Wednesday, July 6, 2022

It takes two to test farm innovations

They say two heads are better than one, and now farmers and ural professionals are being urged to team up to test innovative ideas that could lead to significant improvements in farming systems.

The Rural Professionals Fund, established in 2020 by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, is now accepting applications for the third round of funding to support projects that could benefit farming communities. 

Applications close on Friday, August 12, with projects to begin on October 1.

Our Land and Water chief scientist Rich McDowell says Kiwi farmers are creative and resourceful, often trying out new ideas and practices because they are curious to see what will happen.

“As a science funder, we’re used to hearing big ideas from scientists seeking research funding. But we wondered, how many promising ideas are stuck on one farm – or inside a farmer or rural professional’s head? Loads, it turns out.”

The third round of the fund will invest up to $75,000 in projects to rapidly test ideas and innovations within a short nine-month time frame. 

Project teams must include a rural professional and a farmer or grower. 

“We are particularly interested in projects that will help diversify land use and practices, effect behavioural change and create new ways of doing things across the agri-food and fibre system.”

Rich McDowell
Our Land and Water

The team also must include a person with relevant scientific or technical expertise, or mātauranga Māori, or kaupapa Māori research expertise (this may be the rural professional in some cases).

Projects must align with the Our Land and Water objective: to improve Aotearoa’s land and water quality for future generations, while enhancing the value of the primary sector to New Zealand. 

Communicating the results of both successful and unsuccessful projects to the wider rural profession and farming community is a crucial part of the process.

“We are particularly interested in projects that will help diversify land use and practices, effect behavioural change and create new ways of doing things across the agri-food and fibre system,” McDowell says.

“We want to see concepts emerge that can generate evidence and move into action quickly, the fund allows us to quickly explore a lot of options, and encourage and resource more innovators and entrepreneurs to test their good ideas.”

Chief executive Jo Finer says the NZ Institute of Primary Industry Management is delighted to support the opportunity to pilot innovative ideas that drive improvement on farm. 

“Rural professionals play a valuable role as trusted advisors to farmers and this provides them with a unique opportunity to generate ideas which can be tested with the support of funding.”

Last year, the fund received 47 applications, of which 12 projects were funded and are now close to completion. 

These projects encompassed a wide variety of farm systems, industries and ideas.

The projects all have one thing in common: if the concept was proved, it could create real benefit for farming communities, our land, or our water.

Find out more and apply for funding: ourlandandwater.nz/RPF-apply 

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