The a2 Milk Company and Lincoln University partner to support sustainable dairy farming

The a2 Milk Company is partnering with Lincoln University to launch an initiative to support sustainable dairy farming projects in New Zealand.

The Farm Sustainability Fund, launched today, is a collaboration between The a2 Milk Company and Lincoln University, New Zealand’s only specialist land-based university. The a2 Milk Company will provide up to $500,000 to the Fund in the first year to enable fund grants for farm projects that demonstrate an integrated approach to a sustainable future and enable a positive and meaningful impact across the community and environment.

The Fund is open to New Zealand farms that supply milk under contract with Mataura Valley Milk Limited or Synlait Milk Limited for use in the manufacture of products for The a2 Milk Company.

Applications for this year’s awards will be open from 23 May and close on 4 July 2022. Continue reading

Hawke’s Bay deer farm is part of national project involving more than 2,000 farms

A Hawke’s Bay deer farm is part of a ground-breaking project funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ to provide a national snapshot of farm performance.

The four-year project is bringing together detailed physical/production, environmental, and financial data from more than 2,000 farms across the dairy, beef, lamb, deer, arable, and horticulture sectors.

“The significance of this project cannot be underestimated. It is the first time such robust data has been collected and analysed,” said Matthew Newman, who’s leading the project for MPI.

“Having quality farm data will enable better decision-making by farmers and growers, industry organisations and policy makers.”

Wayne and Jacqui Anderson are one of about 170 deer farmers taking part.

The experienced farm owners diversified into deer in March 2019, buying a 71-hectare (effective) property west of Hastings, which runs 107 mixed-age hinds, replacement hinds, 114 fawns, several breeding stags, sheep and cattle. Continue reading

Regenerative agriculture research receives Government funding boost

The Government is investing in two new research projects to investigate the impacts of “regenerative farming” practices.

As NZIAHS members are aware, this is a contentious issue in science circles.  Questions have been raised about the definition of “regenerative” farming and growing and cautions sounded about the need for zealous champions of regenerative practices to base their enthusiasm on reliable New Zealand research data, not on something reported from countries with different conditions and farming methods.

Mr O’Connor announced the government is contributing $2.8 million to a $3.85 million five-year project with co-investment by Synlait Milk and Danone that aims to understand how to measure and manage soil health to boost environmental and economic performance on New Zealand farms.

The announcement on Sunday coincided with World Soil Day, which aimed to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil salinization, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

“We simply cannot take soil health for granted,” O”Connor said.

“It’s the basis of our food systems, and also New Zealand’s economic health.” Continue reading

Sowing the seeds for a regenerative horticultural partnership

Two of New Zealand’s largest horticultural businesses, T&G Global and Zespri, are teaming up with Plant & Food Research and other industry partners on a new project to research, develop, define, and promote sustainable and regenerative horticulture practices within the kiwifruit, apple and berry industries.

The project, which has the potential to be one of the most extensive horticultural research programmes in this country, is partially funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Phase one will involve an exploration of regenerative practices and market analysis with the aim of moving to a longer-term programme of research including scientific and market validation, along with the implementation of science and grower-backed practices in regenerative horticulture.

T&G Global’s chief executive, Gareth Edgecombe, says the project is cutting edge and hugely exciting for the industry.

Sustainable food production was at the heart of New Zealand’s horticultural sector, Mr Edgecombe said. Continue reading

Public-private partnership with AgResearch to trial “regenerative” beef farming

In a partnership that links scientific research with burger fans, McDonald’s and science provider AgResearch have announced they joined forces on a “regenerative” farming trial.

The two organisations say they have a shared interest in positively influencing the sustainability of pasture-based beef production and are working together on a two-year project that aims to improve soil health and environmental performance.

The pilot study, soon to be under way in Hawkes Bay, focuses on alternative stock= grazing management to boost the cycling of nutrients through the soil. Compared with conventional grazing management practices, the cattle will be offered longer pasture and grazed at higher stocking intensity for a shorter time, leaving greater `residual’ pasture after grazing.

The high-intensity stocking is intended to trample more pasture, and together with the greater residuals remaining after grazing, allow an increased proportion of nutrients to be returned directly to the soil in a more evenly distributed way. Continue reading

New Zealand is shown to be well placed to ride regenerative agriculture wave

There is a significant opportunity for New Zealand to position itself to take advantage of the global regenerative agriculture trend, according to market research into consumer attitudes commissioned by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW).

But there is a recognition, too, that there is no clear definition of regenerative agriculture globally.

This paves the way for ‘regenerative’ being defined in a New Zealand context.

Although still in its infancy, regenerative agriculture is gathering momentum and is set to become a significant trend in food internationally, says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.

“Brands are beginning to follow the leads of farmers and growers in the support of regenerative agriculture, and while the concept has yet to properly take hold among consumers, this research reveals there is a bright future.

“Fortunately, we believe the majority of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farming practices naturally align with key pillars of regenerative products or production. Continue reading

Wool brands push for regenerative farming

Four major New Zealand Wool brands – the New Zealand Merino Company, Icebreaker, Allbirds and Smartwool –  announced this morning they are creating a new system to buy from regenerative wool farmers to try and reduce the environmental impact of sheep farming.

The ZQrx programme is launching with 167 sheep farmers who are trying new techniques to make their farms active regenerative, RNZ reported this morning.

It’s an upgrade on an existing ZQ structure which measures the sustainability of wool farms. The New Zealand Merino Company says sustainability isn’t enough and active regeneration is required.

Dave Maslen, general manager for markets and sustainability at The NZ Merino Company, and Tui Taylor, director of product development and sustainability at Icebreaker by Nine to Noon presenter Kathryn Ryan to discuss the programme.

Maslen says the ZQ programme was first introduced in 2007 and was designed to give brands confidence in the environmental integrity of the wool they purchased and that farms were meeting the highest standards.

“It was also about enabling our brand partners to really confidently communicate with their consumers about how the product was being produced and, in so doing, ascribe value to that way of producing.”

He says it’s been a very successful with more than 120 brands that work with the NZ Merino Company through the programme.

“Fundamentally, it’s enabled us to develop long-term forward contracts for those growers at really strong market prices. Our growers know that two or three years out how much they’re going to get paid for their wool and the type of wool they’re going to need to produce.”

Taylor says sustainability has been in the DNA of Icebreaker since it’s founding 25 years ago so the programme is a no brainer for them.

“Now, we need to go to the next level. Being sustainable means being sustainable, we need to actually be regenerative. We need to actually stop all these greenhouse gas emissions, we need to put back into the soil and make sure our merino fibres have a life beyond this generation and the next.

Maslen says the ZQ programme already represents the absolute best standard for wool production in the world. ZQrx will require that farms aren’t just sustainable but are actually improving over time.

“We baseline them at a point in time, and then we come back over time to measure their performance and improvement… as part of that, we provide a whole suite of tools and advice for growers to enable them to do that and make those changes.”

Source:  RNZ

MPI calls for proposals to research regenerative farming practices

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is calling for proposals for projects that will investigate regenerative farming practices.

Funding for successful proposals is available through the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) co-investment fund. The fund aims to have projects underway by mid-2021.

“There is increasing interest from farmers and the wider community about regenerative agricultural practices, but definitions for regenerative agriculture can vary dramatically,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director investment programmes.

“We’re looking to define what regenerative agriculture means from a New Zealand perspective, and develop a sound evidence base to test and confirm what works in our soils, climates, and farming systems.” Continue reading

New book deals with key issues around the new biological economy

The Royal Society of New Zealand today has drawn attention to a new book which deals with the ways New Zealanders are transforming how they make a living off the land, from milk and merino to wine and tourism .

The New Biological Economy is the second book to result from a project funded by the Marsden Fund in 2009. The first book, Biological Economies: Experimentation and the politics of agri-food frontiers(Routledge Hardback 2016, paperback 2018)had a stronger  academic focus.  The new book  is written for a public audience.

It poses some key questions:

  • Do dairy and tourism have a sustainable future?
  • Can the primary industries keep growing without destroying the natural world?
  • Does the future of New Zealand lie in high tech or in the innovations of a land-based economy?

The book explores how high-volume, low value-add industries in New Zealand can continue to grow – and do so sustainably.

We can do it with merino, we can do it with meat – and to a certain extent we can probably do it with dairy and with tourism as well,” co-author and associate investigator Professor Eric Pawson told Kathryn Ryan of RNZ’s Nine to Noon.

Co-author and co-principal investigator Professor Richard Le Heron, FRSNZ, told Nine to Noon Miraka, a Māori-owned company north of Taupō, uses geothermal energy to process up to 250,000,000 litres of milk a year into powder and heat-treated products.

“There’s a lot of what we refer to as cross-scaling associated with what they’re [Miraka] doing – capsicum and tomatoes and suchlike drawing on the energy source that they have at their particular location,” he says.

The full interview isThe New Biological Economy: Sustainability, economy and adding value to primary industry commodities.

The New Biological Economy takes readers out on to farms, orchards and vineyards and inside the offices and factories of processors and exporters, to show how New Zealanders are meeting the challenges. The book is available to purchase from Auckland University Press.

For their research, the ten authors spent nine years talking with farmers and other commercial players to really ground the research in what is happening on the farms and in the factories.

Professor Le Heron said the team members had to overcome the barrier that at first people didn’t want to talk with academics, but over time some really fruitful conversations took place.

He describes the project “as an example of engaged social science research feeding back into wider society”.

“The Marsden grant enabled us as a research group to greatly develop our social science transdisciplinary and individual disciplinary skill sets and lay the foundation for more recent research contributions in the the land-coast-sea spaces of Aotearoa New Zealand. It also allowed us to commence work on laying the foundation for a new generation of regional development thinking and practice in this country.”

More information about the Marsden Fund grant can be found  here.  

Source:  Royal Society of New Zealand

Minister to talk sustainable agriculture on world stage

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor is on his way to Europe to represent New Zealand on the international sustainable agriculture and climate change stage.

He will speak at the international conference on agricultural greenhouse gases and food security in Berlin, co-sponsored by the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, which New Zealand led the establishment of in 2009.

As the first New Zealand Minister to visit Italy since the formation of its new government in April, he will meet with counterparts. In Rome he will also meet with the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

In Paris Mr O’Connor will host a reception to support New Zealand’s candidate for Director-General of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, Dr John Barker.

In London he will meet with UK officials and industry representatives to discuss the development of the UK’s agricultural policy.

Mr O’Connor will also meet with key European stakeholders on EU-New Zealand free trade agreement negotiations. He travels from 10-16 September.

The Government last week celebrated a decade of work by the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Research Programme, where $50 million for 150 projects has helped our primary sectors understand and adapt to climate change.

“This valuable work ensures our agriculture can remain profitable and sustainable into the future – knowledge coveted by countries around the world – and we value our relationships with like-minded agribusiness countries,” Mr O’Connor said.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture