1 and I was God knows where, hungry, thirsty, tired, and jetlagged, and I was just on the verge of messaging the New Zealanders’ WhatsApp channel “can someone come and get me?”

Did they?
I just stumbled upon the hall in that moment. I think that was my favourite space on day one. I loved the design layering of the stage with tables and charging points so you could work and listen. And it was exciting to see how many New Zealand companies are playing a part, such as Hectre or WayBeyond. It was so good to see that they doubled the size of the stand from last year. I also watched the presentation of Marc Piper from Plant & Food Research at the Future Lab. I am a big fan of them.

How would you describe the development of Smart Agri companies in New Zealand?
Our primary industries are still beef, sheep, and dairy. But we have also had great success historically with tech companies in agriculture. And in the last five to ten years, lots of new players have entered the market supporting farmers and growers with helpful solutions. We have got a new start-up called Fleecegrow. They use leftovers from sheep wool as a medium for growing to replace perlite. I love the marriage of two agricultural sectors using resources which already exist. It´s cool to see that development, but it´s also a challenge: If you are a tech company in New Zealand you must think globally from day one, because there are not enough customers in New Zealand, and at the same time New Zealand is so far away from everyone else.

You had a 27-hour flight. How did you manage to get through the day?
The extrovert in me loved everything that was going on, the introvert desperately wanted a quiet corner. Thanks to Kai Mangelberger and Messe Berlin, I had access to the Gold Lounge and that was a godsend at some point during the day when I just needed time out.
I am looking forward to tomorrow, hopefully I am getting better at finding my way around. I would recommend everyone to come to this event at some point in their lives. But maybe don´t wait twelve years.