Whole-farm North Canterbury study to investigate science of regenerative farming

by | Aug 8, 2022 | News

The Government is partnering with Ngāi Tahu Farming and Ngāi Tūāhuriri on a whole-farm scale study in North Canterbury to validate the science of regenerative farming, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.


The Government is investing $8 million towards the $11.58 million programme through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund. This programme aims to scientifically evaluate the financial, social and environmental differences between regenerative and conventional practices.

O’Connor said the trial will measure a range of factors, with a particular focus on restoring and enhancing soil health. Soil is considered a taonga (treasure) in Te Ao Māori. This study aims to demonstrate a viable alternative approach that enhances soil health, has a lower environmental footprint, reduces water use, complements the mātauranga Māori (knowledge) of Māori landowners, and is financially profitable.

Damien O’Connor also said:

“The seven-year research programme, called ‘Te Whenua Hou Te Whenua Whitiora (The New Land, The New Horizons), will provide valuable insights into the comparable impacts of regenerative farming practices.

“It will compare outcomes on a 286-hectare dairy farm at Ngāi Tahu Farming’s Te Whenua Hou farming operation in North Canterbury with the conventional approach of the farm next-door.

“Regenerative farming is an alternative farming approach that requires changes to fertiliser, pastures, and animal management.

“Consumers in markets such as the United States pay high premiums for food produced through regenerative systems. We believe our exporters can capture opportunity in this, provided there’s an evidence base for it – hence our investments like this one. Because this trial is being run at a whole-farm scale it will provide especially useful information for farms of a similar size.

“A unique aspect of this study will be assessing the impacts of regenerative agriculture practices on the farm workers. This will be monitored through a range of metrics including worker wellbeing, engagement, sleep and fatigue, and task diversity and productivity. Our Government and sector Fit for a Better World roadmap acknowledges the principle of Taiao Ora, Tangata Ora – if the natural environment is healthy, so too are its people. Food and fibre provide the basis of New Zealand’s economic security.

“We are focussed on investing to help farmers and growers lift their sustainability in ways that capture value in our markets abroad. When we get this right, we become the best farmers for the world”.

Ngāi Tahu Farming’s representative, Barry Bragg said that scientific research on regenerative farming at a whole-farm scale has been lacking in the sector, RNZ reported. “This additional government funding marks a milestone for us as we can now speed up our mahi towards demonstrating the value of agricultural systems that work with the environment, not against it.”

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