Identifying the risks

In the final of a series introducing B+LNZ’s new teams, we meet the Insights team led by Jeremy Baker.
Thursday, 5 April 2018

As Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Chief Insight Officer, Jeremy Baker’s role isn’t exactly self-explanatory but it is a role that cuts right across the organisation.

In what is a newly-created role, Jeremy is charged with analysing the risks and opportunities facing the sheep and beef sector; identifying what the sector needs to know; and helping people decide what action to take in response to those issues.

Using Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as an example, he says while the sheep and beef sector’s GHG emissions have reduced 19% since 1990, he will be looking at the impact agriculture joining the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) would have on the sector, and what action B+LNZ might best take in response.

He says insights is a core part of B+LNZ’s new strategic purpose of “insights and actions driving tangible impact for farmers”.

This represents a shift to B+LNZ being a more insights-led organisation; determining what the sector needs to know about an issue and most importantly – what it is going to do about it.

“It’s more than research –  it’s about understanding the issues and the people involved, and working out what to do.

“We need to understand what motivates people – including our farmers, the government, the general public and consumers, so we can be clear what actions are most likely to have impact.”

Jeremy’s team includes the Wellington-based economic service team led by Andrew Burtt, a yet to be appointed environmental data analyst, and Feilding-based Tim Hembrow, who coordinates the data generated from the long-running sheep and beef farm survey.

Making better use of this farm data is part of Jeremy’s role. He says that while the organisation has been strong on gathering quantitative data, it is now looking to add qualitative insights to get a full understanding of the key issues for farmers across the country.

This includes understanding the impact of environmental issues on farm businesses. Jeremy cites the example of a recent University of Canterbury report that showed that around a quarter of this country’s native vegetation is on sheep and beef farms.

“The question is what do we do with that information. What does it mean in terms of the ETS and carbon sequestration? How do we get farmers credit for this native cover?”

The insight function supports all of B+LNZ’s work in areas such as policy, communications, market development, and innovation. The function is outcomes focused; delivering its findings through a range of extension activities and communication channels.

“It’s not about producing reports, it’s about helping the organisation and farmers make a difference.”

Jeremy will also be drawing on the expertise and skills right across the organisation to inform his team’s work and to ensure that what his team produces is useful and visible to the people who need it.

Being just weeks into his new role, Jeremy has initially been focused on developing a system to support better insights for the whole organisation. In this, he is being guided by an advisory group set-up specifically for the task comprising Andrew Morrison (Chairman of B+LNZ) Lester Wright (GM, Rimanui Farms), Mark Clarkson (Director, B+LNZ), Caroline Saunders (Director of Lincoln University’s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit) and Chris Garland (farm consultant Baker and Associates).

This advisory group will meet four times a year and act as a sounding board for the Insights team.

“They give an external perspective while we’re building new capabilities within the organisation.”

Jeremy’s background is in strategy, but he is particularly excited about his role because it is a more active take on strategy and about ultimately delivering value to this country’s sheep and beef farmers and rural communities.