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Future Landscapes

Next Generation Systems

Identifying next generation primary production systems and opportunities to change the face of farming



Challenge funding: $2,000,000

Research duration: July 2016 – December 2019

What Did We Do?

Primary production industries are constantly changing in response to new market opportunities, technological innovation, regulatory limits and consumer demands. These external forces for change have intensified, and will likely continue to intensify. While currently perceived as a threat by many landowners, this imperative for change will inevitably create new opportunities and innovations.

Incremental changes to current farming systems will almost certainly not be enough to respond to these pressures, increase the value of primary exports and improve environmental performance. Land managers need new and diverse land use options to deliver faster and greater benefits to land owners, catchments and international markets.

Next Generation Systems research addresses this need for a step change in land use.

The Next Generation Systems research team partnered with innovative farmers, growers and foresters to develop potential land use mixes and new systems of primary production. The research team worked with 5 core partners to co-design and de-risk novel production systems that were feasible and practical in the eyes of the rural community. Researchers critically evaluated these novel systems, addressed barriers to adoption, and identified gaps that require future research.

How Can The Research Be Used?

  • An NGS Assessment Framework was developed using multi-criteria decision-making to simultaneously consider multiple domains where selection of best alternatives is highly complex. The approach recognises that for land owners and managers, land-use change is primarily a business decision, but is influenced by other drivers. The framework can be used by land owners and managers to explore opportunities for next generation systems for their business and to identify gaps in their knowledge. The emerging value of the framework is beyond its original scope, for example in understanding the difference in values within Māori agribusiness between managers, supervisors and governance members.
  • This research has helped de-risk decision-making for case study participants, and identified ways to accelerate the adoption of land uses that represent a transformation from their current state, creating plans for targeted trials, monitoring and evaluation. A highlight of this co-development was the pou marama (lighthouse) workshop with Pamū, which prioritised potential future systems and identified knowledge gaps. This has had a "ripple effect" for Pamū, which is actively planning for land use change resulting from this research partnership.
  • A report was prepared in partnership with a central Canterbury farming group to identify potential crop and value chain opportunities, which align with their collective values.
  • Next Generation Systems partnered with Rotomā No.1 Inc to assist in determining priority values for the transformation of land within a sensitive catchment which is in a staged land clearance. The iwi has a vision for a new approach to land use which meets values across multiple domains. Our researchers contributed science knowledge and networks, and international connections to source new knowledge and genetic material.

Research Updates

Rural farmers to till land in Cabinda. Angola, Africa.

Mar 28 2022

Making Complex Land-Use Decisions in Sub-Saharan Africa

Demand for food in Sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to grow 150% by 2050. Agricultural production ...
Farming family discussion at the dining table. Photo: Liz Robson / Truestock

Feb 8 2022

Supporting Complex Decisions on Land-Use Changes

New Zealanders care deeply about our rivers and lakes, and we have high expectations for ...
Soild Health Dashboard

Dec 7 2021

Exploring Regen Ag With An Evidence-Driven Approach

Ngāi Tahu Farming is designing a farm-scale trial that will transition an iwi-owned dairy block ...
Buckwheat, soy and quinoa plants

Dec 21 2020

Market-Led Trials of Specialty Grains and Pulses in Canterbury

Trials of three novel crop types identified as having high potential by Our Land and ...
Nick Pyke and Susan Goodfellow, Leftfield Innovation

May 25 2020

Beef and Buckwheat: The 6 Grain and Legume Crops with High Potential for New Zealand Farmers

Could New Zealand’s food future include oat milk and cow’s milk sourced from the same ...

In the Media

We could grow that here

RNZ Country Life, 5 June 2020

Leftfield Innovation is investigating six crops we currently import but could grow and then use to develop products.

Future star crops identified

Farmers Weekly, 4 June 2020

Six star crops – soy, hemp, chickpeas, buckwheat, oats and quinoa – could represent real future foods opportunity

Aquaculture – an opportunity to diversify

Rural News, 16 April 2020

"Designing systems that utilise the effluent water from aquaculture systems for agricultural fertigation is a great example of integrated production."

Nuts? Research says 'significant' potential for Rotorua nut crops

NZ Herald, 18 Oct 2019

"They want to know if nut trees that crop annually, after five to eight years, could be intermixed into the forest, and if this could provide them more work options, more products (timber and non-timber), and timelier cash flow," the researchers wrote

Farming for our Future

NZ Geographic, Mar–Apr 2018

“We often hear about our top farmers who are optimising their production, but there’s a step beyond optimising for production, to optimising for the environment they’re in” – Robyn Dynes


Community Involvement

  • Next Generation Systems has sought guidance from a diverse range of farm consultants and rural professionals across dairy, beef, sheep, cropping, horticulture and forestry sectors to identify farmers and behaviours associated with transformative and optimised leading-edge enterprises. This has built a community of interest in Next Generation Systems, and a foundation for wider dissemination as the programme advances.
  • A Living Lakes Symposium (November 2017) presentation led to positive engagement from attendees and new connections with small-scale producers engaged in alternative land use crops.
  • Next Generation Systems lead Robyn Dynes contributed to discussion on what the future looks like for sheep, beef and arable systems at a Beef + Lamb NZ field day, attended by approximately 100 farmers in Hororata.
  • A Sheep Viticulture workshop (9 September 2018) with farmers, industry leaders and global investors discussed gaps and opportunities in integrated livestock-cropping systems.
  • A one-day workshop, ‘Drivers for and Barriers to Land Use Change’ (August 2018) for the New Zealand Agricultural Economics Society was attended by over 40 people from wide range of organisations across government, industry and research.
  • A workshop with farmers from Central Plains (December 2018) was held to explore opportunities and gaps in knowledge for farmers driven to land use change by availability and cost of irrigation water. The workshop has identified both potential opportunities and gaps in knowledge for research to investigate.
  • A workshop was held with the NOSLaM farmer action group in Oamaru (April 2019), which is taking a collaborative approach (with local and regional councils and other stakeholders) to identify alternative land use options with lower environmental footprints in North Otago.

Team Snapshot

Research Outputs


Beyond Sustainable Intensification: Transitioning Primary Sectors through Reconfiguring Land-Use

Karen Bayne and Alan Renwick
Sustainability, March 2021

Internationally there is a desire to transition farming systems towards more sustainable production in response to global and local social and environmental challenges. This transition has often been linked with a movement towards ‘sustainable intensification’ which, although having advantages, has raised questions about a lack of attention to, for example, social and ethical consideration of food and fibre production. Whilst there is general consensus that a transition is required, what is much less clear is what transitioned agricultural sectors would look like in terms of land-use configurations and how such a change can be achieved. Using New Zealand as an example, this paper provides some initial views on what such a reconfiguration may entail. The paper identifies and assesses a range of possible alternative land use configurations that, in general, lead to landscape/regional diversification. The importance of incorporating new high value low intensity (niche) systems into the landscape is highlighted. Development of these niches to achieve scale is shown to be key to the transition process. The joint role of the private (through markets) and public (through policy) sectors in driving the transition is highlighted.

Challenges and Opportunities for Land Use Transformation: Insights from the Central Plains Water Scheme in New Zealand

Alan Renwick, Robyn Dynes, Paul Johnstone, Warren King, Lania Holt and Jemma Penelope
Sustainability, September 2019

This paper considers the factors that are important to land managers in determining whether to change their land use system when the development of an irrigation scheme provides an opportunity for transformative change. A multicriteria decision-making framework using the analytical hierarchy process is used to assess the factors influencing decision makers who are shareholders in the Central Plains Water Scheme. Financial factors generally were weighted above other factors in terms of importance. Social, environmental and market factors were rated similarly, whilst regulatory and knowledge factors appeared generally less important. The study identified the desire of land managers to simplify complex agricultural systems, their need for scale, their concerns over knowledge competition, their willingness to collaborate and the challenge brought about by ‘cultural path dependency’ as being important. This suggests that if novel systems can be developed that better meet these needs and concerns as well as addressing the wider environmental and social challenges, then there may be a greater chance of engendering a land use transition.

Enabling a transformation to a bioeconomy in New Zealand

Anita Wreford, Karen Bayne, Peter Edwards, Alan Renwick
Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, June 2019

The 2009 OECD call for a global transition towards a bioeconomy has resulted in a number of nations adopting national or regional strategies to develop their bioeconomies. We develop a bioeconomy framework, and use it to analyse where New Zealand is currently positioned. We identify several critical elements of a bioeconomy that are lacking, most notably finance and governance. We suggest a more integrated and cohesive primary sector model that goes beyond tweaking the existing (livestock and primary production based) regime towards supporting and developing new niche production sectors, based on a clear vision jointly conceived with wider society.


Supporting farmers to develop future ready farm systems

Leftfield Innovation Limited
OLW Impact Extension Project Report, September 2020

This report summarises insights from a workshop with Wairarapa farmers: the views and drivers of land use in the Wairarapa, the impact of current and future pressures, and the opportunities and barriers to next generation/future farm systems. The workshop investigated the values and mindsets of farmers / rural professionals in the Wairarapa to determine their willingness to collaborate with other farmers/parties in the value chain or participate in business models to assist them in capturing more value.

Farm Soil Health: Assessment across a forestry to pasture chronosequence

Nicole Schon and Ants Roberts
Report prepared for Ngai Tahu, February 2020

Ngai Tahu farming have the goal to maintain the life sustaining capacity of soils during the change from forestry (P. radiata) to pasture agriculture. Sites were sampled across a chronosequence of five sites previously from Eyrewell forest, including a site still in forest and a site out of forestry for more than 10 years. Soil health was assessed in May 2019 against target ranges suitable for high producing pasture agriculture. The closer to these targets, the better the soil health status. The conversion of pine forest to irrigated dairy pasture tended to improve soil health. The soils rated poorly in soil biological indicators, even Farm 1 which had the highest soil health score; hence these soils may require action beyond standard best practice to accelerate soil health improvement.

Farm Soil Health: Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people

Nicole Schon and Ants Roberts
Visual summary, February 2020

There is a general improvement in soil health as land-use changed from forestry to pasture. Monitoring and management is required to reach optimal soil health and maintain these levels including targeted fertiliser application to stay within economic and environmental limits. All soils rated poorly in soil biological indicators, and may require action beyond standard practice to create an environment to enhance soil biology and the services they provide

Specialty Grains and Pulses Report

Leftfield Innovation Limited
June 2019

The opportunities for specialty grains and pulses in NZ were reviewed through the six filters. In most cases the challenge is not 'can we grow them'. The challenge to enabling either expansion or introduction of some of these grains and pulses lies in understanding consumer demand, and the availability of processing capability to transform the raw materials into desired food products to match that demand. We identified that there is potential within six grain/pulse categories shortlisted, however there are actions and further steps that need to be resourced for the opportunities to be enabled and realised on the ground.

Speciality Grains and Pulses - Appendices

Leftfield innovation Limited
June 2019

Appendix 1: Consumer insights report (large retailers, smaller format retail, manufacturers, influencers, distributor, consumers). Appendix 2: Existing knowledge base (22 pulses and grains that could be grown in NZ). Appendix 3: Farmer questionnaire.

Conference Papers

The case for a novel agroforestry system and cross-sector collaboration

Lania Holt, Alan Renwick, Paul Johnstone, Robyn Dynes, Warren King
Nutrient loss mitigations for compliance in agriculture, Occasional Report No 32, Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, 2019

This paper reviews the case for a novel agroforestry system in the Rotorua lakes catchments, based on an interest in trees that can produce edible nuts shared by three quite different rural entrepreneurs; a Māori forest owner, a small block/life-style farmer, and a sheep/beef/forest farmer. Key next steps to de-risking this novel agroforestry system is to build on value synergies using cross-sector collaborations, and to explore scalability options across the different landscapes. From this study two key steps emerge for land managers. First is the need for a stakeholder engagement strategy to build a multidisciplinary coalition of the willing to scale up the nut crop estate. Collaboration will likely need to be radical, with shared values and partnerships formed, and clear roles and responsibilities defined. The second step would be to develop a hazel/gevuina agroforestry system plan.

Next generation systems: a framework for prioritising innovation

Renwick, A., Wreford, A., Dynes, R., Johnstone, P., Edwards, G., Hedley, C., King, W., Clinton, P.
Science and policy: nutrient management challenges for the next generation, Occasional Report No 30, Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, 2017

There is increasing recognition that the land-based sectors will need new primary production systems to break the lock-step relationship between profitability and production, and environmental footprint. Business as usual will not be sufficient to deliver more value with a lower footprint across NZ and create step change rather than incremental change. Assessment of candidate next-generation farm systems is critically lacking. A framework using multi-criteria decision making (MCDM) was developed because it provides the ability to simultaneously consider multiple domains where selection of best alternatives is highly complex.

Conference Presentations

Connecting NZ Food & NZ Farmers to the World

Leftifeld Innovation Limited
Central Plains Water farmer meeting, December 2018

Development of Next Generation Farming Systems using a Multi-Criteria Decision-Making framework

Robyn Dynes, Alan Renwick, Paul Johnstone, Warren King, Lania Holt, David Houlbrooke
Land Use and Water Quality Agriculture and the Environment, June 2019, Denmark

Next Generation Farming Systems -Transformation by Design

Warren King, Robyn Dynes, Alan Renwick, Paul Johnstone, Lania Holt, Dave Houlbrooke
Land Use and Water Quality Agriculture and the Environment, June 2019, Denmark

De-Risking Land-Use Transformation in New Zealand

Alan Renwick, Jemma Penelope, Robyn Dynes, Warren King, Paul Johnstone, Lania Holt
Agricultural Economics Society, April 2019, Belgium

Perspectives on how Market Forces and Regulation are Shaping the Future of NZ Farming

Dynes, R., Mueller, T., DeKlein, C., McDowell, R., Taylor, K., James, T.
Weed Science Society of America, February 2019, New Orleans USA

The case for a novel agroforestry system and cross-sector collaboration

Lania Holt, Alan Renwick, Paul Johnstone, Robyn Dynes, Warren King
32nd Annual FLRC Workshop, February 2019, Palmerston North

Land use transformation; can science de-risk barriers to land use change?

Renwick, A.
NZ Society of Soil Science Conference, December 2018, Napier

Drivers for and Barriers to Land Use Change: Land Use Practice Change and Adoption

Renwick, A.
NZARES and Australasian Agricultural & Resource Economics Society Workshop, August 2018, Wellington

Applying a Multi-Criteria Decision Making Framework to Facilitate Adoption of Next Generation Land-Use Systems in New Zealand

Renwick, A., Penelope, J., Dynes, R., King, W., Johnstone, P., and Holt, L.
NZARES – AARES One day forum, August 2018, Wellington

Next Generation Systems; Science partnering with agribusiness innovators

Robyn Dynes
Presentation OLW Innovation Day, June 2018

Next Generation Systems

Dynes, R. A., Renwick, A., Johnstone, P., King, K., Holt, L., Hedley, C.
Living Lake Symposium, November 2017

OLW Next Generation Systems

Dynes, R., Wreford, A., Renwick, A., King, W., Johnstone, P., Clinton, P., Hedley, C., Edwards, G.
Presentation to Fonterra On-farm team, June 2017

Next Generation Systems

Dynes, R., Wreford, A., Renwick, A., Johnstone, P., Hedley, C., Edwards, G.
Presentation to OLW Symposium, April 2017, Wellington

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