New Zealanders have been innovating in agriculture for as long as there have been New Zealanders. So there is no reason we shouldn’t be leading efforts to make humanity’s food farming a benefit to our environment, and not something that simply exploits and pollutes it for shortterm gain and long-term ruin.
Key to these efforts is work to reduce the methane production of the stock that contributes up to a fifth of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is led by The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, which is 100% Government funded to the tune of $48.5 million between 2009 and 2019.
But individual Kiwi agricultural firms are also powering ahead on cleantech developments of their own. For example, Silver Fern Farms, one of the country’s biggest meat producers, has invested $14 million on a chemical wastewater treatment plant at Finegand near Balclutha. This was developed and built in partnership with Wellington-based Energy For Industry and supported by $240,000 of funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. It mixes the waste sludge with wood waste and burns it in a bio-fuel boiler that supplies about a third of the plant’s need for steam, reducing the need for coal. This should save Silver Fern Farms the $3.5 million it would have needed to spend on a composting
AgResearch is planning to invest $100 million in facilities and resources over the next four years.
plant, cut the firm’s CO2 emissions by 9500 tonnes a year, and reduce particulate and sulphur dioxide emissions.
Meanwhile, Pukekohe-based Biotelliga is working on removing the need for chemical pesticides in greenhouses. Company founder Stephen Ford has spent 15 years developing a range of pest control substances made from naturally occurring fungal spores that kill target insect species but are non-toxic to other animals, people or plants. Unsurprisingly, representatives of the US$40 billion dollar pesticide and fungicide market, including Dow, Monsanto, Dupont and Bayer, are beating a path to Biotelliga’s door.
And AgResearch, New Zealand’s largest Crown Research Institute, is planning to invest $100 million in facilities and resources over the next four years to boost innovation in the sector, including the creation of innovation ‘hubs’ that bring together academic and research organisations from both the public and private sector. The first of these was announced in April and will be a partnership between Lincoln University, DairyNZ and Crown Research Institutes AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, and Landcare Research. AgResearch is describing it as the largest investment programme focused on agricultural science in the organisation’s history. Of course, how much of this work will eventually qualify as ‘cleantech’ will remain to be seen.