Case Study

Market-Led Trials of Specialty Grains and Pulses in Canterbury

Buckwheat, soybeans and quinoa trials were undertaken in Canterbury this year, comprising three of the six ‘star’ specialty grains and pulses identified by Our Land and Water research as having high potential for New Zealand farmers

Buckwheat, soy and quinoa plants

Trials of three novel crop types identified as having high potential by Our Land and Water research were undertaken in Canterbury this year. Four on-farm buckwheat trials, supported by Carrfields Ltd, were initiated for a Japanese customer with exacting specifications for buckwheat noodles. Soybean lines were imported by Plant Research (NZ) Ltd as part of their ongoing trials to identify the best soybean lines for New Zealand conditions. Quinoa trials also got underway, with Kiwi Quinoa looking to expand its grower base.

These trial crops comprise three of the six ‘star’ specialty grains and pulses identified by Our Land and Water research as having high potential for New Zealand farmers: soy, chickpeas, buckwheat, hemp, oats and quinoa. All have minimal environmental impacts (and in some cases benefit land and water) and can be included as part of mixed farming systems that include animals.

Connections with these food companies, farmers and seed importers were supported by research completed by the speciality grains and pulses workstream of Our Land and Water’s Next Generation Systems programme, led by Susan Goodfellow, director of Leftfield Innovation.

Next Generation Systems, led by AgResearch science impact leader Robyn Dynes, aimed to support farmers to develop new farming systems and land use options that are feasible and practical in the eyes of rural communities, in response to intensifying demand to adapt to new market opportunities, technological innovations, regulatory limits and consumer demands.

Our Land and Water’s whole-system objective – to improve water quality while enhancing primary industry production and profitability – helps increase the chance of transition to novel land uses that meet farmer priorities and concerns

Farmer insights into new land uses

The researchers connected with farmers who were interested in exploring new land uses associated with reliable water, provided by the new Central Plains Water irrigation scheme in Canterbury.  Thirteen farmers participated in multicriteria decision-making interviews, a framework developed by Next Generation Systems researchers to explore the drivers and barriers for land use diversification.

These interviews found the farmers generally considered financial factors more important than social, environmental and market factors, which were rated above regulatory and knowledge factors. The research team reported that most farmers understand what can be grown, but find it challenging to fit the pieces of the value chain together, such as consumer demand and the availability of processing capability to transform raw materials into desired food products.

Market insights into new land uses

Leftfield Innovation sought to connect market insights with these farmer insights. Speciality grains and pulses had previously been identified as a land-use opportunity of high interest to Central Plans Water farmers. Researchers gathered information on a wide range of ancient and specialty grain and pulse crops and looked at the market to determine which grains and pulses were increasing in demand, had attributes consumers desired, and potential as ingredients in high-value snack food products.

The resulting Specialty Grains and Pulses Report shortlisted six grain/pulse categories and identified further steps required for opportunities to be realised.

This work provided assessment criteria that Leftfield Innovation drew on in work with Plant Research Ltd who evaluated 50 soybean seed varieties imported and grown for the Canterbury trial. Five soybean varieties were selected by Leftfield Innovation to fit their identified market and consumer expectations, and further trials will be planted by Plant Research (NZ) Ltd over 2020–21.

The report also supported Leftfield Innovation to communicate to farmers the exacting market specifications for buckwheat. The Japanese customer subsequently requested an increased tonnage of New Zealand-grown buckwheat to meet these standards in 2020–21.

What's next?

The Specialty Grains and Pulses Report was used to support the grains and crops section of a report for Wairarapa Water Ltd, to support its proposal for the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme. This identified nine potential new land use opportunities afforded by increased water storage.

Our Land and Water subsequently provided the research team with the opportunity to extend the geographical reach of its approach through a workshop with Wairarapa farmers, held in July 2020. This enabled researchers to connect market insights with science capability and farmer needs and concerns, with a wider range of farmers across New Zealand. This workshop identified a market-led opportunity to integrate olive production with dairy farm systems in the Wairarapa.

The information and connections produced by this research will support Canterbury and Wairarapa farmers as they develop opportunities to create more value and diversity from their land, enhancing the production and profitability of New Zealand’s primary sector.


More information:


Annabel McAleer

Communications Manager, Our Land and Water. Text in this article is licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top