Dear Aunty Thistledown

I saw a 5 foot tall thistle heading into the Boma E tipu AgriSummit and figured it must be you.

In Business7 Minutes

I saw a 5 foot tall thistle heading into the Boma E tipu AgriSummit and figured it must be you. What did you think of the conference? Should I have bought a ticket instead of lurking on the street?

Regards, Fear of missing out.

Dear FOMO,

Yes it was me. The number one agony aunt of agriculture. Also the number one gifter of tweezers. Large prickly weeds were not built to navigate a crowd.

The E tipu conference was pleasant enough.The food was really good and the attendees were super friendly. The MC, Rod Oram, was lively and engaging. Although he seemed to have set himself a challenge for how many Maori words he could mispronounce. At one point he opts to describe something as “matariki-esque” (or matter-ricky-esk in Rod’s tongue), simultaneously mangling three languages in one fell swoop.

I really liked the app for the conference that pinged you to tell you what was going on and what was for lunch. This gave the delegates licence to look at their phone a lot which was a good thing because many talks were eye-rolling affairs.

Don’t get me wrong there were about five or so top notch talks that made it worthwhile. But mostly, the format was short, lively, “ted-talk” style presentations laden with buzz words and little else. Just imagine speakers lining up to talk about the values or purpose of their company without stacking any meat into their conversational sandwich.

This was the kind of event that branded you with your pronouns (she/her, he/him etc) as you walked in the door, if you catch my drift.

One talk was a real stinker. Hannah Tucker at Balance Point Advisory dived head first into death cult territory. I’ll set the scene for you, in case this is the kind of thing that would make you rip up your $800 ticket.

We start by setting up a false dilemma – do we want to carry on with industrial agriculture (referred to as the “doomsday world”), accept a world of synthetic food, or collaborate with nature to build a “regenerative world”.

That’s it. Those are your only three options.

“Is there no room for inter-relying systems in the future?” I wondered. This is a strictly one-way conversation with no audience questions built into the talks, so all wondering was done silently.

Then we were on to some frighteningly misunderstood climate science. We will see a 6C lift in global temperatures “within our lifetimes”, Hannah decrees confidently alongside a map that shows vast swaths of the world becoming uninhabitable with a 4 change.

Maybe Hannah plans to live for hundreds of years to see this eventuate in her lifetime, or maybe no one was prepared to do a basic fact check before handing over the microphone.

By the end of her short segment I was expecting her to try to sell steak knives for five easy payments of $29.99 or roll in a cauldron of cult special Kool-Aid. Later I googled Hannah to find she runs catered lunches serving jellyfish (according to Hannah’s bizarre timeline predictions this will have to be a staple in 10-20 years when the oceans heat up).

It’s a real shame that the presentation I saw did not focus on the core business of feeding strange things to rich-listers. I think I would have enjoyed an ocean to hors-d’oeuvre description of jellyfish cuisine.

Anyway, the doomsday talk fueled some robust lunch time discussions which I guess is the purpose of it all.

One person I spoke with was concerned about the camera operators who might not know enough about the topic to smell a rat. I think they were safe enough though, they were too busy snapping the event from every conceivable angle to be indoctrinated.

If you wanted to keep a low profile, this would not be the event for you. Photographers absolutely everywhere. The whole event was punctuated by shutter clicks.

Would I recommend you go? Well it depends who you are.

The speakers clearly thought they were addressing farmers. That didn’t seem to be the case, which is lucky since these talks would have been about as relevant to a farm as a parliamentary press release.

The crowd was mostly rural professionals having a nice time switching off from the reports or spreadsheets awaiting them back at the office. If you want to mingle with mid-level managers and tech folk, then this might be up your alley.

Love, Aunty Thistledown.

Cali Thistledown lives on a farm where all the gates are tied together with baling twine and broken dreams. While she rarely knows what day it is, she has a rolodex of experts to call on to get the info you need. She’s Kiwi agriculture’s agony aunt. Contact our editor if you have a question for her terry.brosnahan@