Regenerative Agriculture

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

Project Details Ngā taipitopito

Project Status:
Challenge funding:
Research duration:
May 2020 – November 2020

Collaborators Ngā haumi

Abron | AgResearch | Beef + Lamb NZ | Bragato Research Institute | Calm the Farm | DairyNZ | Fonterra | Foundation for Arable Research | Integrity Soils | Lincoln University | Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research | Ministry for the Environment | MPI | NorthTech | nRythm | NZ Merino | NZX | Otago Innovations | Pāmu | Plant & Food Research | Quorum Sense | Taiao Natural Resource Management | Toha Foundry | University Of Canterbury | Winegrowers NZ

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What are we doing?E aha ana mātou?

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? Ka pēhea e whai take ai te rangahau?

  • The Regenerative Agriculture think piece outlined the top principles and goals of regenerative farming systems in New Zealand, in general and by sector (dairy, drystock, arable and viticulture).
  • This project didn’t look at specific regenerative agriculture practices. It focussed 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 identified by Māori experts and is not part of this project.
  • 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.

Participation & engagement Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

  • The Regenerative Agriculture think piece project formed working groups that included 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 engaged 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.

Research team Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

Science Lead
Gwen Grelet
Manaaki Whenua / Quorum Sense
Project Lead
Sam Long
Quorum Sense
Paul Mudge
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Bryan Stevenson
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Suzie Greenhalgh
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Brent Clothier
Plant & Food Research
Mike Beare
Plant & Food Research
Pablo Gregorini
Lincoln University
Trish Fraser
Plant and Food Research
Frank Griffin
Otago Innovations
Erena Le Heron
Le Heron Leigh Consulting Ltd
Abie Horrocks
Foundation for Arable Research
Will Kerner
Bragato Research Institute
Nic Conland
Nicole Schon
Kate Orwin
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Warren King
Ina Pinxterhuis
David Norton
University of Canterbury
Melanie Davidson
Plant and Food Research
Edward Mitchell
Kirstie Macmillan
Farm to Farm
Michelle Barry
Bragato Research Institute
Johanne Laubach
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Gradon Diprose
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Sarah Connell
The Agribusiness Group

Tools & resources Ngā utauta me ngā rauemi


Regenerative Agriculture: Measuring What Works, Where It Matters

The 5th webinar in a series of 5 about regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, held on 23 November 2021. Speakers: Mike Taitoko (Toha Foundry), Dr…
View Video

Regenerative Agriculture: Productivity, Profit and Food Quality

The 4th webinar in a series of 5 about regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, held on 17 November 2021. Speakers: Matt Harcombe (Silver Fern Farms),…
View Video

Regenerative Agriculture: Biodiversity and Animal Welfare

The 3rd webinar in a series of 5 about regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, held on 9 November 2021. Speakers: Geoff Ross (Lake Hawea Station),…
View Video

Regenerative Agriculture: Climate Change and Soil Health

The 2nd webinar in a series of 5 about regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, held on 3 November 2021. Speakers: Clare Buchanan (Align Farms), Dr…
View Video

Overview of Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa

The 1st webinar in a series of 5 about regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, held on 26 October 2021. Speakers: Dr Gwen Grelet (Manaaki Whenua…
View Video

Is regen ag the silver bullet for farming woes?

Regenerative Agriculture has been proposed as a solution not only for transforming on-farm processes, but as a driver of change for the global food system,…
View Summary

Academic outputs He whakaputanga ngaio

Technical Report

Relevance of the One World, One Health framework to farming in Aotearoa NZ – a perspective piece

This report is a perspective piece that suggests one possible approach for monitoring and assurance of regenerative agriculture in New Zealand. The approach is based…
View Technical Report
Technical Report

Research strategies relevant to regenerative agriculture

This report looks at how the science system can fill more than 60 knowledge gaps identified in the previous 18 reports in teh Regenerative Apriculture…
View Technical Report
Technical Report

Place-based approaches to assessing the impact of regenerative agriculture in NZ

Research on regenerative agriculture in New Zealand might benefit some regions more than others, finds this report. Regions that are likely to experience the effects…
View Technical Report
Technical Report

Nutrient density and food quality in the context of regenerative agriculture

The connection between regenerative agriculture and food quality is explored in this report. “Although direct evidence is limited, there is strong suggestions from the broader…
View Technical Report
Technical Report

Productivity: Indicators and associated methodologies to quantify production

The productivity of a farm can be looked at in terms of the quantity of food it produces – for both humans and animals –…
View Technical Report
Technical Report

Determining the economic and market potential of regenerative agriculture

The usual ways to measure the economics of farming need to be expanded to fully understand the costs and benefits of regenerative agriculture practices in…
View Technical Report

Incentives for Change Projects

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The Matrix of Drivers

A foundational understanding of international and domestic drivers and issues, and their importance to the primary sector
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This project has produced
Information Type Icon Interactive Tool OutlineInformation Type Icon Summary OutlineInformation Type Icon Technical Reports Outline
New Models Of Collective Responsibility

New Models of Collective Responsibility

Developing new ways to strengthen the connection between people, land and water
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Register Of Land Management

Register of Land Management Actions

What's been done? A national record of land management actions to improve water quality and restore catchments
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Eutrophication Product Footprinting

Eutrophication indicators will help New Zealand agribusiness reduce environmental impacts and meet expected new European environmental standards
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Reasons for Water Quality Improvement

Investigating the reasons for decreasing phosphorus concentrations in many waterways
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Indicators Working Group

Investigating the use of indicators to help the primary and public sector meet local, national and international reporting requirements
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