Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures launched in move from volume to value

Growing New Zealand’s food and fibre sectors sustainably and supporting a thriving economy are the hallmarks of a new investment programme announced today by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

The best of two Ministry for Primary Industries investment programmes – the Sustainable Farming Fund and the Primary Growth Partnership – have been taken to create Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures, or SFF Futures, Mr O’Connor said.

“We are moving from volume to value. New Zealand’s commodity growth drive has come at the expense of the vital natural resources we need for our primary sector – our soil, water and social license to operate,” he said.

With a budget of $40 million a year, SFF Futures will provide a single gateway for farmers and growers to apply for investment in a greater range of projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits that flow through to all Kiwis.

“The food and fibre industries are the backbone of New Zealand’s economy, delivering more than $42 billion in export revenue last year, and the Coalition Government wants to help extract more value from what they already do, in a sustainable way that means our natural resources will be there for future generations,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Targeted funding rounds may include projects focusing on specific outcomes, such as climate change or the environment.”

The announcement was made on a farm in Morrinsville alongside the launch of a project to tap into the high-value, New Zealand goat milk infant formula industry.

“The CAPRINZ programme is the type of SFF Futures programme we are looking for,” Mr O’Connor said.

It has a value chain focus, is expected to  deliver environmental and sustainability benefits, grow an important industry, foster collaboration, build capability and retain the benefits in New Zealand.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

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Ravensdown PGP gets new funding boost

Ravensdown’s Primary Growth Partnership programme has been extended to cover more geographic areas with the aim that the research outputs will be valid for 90% of hill country in New Zealand.

The research involves aerial scanning of hill country farms combined with actual soil tests so a predictive model of soil fertility can be calibrated across the varied terrain. New additional funding has been made available by Ravensdown and the Ministry for Primary Industries on a 60:40 basis so that the North Canterbury and Southland regions can be modelled and tested.

The farmer-owned co-operative has committed to invest $564,000 to complete this additional work, with MPI investing $376,200.

This PGP programme, called Pioneering to Precision, and an aligned Ravensdown-funded programme, which is investigating improved aerial spreading precision, is at the three-quarter mark on its seven-year journey. The special aerial camera used by the programme scans 1,000 hectares an hour. These ‘AirScans’ can be turned into a soil fertility map that directs a GPS-enabled topdressing aircraft with computer-controlled doors to deliver fertiliser where it’s needed, instead of where it’s not.

Of the farms using the aerial spreading precision service so far, the system ensured fertiliser was avoided for 14% of land either because it was ineffective, culturally sensitive or environmentally vulnerable. The technology also makes it safer for pilots and can be better for productivity and the environment.

“When it comes to the aerial scanning of hill country, there will be some climate and soil differences which means you can’t necessarily take results from one part of the country and apply it to another,” said Mike Manning, Ravensdown’s General Manager Innovation and Strategy.

“We’ve done a fair amount of calibrating actual soil results with modelled results across the east coast and central parts of the North Island, South Canterbury and Otago. While we wouldn’t expect the differences to be huge across many of these regions, it’s important to check.”

Ravensdown is looking for farms in the newly added areas who want to test their farm using the AirScan service.

Source:  Ravensdown

Massey graduate’s journey from ‘townie’ to a doctorate in agritech

When Dr Sue Chok left high school she had her sights set on becoming a doctor, but back then she had a medical specialisation in mind and the self-confessed “townie” wouldn not even have known what precision agriculture was.

Last week she accepted her doctoral degree in precision agriculture as part of graduation celebrations in Palmerston North, joining over 1000 other graduates.

“I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor, but it turns out I didn’t like biology that much. My interests were actually in other areas like physics and chemistry,” Dr Chok says.

“I was also passionate about the environment.”

After assessing her options, Dr Chok decided to complete a Bachelor of Engineering majoring in environmental technology, and then a doctorate with one of the country’s leading agritech minds, Professor Ian Yule.

“I didn’t have a farming background. It was a completely new topic and I was looking for a new challenge. There was a summer internship with Ian and Miles Grafton that a friend suggested I apply for. It was in assessing fertiliser quality in New Zealand”

An internship working on this project, led to Dr Chok’s PhD working with Ravensdown. The PhD project looked at improving aerial topdressing (applying granular fertiliser from aircraft) on hill country farms in New Zealand.

“Fertiliser is applied on New Zealand hill country using fixed wing agricultural aircraft. This has been occurring in New Zealand since the 1940s. There has been very little change in the aerial topdressing industry till recently.

“This technology will allow different application rates to be applied over a farm rather than the conventional blanket rate. Studies have shown that pasture and nutrient needs can vary significantly over a farm. Therefore the variable rate system will help to optimise pasture production and reduce cost by applying fertiliser where it is required.

“My particular part was to validate a model that enables the prediction of fertiliser distribution in the field and to assess the performance of a new variable rate application technology system that Ravensdown is implementing in their fixed wing aircraft fleet.”

Her research involved field work, lab work and programming.

“I really enjoyed the diversity I had as I wasn’t just doing one thing the whole time.

“The field work involved setting out a total of around 200 collectors over five experiments where aircraft would be applying fertiliser. The samples would then be collected and weighed in a lab, where the results were used to make conclusions about the system and see if the model can reproduce it.

“It’s a cool feeling as my work had real world applications where the solutions from my project is implemented by the aerial spreaders so that farmers can benefit immediately.”

Dr Chok will take up a role in the University’s new AgriTech Partnership as a junior research officer working with  the innovative Fenix hyper spectral imaging system, a tool used in precision agriculture, which was first developed for military reconnaissance and space exploration.

The project is part of the Primary Growth Partnership between Ravensdown and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Source: Massey University

PGP review may result in greater focus on soil and water issues

The Primary Growth Partnership may continue under the Labour-led Government but with a greater focus on soil and water issues.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor told AgScience:

“I have indicated there will be a review of PGP.  Millions have been invested across different sectors and of course there is good that will have come from it. But identifying that is not so easy.

“So we’ve got to make sure that wherever taxpayers are spending money across the rural and agricultural sectors, they are getting good value for that money because just as farmers expect to use their money wisely, so does government.

“And we’ve got to make sure that we don’t drop the ball.”

O’Connor said there was a need for a greater understanding of the value of soil and all aspects of its protection and development.

Similarly, with water science “there’s a  hell of a lot for us still  to learn”.

Not enough investment had been put into those areas.

On the role of state grants for research and development, O’Connor said the Government hadn’t committed to any approach, other than to boost the Sustainable Farming Fund, “which we think has been a very successful approach – we like small smart initiatives.”

With the PGP, large amounts of money often had been invested for business-as-usual projects

“We are going to balance those,” O’Connor said.

“Firstly, we will have a review and look at the system .

“I know PGP has improved over time in terms of oversight and accountability, but the question still remains what is the best way to spend taxpayers money for the future of agriculture.”

Without a vision and strategic plan “we’re not quite sure if we are spending that money in the right direction”.

 

Approval of PGP programme gives a boost to the sheep milk industry

New Zealand’s fledgling sheep milk industry has been given a significant boost today with approval of the business case for a new Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between the Ministry for Primary Industries and Spring Sheep Milk Co.  The new ‘Sheep – Horizon Three’ PGP programme aims to develop a market driven, end-to-end value chain generating annual revenues of between $200 million and $700 million by 2030.

The ministry invests in cutting-edge innovation programmes through the PGP in partnership with industry.

It will be investing $12.56 million (40 per cent) into the new programme; Spring Sheep Milk Co will invest $18.83m, representing a total investment of $31.39m over its six-year life.

Spring Sheep Milk Co is a 50/50 partnership between Landcorp and a number of New Zealand investors through SLC Ventures LP.

Its co chief executive Scottie Chapman says with PGP support, sheep milk represents a unique opportunity for New Zealand to build a high-value sheep milk industry.

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New PGP programme to boost wool industry

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed a new Primary Growth Partnership programme aimed at lifting the profitability and sustainability of New Zealand strong wool.

‘Wool Unleashed’, or W3, is a new seven-year $22.1 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and The New Zealand Merino Company.

The programme is expected to contribute an estimated $335 million towards New Zealand’s economy by 2025.

“The wool industry was once one of New Zealand’s highest earners, with strong wool making up the majority of this, but it has been in decline since the 1990s,” says Mr Guy.

“The W3 PGP programme aims to reverse this trend by delivering higher premiums for New Zealand’s strong wool sector.

“This will be achieved through connecting strong wool farmers with markets, increasing on-shore processing, developing new and niche products and sharing best practice information across the wool industry.”

The programme will build on the success to date from another PGP programme—the New Zealand Sheep Industry Transformation Project—also led by The New Zealand Merino Company, which is focused on fine and mid-micron wool.

Mr Guy said:

“PGP programmes must be aspirational and transformational in nature. They must look beyond business as usual which The New Zealand Merino Company has demonstrated with its leadership in the merino industry and helping to establish the Te Hono Movement – a collaboration of primary sector leaders.

“Wool has lost its competitive edge as a fibre globally. We have the opportunity to make New Zealand strong wool and strong wool products relevant to select end users globally.  The W3 PGP programme will be a key contributor towards this, and will set the stage for a sustainable wool industry well into the future.”

MPI and The New Zealand Merino Company have signed a contract so W3 can formally begin.

The PGP aims to boost the value, productivity and profitability of our primary sector through investment between government and industry. It provides an essential springboard to enable New Zealand to stay at the forefront of primary sector innovation.

Government and industry are co-investing $746 million over time into 21 PGP programmes (two completed and 19 under way).

Decisions on whether to approve a programme are made by the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries, under recommendation from the independent Investment Advisory Panel.

More information is available at: http://www.mpi.govt.nz/funding-and-programmes/primary-growth-partnership/

 

 

New funding balance for PGP programmes reduces Govt share of co-investments

The Crown’s investment share in new Primary Growth Partnership programmes will shift from 50 per cent to 40 per cent from 1 December, but  overall annual funding remaining the same.

Announcing the change, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the PGP – about five years after being set up – was being aligned to other Government Funds such as the Callaghan Fund.

The Government also believes the commercial benefits of the PGP are higher than the public benefits, “which makes it only fair we tweak the formula”.

Current PGP programmes are not affected by the change. The 40 per cent Crown investment ratio will apply to funding approved for new PGP programmes or for funding extensions of existing programmes approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) from 1 December.

The change will not affect the minimum total amount that industry must co-invest in PGP programmes, which will remain at $500,000 over the lifetime of the programme (or $71,500 a year for a seven year programme).

The PGP has 18 programmes under way and a total of $724 million co-invested.

A 2014 report by NZIER estimated that PGP programmes will add at least $6.4 billion per annum to New Zealand’s economy by 2025.

Improvements are also being made to simplify the application process to encourage smaller sectors to apply, including:

• introducing simpler reporting requirements;

• providing assistance to applicants for business case development; and

• exploring opportunities to assist smaller sub-sectors to access the PGP.

The PGP aims to boost the value, productivity and profitability of our primary sector through investment between government and industry.

PGP programmes are generally long-run programmes of five to seven years’ duration and are subject to oversight and monitoring by an independent panel (the Investment Advisory Panel) and MPI.

Monitoring requirements include programme steering groups, quarterly progress reporting, annual plans, financial audits, and progress reviews, along with evaluation of the overall programme. Government funding is only released to programmes on receipt of invoices for work completed in accordance with programme plans.

More information is available at: http://www.mpi.govt.nz/funding-and-programmes/primary-growth-partnership/