The Taranaki regional development agency, Venture Taranaki, is set to launch 10 new food and fibre opportunities focused on diversifying the region’s existing food and fibre offering.
From a long list of nearly one hundred, potential commercial opportunities have been explored over an 18-month period with 10 blueprints soon-to-be published for use by the community and a range of interested parties. The list includes opportunities in kiwifruit, avocados, medicinal herbs, gin botanicals and more. Branching Out has also identified 270,000 ha of land suitable for horticulture in the region, with over 40 growers expressing interest in supporting pilot trial activities across a range of ventures.
The Branching Out project was launched in March 2020 with backing from MPI and all three District Councils. Collaborations have occurred since with Taranaki landowners, farmers, growers, food manufacturers, marketers, advisers, Massey University, Crown Research Institutes, and investors. Venture Taranaki says that robust research has been undertaken to identify feasible and high-potential commercially viable opportunities.
This week project stakeholders and partners were given a preview of what’s to come at a food and fibre diversification-inspired knees up. “The diversification dinner was an opportunity to bring together the wide-range of stakeholders we’ve engaged with throughout Branching Out and reinforce the potential for Taranaki as a sophisticated, leading, and future-focused food region,” says Kelvin Wright, Venture Taranaki Chief Executive.
At the dinner key stakeholders got an update on progress, while growers, producers, chef’s, and students had an opportunity to present their best Taranaki-focused dishes for assembled guests. The Novotel Head Chef Vickram Zacharia curated a menu that showcased the region’s local products, with plates featuring predominantly locally grown or produced food.
Beef and dairy are well suited to the region and are a mainstay of the Taranaki economy. These traditional strengths were heroes on two of the plates served; locally farmed beef tartare, and the blue cheese and blackcurrent aged cheddar, used within a mousse, and produced in Eltham. The menu also included Ahi Tote mānuka smoked salt with horopito and black garlic, developed by students at Spotswood College. The garlic was grown in the school māra (garden) and their horopito is locally sourced. This unique product, which is available for sale, is an example of local rangitahi (young people) demonstrating their ability to innovate. Plan-t Hemp chick-n, a plant-based alternative was also a hero dish on the night and tells a story of innovation and collaboration between growers, researchers, manufacturers, and marketers to bring an entirely novel product to life. The use of this ingredient within the menu also nods to increasing consumer preferences and sustainability, said event organisers.
Speakers at the event included food and fibre sector innovators and leaders, along with a video message from Hon Damien O’Connor Agriculture Minister; former Venture Taranaki Chief Executive Justine Gilliland; Lain Jager, Chair of Te Puna Whakaaronui, Wayne Mulligan, Taiao Ora, Tangata Ora, CEO NZ Bio Forestry Ltd and FOMANA Capital; and John Rodwell, Taiao Ora, Tangata Ora, and Director at Landcare Research.
“This really is a team effort – a team Taranaki effort”, says Wright. “With our supported and engaged community we’re keen to build on our tremendous track record already established in farming and food production, by honing in on some of our untapped potential to accelerate commercially viable food and fibre value chain opportunities to strengthen Taranaki economy,”
“Progress will only be possible with community and investor buy-in, and a real commitment from existing players,” said Anne Probert, GM Regional Strategy and Sectors. “We have identified a list of ventures that encompass innovation, growth, and offer market potential, building value and resilience to our regional economy. In the coming weeks we’ll be releasing our investor ready blueprints to encourage people to really consider complementary farm-based activities and the associated value chain enterprises that will be needed to support some of these new or adjacent industries, say sheep dairying or medicinal herbs for example”.
Branching Out key metrics
- Branching Out has shortlisted 10 commercial venture opportunities from a long list of over 96.
- 270,000 ha of land identified as suitable for horticulture in the region, including 3667 ha of land where owners have pinpointed diversification opportunities.
- 70+ ha is already under development or under serious consideration for avocado development.
- 50 growers have shared plant husbandry data pertaining to 28 medicinal plants.
- Over 40 Taranaki growers have expressed interest in supporting pilot trial activities across a range of ventures.
- Eight food and fibre product prototypes have already been developed in partnership with local business and universities through the project, with the ambition to take to market.
Branching Out is a project coordinated by Venture Taranaki, and with input from a wide range of stakeholders, including Massey University, Crown Research Institutes, and Taranaki landowners, farmers, growers, food manufacturers, marketers, advisers, and investors. The project is supported by the region’s three district councils – New Plymouth District Council, South Taranaki District Council and Stratford District Council, and the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFFF).
Taiao Ora is an independent, collaborative initiative to put the wellbeing of Te Taiao (our natural world) at the heart of our food and fibres sector. The vision for Taiao Ora is that Te Taiao – our land, water, climate, and living beings – is healthy and resilient. Because when nature thrives, we all thrive.
For more, go to Venture Taranaki