Friday, December 8, 2023

Funding boost for food systems project

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Researchers, iwi in $10m project combining indigenous knowledge and practices and science to safeguard food supply
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A research project to future-proof and protect New Zealand’s food systems and the environment has attracted more than $10 million in funding. 

The joint venture between the Sustainable Nutrition Initiative of the Riddet Institute, hosted at Massey University, and iwi group Wakatū Incorporation was selected by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as a recipient for its 2024 Endeavour Fund round. 

The project, Kai anamata mō Aotearoa – exploring future food system scenarios and impacts, will address the growing concerns around sustainable nutrition and food affordability, project co-leader Professor Warren McNabb said. The project is funded for five years.

“This will be a transformational change benefiting Aotearoa New Zealand,” McNabb said.

The project aims to identify equitable and resilient food systems to reduce NZ vulnerability to climate change and economic pressures.

The Riddet Institute is a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) focusing on advanced food research. Based in Nelson, Wakatū Incorporation is a whānau-based business owned by families descended from the customary Māori landowners from Te Tauihu (the top of the South Island).  

Wakatū Incorporation is one of the largest private landowners in Te Tauihu, managing a diverse portfolio of vineyards, orchards and farms, and water space, as well as large retail, residential and office properties. 

Through Kono NZ it exports beverages and AuOra facilitates its research and development programme in functional food and ingredients.  

McNabb said an interactive model will be developed as part of the project to make visualising the problem of weighing the many trade-offs of changes to the food system that much easier. 

This will help decision-makers transition NZ to a carbon-neutral economy and ensure the wellbeing of the people (tangata ora) and the environment (taiao ora). 

He said the project will ensure NZ’z food system feeds all the country’s communities.

Wakatū Incorporation general manager and project co-leader Miriana Stephens said the project will accelerate momentum towards climate positive food production systems. 

The project aligns with Wakatū Incorporation’s 500-year intergenerational vision, Te Pae Tawhiti, which focuses on reconnecting whānau to whenua and protecting and enhancing taonga for the benefit of current and future generations. 

“The project will facilitate tikanga-led land use opportunities and Mātauranga to develop opportunities in sustainably produced nutrition, health and wellbeing of people and our environment according to our traditions and knowledge.” 

The project has a cross-organisation, multidisciplinary team, including partners from AgResearch, Lincoln University and Kōtātā Insight, with expertise in all aspects of the food system. 

The Endeavour Fund encourages researchers to consider a diverse range of ideas and conduct excellent research with transformational potential. The Kai anamata mō Aotearoa project was successful under the Research Programmes stream, which invests in ambitious research ideas which have credible and high potential to positively transform NZ’s future.

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