Government supports innovative dairy sheep sector to scale up

The Government is boosting its partnership with New Zealand’s dairy sheep sector to help it lift its value and volume, and become an established primary industry, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF) fund will contribute $7.97 million to a $19.94 million developmental programme led by Spring Sheep Co.

The investment is a measure of Government backing for ‘Scale Up’, a new five-year partnership programme with Spring Sheep Milk Co. designed to take the dairy sheep industry from the piloting phase through to an established primary industry. Continue reading

Almonds – a new high-value nut for researchers to crack

The Ministry for Primary Industries is making no secret of its supporting a nutty idea.  It is investing $67,000 in a Plant and Food Research feasibility study to determine if almonds can be grown sustainably in Hawke’s Bay.

The project has backing from central and local government, alongside Picot Productions Limited, producers of the Pic’s brand nut spreads.

“We’re already supporting peanut growing trials in Northland – now it’s almonds’ turn,” says Steve Penno, Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) director of investment programmes. 

“The first step is to see whether we can successfully produce almonds with a low carbon footprint at scale and for a competitive price in New Zealand.”

MPI’s $67,000 investment in the $100,000 project is being made through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund

Plant and Food Research business manager Declan Graham said the goal is to provide diversification opportunities for local dry stock farmers rather than trying to replicate the large-scale almond monocrop system of California. Continue reading

Government invests $1.34m in hemp research

The Ministry for Primary Industries is investing $1.34 million in hemp research and development through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures).

Funding recipient New Zealand Natural Fibres (NZFN) is itself putting $2 million into the five-year programme, which will explore flooring, food packaging and activewear among other innovations.

NZFN chief executive Colin McKenzie says it’s pleasing to have government backing.

“Hemp has huge potential to be part of the solution to some of the most crucial environmental challenges facing our planet today,” McKenzie says.

He says the funding will be used to both ramp up innovation and enhance the company’s growing, processing and marketing capability to propel it toward a global leadership position in the industry.

On the innovation side, NZNF will be developing blended wool and hemp fibres for use in soft flooring and outdoor activewear, McKenzie says. 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

Government backs programme to future-proof Sauvignon Blanc vines

The Government is investing in a seven-year programme led by Bragato Research Institute to help future-proof the sustainability of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc grapevines, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

Sauvignon Blanc comprises 87 per cent of the country’s wine exports.

“This new $18.7 million grapevine improvement programme will introduce genetic diversity into our vines, and ensure they continue to thrive in New Zealand conditions,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Anticipated climate change impacts require action now to ensure New Zealand continues to be considered the world’s Sauvignon Blanc capital.

“New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc vines are based on one clone, which presents some risk. Developing improved, commercially-available variants of this grape variety will also act as an industry insurance policy against future risks from pests, disease and changing markets.” Continue reading

Nutrient analysis of New Zealand-grown peanuts to provide marketing opportunities

The High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge has invested $45,460 in a project to determine what nutrient composition and health claims for peanut butter made from New Zealand grown peanuts can be made.

Pic’s Peanut Butter (Pic’s), a Nelson-based company, will collaborate with Plant & Food Research to supply samples of New Zealand peanuts for nutrient analysis from growing trials, with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

Plant & Food Research will analyse the nutritional composition of four samples of New Zealand grown peanuts, and four peanuts grown overseas in Brazil, Argentina, Australia and Nicaragua. The composition will be assessed against Food StandardsFood Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) regulations that relate to nutrition, health and related claims. 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

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

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