MPI is investing $67,000 through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund in the $100,000 almond-growing project.
Plant & Food Research will do a feasibility study to see if almonds can be grown sustainably in Hawke’s Bay.
The project has backing from central and local government, alongside Picot Productions Limited, Kiwi producers of the Pic’s brand nut spreads.
“We’re already supporting peanut growing trials in Northland, now it’s almonds’ turn,” Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director of investment programmes Steve Penno said.
“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 is investing $67,000 through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) in the $100,000 project.
Plant & 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.
“Ideally farmers will be able to set aside some of their pastoral land for growing almonds, as a way of diversifying and deriving better value from their land,” Graham said.
AgFirst will undertake a financial analysis as part of the project.
They will consider the economics of setting up a profitable almond orchard system,factoring in market prices, climatic volatility and environmental sustainability challenges.
If the feasibility study shows almond growing has promise, the next step would be growing trials.
Central Hawke’s Bay District Council Mayor Alex Walker said the aims of the project fit well with the council’s economic development strategy.
“We grow great food in Central Hawke’s Bay and it’s initiatives like this that will continue to inspire our vision of a thriving future and a prosperous economy,” Walker said.
“All our farmers are looking for ways to minimise their nutrient, water and carbon footprints and diversify incomes, so this project is an exciting addition to our district.”
Penno said developing high-value sustainable products is central to the Government’s Fit for a Better World roadmap for the food and fibre sector, which aims to boost sustainability, productivity and jobs over 10 years.
In addition to the MPI funding, further cash and in-kind contributions totalling $33,000 are being provided by Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Wairoa District Council, Hastings District Council and Picot Productions Limited.