Efforts to better understand the social, environmental and financial impacts of regenerative farming have been stepped up with a joint venture between the government and Ngai Tahu Farming establishing a research project in North Canterbury.
Intended to run over seven years, the programme has $8 million of government backing from the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, along with $3.58m of additional investment.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the programme, known as Te Whenua Hou Te Whenua Whitiroa (The New Land The New Horizons) – aims to provide insights into the comparable impact of regenerative farming practices.
The project takes two Ngai Tahu farms running side by side as a means of comparative assessment. One property is the 286ha Te Whenua Hou farm, and the other a conventionally run Ngai Tahu property.
O’Connor said consumers in markets including the United States are paying premiums for regeneratively produced food products.
“We believe our exporters can capture opportunity in this, provided there is an evidence base for it – hence our investments like this one,” said O’Connor.
The minister said the trial will measure a range of factors, with a particular focus on restoring and enhancing soil health.
The study will determine whether the regenerative system will deliver a viable alternative approach that improves soil health, has a lower environmental footprint and lower water use, and complements iwi owners’ knowledge of land stewardship.
“A unique aspect of the study will be assessing the impacts of regenerative agriculture practices on farm workers. This will be monitored through a range of metrics including worker wellbeing, engagement, sleep and fatigue, task diversity and productivity,” the minister said.