Plan to transform food processing waste could benefit NZ economy and environment

Micro-organisms found in bacteria and fungi could help change food waste into high-value products that would boost New Zealand’s economy by $1.6 billion a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A research project led by University of Canterbury Environmental Science Professor Brett Robinson aims to find ways to turn waste products from New Zealand’s food production industry – such as milk processing waste and grape marc (skins and stalks) – into high-value soil conditioners and animal feed.

He says about 2.2 million tonnes of food processing waste products are dumped each year in New Zealand, costing about $270 million a year and increasing our greenhouse gas emissions.

“What we are aiming to do is create a more sustainable, circular agricultural economy, where biowaste can be transformed into useful new products to help feed animals or improve our soils.

“There’s huge potential to create a win-win situation where we dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also potentially boosting our economy by more than $1.6 billion annually.” Continue reading

Budget 22 investing in biosecurity for future economic security

The Government is strengthening New Zealand’s biosecurity system as part of Budget 2022 to help protect our vital primary sector and native flora and fauna, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor announced.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Damien O’Connor visited the national bulk milk testing laboratory MilkTestNZ in Waikato today to mark the success of the Mycoplasma Bovis (M. bovis) programme and announced funding of $42.9 million to bolster the biosecurity system as part of Budget 2022 and $68m over the next year for M. bovis eradication.

“New Zealand’s flora, fauna and livestock are the foundations of our primary sector, economy, rural communities and our economic security,” Damien O’Connor said.

“The world is reopening from the pandemic. With increased travel alongside a warming climate we face challenges from pests and diseases, which requires further investments to strengthen our biosecurity system. Continue reading

Joint M. bovis eradication plan reaches significant milestone

Four years into a world-first attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, agreed jointly between the Government and farming sector groups, just one infected property remains in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor marked the milestone at the national bulk milk testing lab MilkTestNZ in Waikato today alongside eradication partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.

“When we took our one shot to eradicate we did so to protect our national herd from a painful disease, our economy from a sharp shock, and our rural communities from widespread anxiety,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Our partnership with the primary sector was critical. No one in the world had attempted to eradicate M. bovis before, and if we were going to try something that had never been done, we needed to do so together.

“I want to acknowledge how tough it’s been for those farmers who have lost their herds and stock genetics built up over decades. Your action has preserved our productive sectors that underpin the prosperity of all New Zealanders.

“I acknowledge this important milestone today from which we can move forward into the next stage of the programme, to progress our goal towards eradication,” Jacinda Ardern said. Continue reading

Health benefits of New Zealand cherries to be assessed in new study

An eight-month project to explore the bioactive properties of New Zealand cherries to better understand their potential health benefits has attracted research funding and is now underway.

The High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge has awarded a development grant of $55,000 to Cherri Health and Manufacturing (CH&M).

CH&M will collaborate with the Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence at Massey University in Palmerston North to identify commercial opportunities for six popular Otago-grown cherry varieties as functional health products.

It has been widely reported that cherries provide significant health benefits such as:

  • decreasing markers for oxidative stress
  • reducing inflammation
  • improving exercise-induced muscle soreness and loss of strength
  • regulating blood pressure
  • lessening arthritic symptoms
  • improving sleep.

Continue reading

Te Pūheke opens a pathway towards improved environmental stewardship

A powerful new model being developed by a multi-disciplinary teams at the University of Canterbury (UC) could transform future land management practices, helping New Zealand’s transition to a more sustainable, resilient future without sacrificing productivity.

Called Te Pūheke (‘the flows’), the research aims to accelerate the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices by creating new tools that integrate real-time data on biophysical land-use impacts with economic, social wellbeing and mātauranga Māori modelling.

The tools could be used by farmers, Māori land trustees, catchment groups and other land users, as well as senior stakeholders and decision-makers.

Led by Dr John Reid, Senior Research Fellow at UC’s Ngāi Tahu Research Centre, and Professor Matthew Wilson, of UC’s School of Earth and Environment, the new approach is being driven by technological advances in remote sensing, alongside other enhanced data collection methods. Continue reading

Easy access is opened to a vast store of environmental research data

Identifying unknown organisms, forecasting the weather and understanding the potential impacts of a tsunami are among the possibilities opened up by the National Environmental Data Centre (NEDC) website.

The country’s seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) have created the website to make the environmental information held by them more accessible to all New Zealanders.

The datasets include a huge range of information from climate and atmosphere, freshwater, land and oceans, including biodiversity and geological data. They will be of benefit not only to advance science, but also for a myriad of uses by Māori, central and regional government, businesses, researchers and the general public. Continue reading

Entries are opened for the 2022 New Zealand Food Awards

Entries opened today for the 2022 New Zealand Food Awards and close on 31 May. The awards will be announced at a gala dinner in Palmerston North in October.

Massey University is the principal sponsor and owner of the awards, which have celebrated New Zealand’s food and beverage manufacturers, focusing on innovation and excellence, since 1987.

The awards are open to small and large food and beverage manufacturers, primary food producers, food service providers and ingredient supply companies. This year, the awards will continue to build on the “Food Hero” theme, developed during the 2020 lockdown to celebrate the way Kiwi companies are responding and reacting to the global pandemic.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says the standard of entries each year is outstanding, and the calibre of previous winners is testament to that. Continue reading

Feedback sought on draft code of welfare for dairy cattle

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), the independent ministerial advisory committee on animal welfare, is calling for feedback on a new draft code of welfare for dairy cattle.

NAWAC has reviewed the existing code of welfare for dairy cattle and is consulting on updated minimum standards and recommendations for best practice.

The objective is to lift the codes to address changes in good practice, available technology and science, and the explicit recognition of sentience in the Animal Welfare Act. It is also consulting on recommendations for regulations. Continue reading

New Zealand researchers lead world-first sequencing of bilberry genome

A bilberry gene mapping project at Plant & Food Research, funded by Genomics Aotearoa, has made some significant findings on the berry’s unique pigments, something that has exciting potential for our own horticulture industry.

The genome produced by the project is a world first, but, not only that, the researchers were also excited to find a genetic marker for the distinctive colour of the fruit.

The bilberry is a shrub found across much of northern European and as far north as the Arctic Circle. It grows wild, and its dark-coloured berries are harvested for food and medicinal purposes.

It belongs to the same genus – Vaccinium – as North American blueberries but unlike the pulp of blueberry, which is light green, the bilberry is distinctly red or purple. Continue reading

Govt’s seeks feedback on blueprint for adapting to a warmer world

New Zealanders can have their say from today on a proposed National Adaptation Plan to help communities across the country adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

Reforming resource management, bringing in laws to support managed retreat, and updating how the government handles emergencies are among the top priorities in the draft plan.

The plan aims at bringing down emissions and helping prevent the worst effects of climate change, but must also support communities already being hit by more extreme and more frequent weather events, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said.

Central Government does not bear all the costs under the proposal.  The consultation asks how best to share risks and costs between property and asset owners, insurers, banks and local government as well.

It also asks for views on managed retreat and flood insurance, to ensure a joined-up approach to climate change adaptation. Continue reading