Pathways to Transition

Rural Professionals Funding Round Now Open

“Maverick” farm advisors are invited to test smart ideas that could create real change for Kiwi farmers, in the third round of the Rural Professionals Fund. Rural professionals are encouraged to team up with farmers to apply for $75,000 funding to rapidly test innovative ideas and share the results.

Rural professionals are invited to team up with farmers to apply for funding to test innovative ideas that could lead to significant improvements in farming systems.

The Rural Professionals Fund, established in 2020 by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, is now accepting applications for the third round of funding to support projects that could benefit farming communities. Applications close on Friday 12 August, with projects to begin on 1 October 2022.

“Kiwi farmers are creative and resourceful, often trying out new ideas and practices because they are curious to see what will happen,” says Prof Rich McDowell, chief scientist at Our Land and Water.

“As a science funder, we’re used to hearing big ideas from scientists seeking research funding. But we wondered, how many promising ideas are stuck on one farm – or inside a farmer or rural professional’s head? Loads, it turns out.”

The third round of the Rural Professionals Fund will invest up to $75,000 in projects that will rapidly test ideas and innovations within a short nine-month time frame. Project teams must include a rural professional, and a farmer or grower. The team also must include a person with relevant scientific or technical expertise, or mātauranga Māori, or kaupapa Māori research expertise (this may be the rural professional in some cases).

Projects must align with the Our Land and Water objective: to improve Aotearoa’s land and water quality for future generations, while enhancing the value of the primary sector to New Zealand. Communicating the results of both successful and unsuccessful projects to the wider rural profession and farming community is a crucial part of the process.

“We are particularly interested in projects that will help diversify land use and practices, effect behavioural change and create new ways of doing things across the agri-food and fibre system,” explains Prof McDowell.

“We want to see concepts emerge that can generate evidence and move into action quickly, The Rural Professionals Fund allows us to quickly explore a lot of options, and encourage and resource more innovators and entrepreneurs to test their good ideas.”

Chief executive Jo Finer says the NZ Institute of Primary Industry Management is again delighted to support this opportunity to pilot innovative ideas that drive improvement on farm. “Rural professionals play a valuable role as trusted advisors to farmers, and this provides them with a unique opportunity to generate ideas which can be tested with the support of funding.”

“We are particularly interested in projects that will help diversify land use and practices, effect behavioural change and create new ways of doing things”

— Richard McDowell, chief scientist for Our Land and Water.

Last year, the fund received 47 applications, of which 12 projects were funded (see and are now close to completion. These projects encompassed a wide variety of farm systems, industries and ideas, tackling questions including:

  • Do composting shelters for cattle improve animal welfare, or reduce nitrate leaching and GHG emissions?
  • What are the financial implications of adopting regenerative farming practices on sheep & beef farms?
  • Can satellite images help kiwifruit growers identify orchard zones that are under water stress?
  • How can Canterbury farmers be supported to explore new land-use opportunities emerging through climate change?
  • What would happen if New Zealand’s dairy industry stopped using internationally produced supplements, such as PKE? 
  • How could Māori Whenua Trusts reconnect with the younger generation of kaitiaki?

The projects all have one thing in common: if the concept was proved, it could create real benefit for farming communities, our land, or our water.

The application form is available at Applications are due by 5pm, Friday 12 August 2022. Progress updates about current projects are posted on

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)

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