The Northland Age

Project to help farmers gain regenerati­ve agricultur­e certificat­ion


Interest in food produced using regenerati­ve practices is gaining momentum across the globe — and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is backing a project to help more New Zealand sheep and beef farmers capture this premium market.

MPI has committed $142,480 over two years through its Sustainabl­e Food and Fibre Futures fund towards the $356,200 project with Lean Meats Limited (trading as Atkins Ranch).

It aims to scale up the number of verified lamb producers that meet the regenerati­ve certificat­ion requiremen­ts of the US Savory Institute’s Land to Market Programme.

New Zealand-owned company Atkins Ranch has been a partner of the Land to Market Programme since 2019.

It sells premium grass-fed lamb into the US market and has supply contracts across five regions of New Zealand. The company has been piloting regenerati­ve farming practices since 2019 with a core group of 23 farmers, now expanding to more than 70 farms.

“I see regenerati­ve agricultur­e as leaving the land in a better state for future generation­s,” said Atkins Ranch chief executive officer Pat Maher. “That includes improving soil health, minimising tillage, and encouragin­g biodiversi­ty rather than monocultur­es.

“Land to Market is the world’s first verified outcomes-based regenerati­ve certificat­ion. It requires partners to undertake a range of measures annually, which cover soil health, biodiversi­ty, water infiltrati­on, and ground cover.”

Maher explained that Atkins Ranch was one of the first companies in the world to join the Savory programme.

He said part of the reason the programme piqued his interest was that he believed New Zealand already had a competitiv­e advantage over other countries due to the way we farm here.

“By showing that we meet internatio­nally-recognised regenerati­ve agricultur­e standards we’re able to access high-value markets overseas,” Maher said.

Lifelong farmer Stuart Ellingham was one of the first farmers to sign up to the pilot.

He is managing director of Horizon Farming, which comprises eight farms on 10,000 hectares in Hawke’s

Bay, and has a degree in agricultur­al commerce from Lincoln University.

“I was sceptical at first,” Ellingham said. “However, I saw it as an opportunit­y to put the microscope on New Zealand to see how we stack up under the Savory Institute’s measuremen­t systems.

“With convention­al farming practices in New Zealand I believe most farmers are undertakin­g continuous improvemen­t anyway.

“To meet Savory’s regenerati­ve certificat­ion requiremen­ts we just needed to tweak a few things, such as not undertakin­g full tillage cultivatio­n, and being more aware of the soil.”

Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes, said this SFF Futures project was a good fit with the goals of the Government and food and fibre sector’s Fit for a Better World roadmap, which aimed to improve productivi­ty and reduce the impacts of food production on our environmen­t.

“Consumers are increasing­ly willing to pay a premium for meat produced regenerati­vely and sustainabi­lity is taking a front seat more and more in the way we produce food,” Penno said.

“This project will help open up a new opportunit­y for more of our farmers to demonstrat­e the good work they’re doing — and with a few tweaks they can be rewarded for it.”

 ?? ?? Award-winning Mangarara Staion in Hawke’s Bay is an example of a farm using regenerati­ve agricultur­e.
Award-winning Mangarara Staion in Hawke’s Bay is an example of a farm using regenerati­ve agricultur­e.

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