Next Generation Systems

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

Project Details Ngā taipitopito

Project Status:
Challenge funding:
Research duration:
July 2016 – December 2019

Collaborators Ngā haumi

AgResearch | Central Plains Water | Drumpeel Farms | Leftfield Innovation | Lincoln University | Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research | Ngāi Tahu Farming | Pāmu | Plant & Food Research | Rotomā No.1 Incorporation | Scion

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What are we doing?E aha ana mātou?

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? Ka pēhea e whai take ai te rangahau?

  • 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.

Participation & engagement Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

  • 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.

Research team Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

Research Lead
Robyn Dynes
Paul Johnstone
Plant & Food Research
Warren King
Lania Holt
Alan Renwick
Lincoln University
Carolyn Hedley
Manaaki Whenua

Tools & resources Ngā utauta me ngā rauemi

Journal Article

Understanding Land-Use Trade-off Decision Making Using the Analytical Hierarchy Process: Insights from Agricultural Land Managers in Zambia

Understanding factors that influence trade-offs between agricultural expansion and forest conservation is important in managing competing land-use objectives. This paper applies elements of the Analytical…
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Analysing Trade-Offs in Land-Use Decision-Making

A free training course by Xiaoting Hou-Jones (IIED, UK) and Alan Renwick (Lincoln University, New Zealand). This virtual training aims to help researchers learn how…
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Kāinga: People, Land, Belonging

Through his own experience and the stories of his tūpuna, Paul Tapsell (Te Arawa, Tainui) charts the impact of colonisation on his people. Alienation from…
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Supporting complex decisions on land-use change

A framework to support making major decisions about on-farm change is described in a short Research Findings Brief, for farmers, growers, farm consultants, rural professionals…
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Bringing people together for diverse land use – webinar

In some catchments, diversification to mixed land uses will be a more pragmatic solution than applying all mitigations on all farms – especially where a…
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Farm Soil Health: Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people

This visual summary document contains several infographics that show a general improvement in soil health as land-use changed from forestry to pasture. Monitoring and management…
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Academic outputs He whakaputanga ngaio

Journal Article

Assessing soil health following conversion from forestry to pasture in Canterbury

Soil health was assessed across land conversions from forestry (Pinus radiata) to irrigated dairy pasture. Samples were collected and indicators of soil fertility, organic matter,…
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Journal Article

Beyond Sustainable Intensification: Transitioning primary sectors through reconfiguring land-use

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…
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Journal Article

Balancing the Push and Pull factors of Land-Use Change: A New Zealand Case-Study

New Zealand is increasingly facing environmental and social challenges associated with its current land-use choices. There is therefore a drive to find ways to continue…
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Technical Report

Supporting farmers to develop future-ready farm systems

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…
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Technical Report

Farm Soil Health: assessment across a forestry to pasture chronosequence

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…
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Journal Article

Challenges and opportunities for land use transformation: Insights from the Central Plains Water Scheme in NZ

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…
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In the media Mai i te ao pāpaho

RNZ Country Life, 5 June 2020
Leftfield Innovation is investigating six crops we currently import but could grow and then use to develop products.
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."
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
Farmers Weekly, 4 June 2020
Six star crops – soy, hemp, chickpeas, buckwheat, oats and quinoa – could represent real future foods opportunity
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
ODT, 20 July 2022
"Our soils weren’t evolving as fast as we would’ve liked and that gave us a clear mandate that we needed to try and do something different. That led us to the regenerative trial in our dairy support farms and that’s been really exciting."

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