Owners of unproductive land are encouraged to grow ‘black diamonds’

A Bay of Plenty truffle company is sharing the secrets of the industry in a bid to get landowners growing ‘black diamonds’ across the country.

Ohiwa Black Diamond Truffles is receiving more than $155,000 of government funding over three years to share its knowledge with interested growers so New Zealand can grow enough truffles for a robust export industry. The business is also researching and developing new truffle products that incorporate the health benefits of truffles with traditional Māori healing.

The business is run by Ohiwa-based couple Matui Hudson and Annette Munday. Since partnering with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund last year, they have held three workshops on truffle growing, with more lined up over the coming weeks. Continue reading

Statistics on the use of animals in research, testing and teaching statistics are released

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released its 2020 annual statistics on the number of animals used in research, testing and teaching (RTT) in New Zealand. Along with its detailed report, it has released an easy-to-read infographic.

The Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) has commended the ministry for the openness, comprehensiveness and clarity of its 2020 statistics.

The yearly release of this report aligns well with the purposes of the Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in New Zealand, launched by ANZCCART in July 2021, said Professor Pat Cragg, chair of the council’s New Zealand board. Continue reading

Government support for Māori landowners to invest in growing sheep milk industry

The Government is backing a project to support Māori landowners to invest in New Zealand’s rapidly growing sheep milk industry, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said today.

It is investing in the Māori Agribusiness Sheep Milk Collective, which aims to have several farms milking about 25,000 sheep and potentially employing more than 100 people by 2030.

Global demand for sheep milk and sheep milk products is booming, Mr O’Connor said. Exports of New Zealand sheep milk products were valued at $20 million in 2020.

The Government is injecting $700,000 into the Māori Agribusiness Sheep Milk Collective to help it explore the potential to sustainably produce sheep milk at scale, create jobs and further grow this emerging export market.

The collective is made up of 20 Māori land trusts and incorporations that own more than 24,000 hectares of land stretching from the western shore of Lake Taupō to the Hauraki Plains. Continue reading

Flowering plants may hold key to pesticide reduction on citrus orchards

A Gisborne-based project is exploring a biological method of dealing to insect pests on citrus orchards by understorey planting to attract beneficial insects.

Leaving bare earth under citrus trees and intensively mowing the grass strips between orchard rows may become a thing of the past as te approach is revolutionised through strategic planting, says A Lighter Touch project manager Jeff Smith.

“We’ve undertaken trials planting under and beside the trees – ranging from flowering perennials such as clovers and alyssum to annuals like buckwheat and phacelia. These plants and others may hold the key to helping us enhance the agroecosystem and provide resources for beneficial insects to thrive, which would reduce the need for applications of agrichemicals.”

The two-year project is part of A Lighter Touch, a $27 million, seven-year programme backed by the horticultural industry and Government through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund. 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

High-tech investment extends drought forecasting for farmers and growers

The Government is investing in the development of a new forecasting tool that makes full use of innovative climate modelling to help farmers and growers prepare for dry conditions.

The new approach will cost $200,000, jointly funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

It will provide daily drought forecasts out to 35 days. Later, the project will also explore drought predictions up to six months ahead. NIWA currently provides seasonal climate outlooks each month that look three months ahead, but are not drought specific.

“We are harnessing the latest in climate and data science to put information into the hands of the people who can make the best use of it,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

“Knowing well in advance when dry conditions are heading your way means you can cut your cloth accordingly at critical times on-farm. Having early warning can help determine stocking levels, water storage and feed management options.” Continue reading

Funding of hemp fibre innovation set to propel New Zealand on to world stage

New Government funding will help a New Zealand hemp fibre company explore untapped opportunities – from soft flooring to food packaging that’s more environmentally sustainable.

The Government is contributing $1.34 million through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) to New Zealand Natural Fibres’ (NZNF) five-year research and development programme project.

NZNF is the only hemp fibre company in New Zealand that controls its own supply chain end-to-end. The company is contributing a further $2 million in cash and in kind to the project.

“We plan to use the SFF Futures funding to develop our hemp growing, processing and marketing capability to ‘go further, faster’ towards taking a global leadership position in the development of industrial and consumer products made from hemp fibre,” says NZNF CEO Colin McKenzie.

“We are very pleased to have received government backing to continue our work with hemp fibre, which has huge potential to be part of the solution to some of the most crucial environmental challenges facing our planet today.

“We’re especially excited about ramping up our work to develop some innovative new products.” Continue reading

MPI backs project to establish internationally competitive hemp seed processing plant

A new project backed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) aims to establish a hemp seed processing plant in New Zealand that could be a game changer for the local hemp industry.

MPI is contributing more than $245,000 to Hemp Connect’s 2-year pilot project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

The project ultimately aims to enable locally grown hemp food products to compete with imported varieties. Since 2020, the Levin-based company has been working on creative solutions for processing New Zealand grown hemp more efficiently and reducing production costs. Continue reading

Graduate vets receive MPI funding to work in rural areas

Thirty-four graduate vets are being placed in rural areas, from Kaitaia in the far North to Gore in Southland, through the Government’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians (VBS), Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.

The successful recipients will each receive funding of $55,000 over five years, in a bid to help ease the shortage of veterinarians working with production animals in our regions.

“It’s well known that there’s a real need for vets, especially in rural areas,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Since it began 12 years ago, the Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians has made a big difference in attracting and retaining graduate vets to rural communities that can be challenging to recruit staff to. Continue reading

Major forestry study to assess performance of erosion and sediment control practices

Safeguarding New Zealand’s waterways is the key driver behind a seven-year study into the performance of control practices for reducing erosion and sediment delivered to rivers from forest harvesting.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has partnered with a forestry company, OneFortyOne New Zealand, providing $1.37 million through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to the $3.6 million project.

The project is in its second year, with a long-term monitoring programme now established within control and treatment catchments at OneFortyOne’s Donald Creek Forest, near Tadmor in the Tasman district.

“We want to find out what erosion and sediment control measures work best, and we can only know this through robust real-world studies,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes.

“This project is exploring the effectiveness of current best practice in sediment control as well as some new innovations. Later in the project, the researchers will construct a large sediment retention pond to see how that measures up compared to traditional methods.

“As well as the benefits of erosion and sediment control, the programme will also compare the costs of different practices.” Continue reading