A $17.7 million greenhouse gas testing and research facility is to be built in Palmerston North to monitor and measure emissions from cattle.
The new facility is part of a suite of measures aimed at supporting farmers to reduce their emissions while maintaining their global competitive edge, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said at Fieldays.
“Our goal is to partner with farmers to ensure New Zealand retains its brand as a low-emissions, environment-friendly source of food and fibre,” Hipkins said.
“Farmers can’t do it all on their own and agriculture is too important for the government not to be investing in better environmental outcomes. We want the best price for the best products, produced by the best farmers in the world – and our plan is working.
“More and more people are choosing to buy products that come from a place where animals are treated well, there is a low impact on the environment and production contributes minimally to global emissions.”
The government also announced that $4.3m would be invested in soil and grass research, including a faster hybrid breeding system for ryegrass to increase pasture resilience as well as boosting on-the-ground help and advice for farmers and growers through a career pathways scheme.
The facility is funded by the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions, its primary sector joint venture partner, and AgResearch. Centre executive director Wayne McNee announced that the organisation will operate under a new trading name, AgriZeroNZ.
As for the GHG centre, Massey University in Palmerston North will supply land for the facility and cattle for testing. The facility is expected to be built by September next year.
It will include 12 respiration chambers that allow researchers to measure and monitor changes to methane emissions in individual cows.
This latest project follows recent joint venture investments of $2.5m to further work on a livestock methane vaccine, and $1.8m to Ruminant Biotech to develop its slow-released methane-inhibiting bolus.
The government also announced two new pasture projects, with $4.3m co-invested with industry through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to look at soil and grass to help farmers reduce costs, maintain good pastures, and remain a world-leading sustainable producer of high value food.
O’Connor said the discussions he has had with companies such as Tesco and Waitrose and the emissions reduction policies of these companies justify these investments.
“Let me quote what Nestlé want … By 2050, 50% of key ingredients will be sourced from regenerative practices. This is Nestlé, the single biggest customer of our single biggest company.”
Similarly, Tesco had advised its suppliers that they had to disclose their emissions by 2021, establish “net zero ambition” by 2022 and set science-based targets to support delivery by the end of this year, he said.
“This is what is happening around the world. We are really efficient and good dairy farmers but that is not good enough in a world that is panicking.”
O’Connor said this is why the government is partnering with industry leaders to evolve to best farm practice.