5 Oct 2021

Regenerative agriculture: NZ farmers well placed to benefit - report

5:07 pm on 5 October 2021

A new industry report has found there's opportunities for New Zealand's farmers to take advantage of the global regenerative agriculture trend, but there isn't a clear definition and understanding of what the practice is.

close up hand holding soil peat moss

(File photo) Photo: 123RF

The primary sector groups Beef + Lamb New Zealand and New Zealand Winegrowers commissioned the research with some funding support from the Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

It focused on the current state and future market potential of regeneratively produced food and wine within three of New Zealand's international markets - the US, Germany and the UK.

Report co-author Mike Lee, from the US-based food innovation agency Alpha Foods, said while there was no single definition of what regenerative agriculture was globally - most agreed at its core it was about improving the health of the land, plants, animals and people.

Lee said developing a set of principles at the national level could give the New Zealand's farmers an edge as the demand and market grows for regenerative products.

He said when his team spoke to some New Zealanders as part of its report, it found there were some misconceptions about how well-established regenerative agriculture was.

"There was this kind of almost assumption that ... regenerative agriculture is the thing that's been already happening and well established and it was sort of New Zealand's job to learn what everyone was doing and kind of adopt that and jump on the bandwagon. I don't think that's as much the case."

Beef + Lamb NZ market development manager Nick Beeby said New Zealand's pasture-based farming systems meant it was better placed than some other countries to meet regenerative agriculture principles.

"This isn't to say all farms are applying all regenerative agriculture principles all the time... [but] our farming systems are so different from conventional agriculture such as in North America with their feedlot-raised beef and sheep meat."

"What this all means is there could be a significant opportunity for New Zealand sheep and beef farmers and wine growers to capture this value in the marketplace."

Beeby said Beef + Lamb would work with farmers and other industry partners to develop a firm plan on how the red meat sector could capture this potential value for New Zealand.

Julia Jones heads analytics for NZX and previously was a farm enterprise specialist at KPMG. She said regenerative agriculture could be an emotive topic for farmers, but it presented opportunities that should not be ignored.

"This is not about one thing, it's not about those five principles of soil, it's actually a holistic mindset ... so we need to be really careful that we don't get so emotional and feel judged by it, that we actually miss all the opportunities of it," she said.

Julia Jones said in the past the farming sector, as well as other industries, had been too slow to move on marketing opportunities or had oversold things which did not matter to consumers.

"You'll see lots of [marketing] things where there's just scenery, well, every country has scenery."

"Grass fed is a really good example... we've missed quite a big opportunity as a country. You know, we've only just started putting 'grass fed' on labels a couple of years ago."

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