The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is calling for proposals for projects that will investigate regenerative farming practices.
Funding for successful proposals is available through MPI's Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) co-investment fund. The fund aims to have projects underway by mid-2021.
"There is increasing interest from farmers and the wider community about regenerative agricultural practices, but definitions for regenerative agriculture can vary dramatically," says Steve Penno, MPI's director investment programmes.
"We're looking to define what regenerative agriculture means from a New Zealand perspective, and develop a sound evidence base to test and confirm what works in our soils, climates, and farming systems."
MPI's chief science adviser, Dr John Roche, says broadly speaking, MPI sees regenerative farming as a set of practices that, in isolation or collectively, may result in improved outcomes for our productive land, freshwater and marine environments, our climate, our animals, and for the people that grow and consume our food and fibre products.
"Regenerative agriculture is not a 'one-size-fits-all' activity with prescribed inputs and outputs," says Dr Roche, "and the farmers I've spoken with do not want it defined so tightly.
"Some of the practices New Zealand farmers are already using could be considered regenerative. By determining which farming practices have a positive impact on environmental sustainability and human health and wellbeing in the New Zealand context, we'll be able to confidently share these regenerative practices widely with farmers.
"Regenerative agriculture also has the potential to help our food and fibres sector to produce higher value products with even stronger environmental credentials.
"An important part of these projects will be turning the findings into practical information for farmers, to help them adopt methods that are shown to work."
Mr Penno says the Primary Sector Council's Fit for a Better World vision and MPI's Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential roadmap recognises the importance of Te Taiao (care for our natural world) and the role regenerative systems could play in transitioning to a more sustainable future for our food and fibres sector.
"Through funding new projects, we want to enable a number of outcomes such as increasing the resilience of our production systems to climate impacts, reducing their environmental footprint, increasing plant health and productivity, and improving water-use efficiency and retention.
"We're excited about what the future may hold in the regenerative agriculture space and we encourage anyone who thinks their idea might be eligible to get in touch."