A long-established Waikato dairy farm is taking on a new role as a demonstration farm for Lincoln University.
The 200 hectare farm is owned by St Peter's School in Cambridge, which has joined Lincoln in a new partnership that will be formally launched on Thursday.
Lincoln University already runs a research and demonstration dairy farm in Canterbury.
The university's vice-chancellor Andrew West said the St Peter's farm would provide a North Island equivalent in the dairy heartland.
"We wanted something that was able to represent Waikato conditions, perhaps take that out a bit further, maybe relevant to Taranaki or Bay or Plenty, and be able to run a similar model in the North Island to what we've run in Canterbury," he said.
Dr West said the Canterbury model had been highly successful. "It's been very influential and very helpful to dairy farmers."
He said the St Peter's farm, on the banks of the Waikato River, was an ideal site to monitor environmental impact and show how dairying could be environmentally sustainable and still profitable.
"When St Peter's approached us with the idea, Lincoln University was enthusiastic, for a whole variety of reasons," he said. "It's an ideal site to really start to up the performance of the farm in terms of productivity and profitability, but also to measure its environmental performance objectively, independently, scientifically, and to be able to use that information hopefully to refine and upgrade Overseer and improve its accuracy."
Overseer is a computer software package designed to help farmers assess nitrogen and phosphorus losses and greenhouse gas emissions from their farms.
St Peter's School principal Steve Robb said the farm had been providing the school with income since its establishment in 1936.
The farm's educational role had been limited but that would change with field days for the farming community, Lincoln University courses and programmes for the school's own students.
"Students will be involved, for example in research, water and soil studies, data gathering, business case studies. We'll have an 'adopt a cow' programme, you can analyse a cow," Mr Robb said.
"Sustainability studies - we are an 'enviro green gold award' school, so we'll be building on that... Other subject-related studies would include things like tourism, food technology, IT, maths, geography, our business and entreprenuerial centre, sciences, ag, hort, engineering and so on," he said.
"It's basically opening up students' and the region's minds to the whole agri-business industry and the opportunities that are there."