Agri­cul­ture

Element - - Business -

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.

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