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Incentives for Change

Regenerative Agriculture

Developing a framework to collect scientific evidence about regenerative agriculture in Aotearoa

Heifers Grazing Soil Primer Mix To Help Kickstart Soil Health

What Are We Doing?

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence for the benefits of regenerative agriculture, but scientific studies are scarce and focused on other countries.

We don’t yet have enough New Zealand data to compare the multiple suggested benefits of regenerative farming (environmental, economic, social, psychological and cultural) to other current ways of farming in New Zealand.

This think piece project will develop a framework for future regenerative agriculture research in New Zealand. It will identify what’s needed to build a scientific evidence base, so that future research can quickly fill the evidence gaps specific to regenerative agriculture in New Zealand.

Regenerative agriculture practices are adaptive and seek to optimise farm performance for multiple benefits simultaneously. This isn't easy to measure using conventional academic approaches, so this project will look at how to combine academic knowledge with the ways farmers and land managers know and appraise their whole system.

The project will identify what farmers, investors and agribusinesses need to measure, so they can communicate how their farming approach benefits their customers, communities and regulators.

How Can The Research Be Used?

  • The Regenerative Agriculture think piece will outline the top principles and goals of regenerative farming systems in New Zealand, in general and by sector (dairy, drystock, arable and viticulture). It will highlight any differences to comparable systems overseas.
  • This project won’t look at specific regenerative agriculture practices. It will focus on how scientists and land managers can measure the outcomes of regenerative farming activities, including profitability, productivity, food quality and safety, animal welfare, social wellbeing, land and water quality, and climate change adaptation and mitigation, and identify knowledge and/or methodological gaps.
  • Alignment between te ao Māori (including recent iwi-led initiatives) and regenerative farming principles will be highlighted.
  • This project will result in a research framework to help quantify and qualify outcomes from regenerative farming activities. This framework will be used by MPI to inform future investment decisions for regenerative agriculture research.
  • The report is expected to be made public by December 2020.

Research Updates

Figure depicting regen ag principles as part of an integrated circular farming system. Within the farm: biological activity, total biodiversity, soil carbon/nitrogen/phosphorus, practices, mindset, adaptive management, profit, kaitiakitanga, data, story-telling. Outside the circle, influencing in: climate, catchment, community, marketing, costs.

Feb 22 2021

Regenerative Agriculture White Paper Sets Out Pressing Research Priorities

Regenerative agriculture has been proposed as a solution for some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most ...
Scientists, researchers, farmers and students involved in the participatory research and extension programme (PEP) discuss the results of plantain research at the Ashley Dene Research Station.

Sep 23 2020

Are You a Business, Lifestyle, Family or Learning Farmer?

Farming is changing, responding to increasing pressure to adopt new practices that prioritise environmental outcomes. ...
Regenerative Agriculture: Webinar and Q&A

Jul 28 2020

Regenerative Agriculture: Webinar and Q&A

Dr Gwen Grelet and Sam Lang co-lead the new Our Land and Water regenerative agriculture ...
Dr Nina Koele measuring water infiltration rate (photo credit: Jason Nolan)

May 27 2020

What Do We Know About Regenerative Agriculture in New Zealand?

In 2020, news headlines have been dominated by global crises – the Australian wildfires, the ...

Community Involvement

  • The Regenerative Agriculture think piece project will form working groups that include a diverse range of farmers, people from agribusiness and government, and scientists, including people who are interested in and sceptical about regenerative agriculture.
  • Altogether, the project will engage over 100 people and their networks to identify the questions they would like answered about regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, or to seek their input into the framework.

Team Snapshot

Research Outputs


Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand – Research Pathways to Build Science-Based Evidence and National Narratives

Lead authors: Gwen Grelet, Sam Lang with 70 co-authors

There is a pressing need for scientific testing of the limited evidence and anecdotal claims being made by regenerative agriculture practitioners and proponents. This new white paper sets out 17 priority research topics identified by 200+ representatives of New Zealand’s major agricultural sectors, regenerative agriculture farmers, and professionals in the wider agri-food system. The white paper introduces 11 principles for regenerative farming in New Zealand emerging from farmer focus groups, applicable to all sectors. There is significant overlap on the continuum of practices between mainstream and regenerative agriculture. The white paper examines areas of compatibility between mainstream and regenerative farming practices and strategies. Regenerative farmers appear likely to question the status quo, and look for new opportunities and different ways of living, working and improving their farming system.


A number of in-depth topic reports on research priorities are currently in review and will be released in August, with a series of webinars to support understanding.

Conference Presentations

Regenerative agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand – Research pathways

Gwen Grelet (Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research)
Joint New Zealand Veterinary Association & NZVNA Conference: Stronger Together (Sheep & Beef Cattle session), 23 June 2021

Have a Question?

We are happy to answer any questions about this research and how it can be used.

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