Rural Professionals Fund 2022–23

There were 12 successful projects in the third funding round for the Our Land and Water Rural Professionals Fund.

Rob Suisted


Rich McDowell

Other Projects:

RPF 2020-21 (round 1)
RPF 2021-22 (round 2)
RPF 2023–24 (round 4)

The Rural Professionals Fund enables individuals and businesses to partner with scientists to rapidly test exciting and innovative ideas that could lead to significant improvements in farming systems.

The fund launched in May 2020. Read about the 12 projects funded from the third round of funding in September 2022, below. Follow Our Land and Water on Facebook and subscribe to our e-news for project updates.

Project Summaries

New Ground

Issue 3, December 2023

Magazine summarising the results of 10 Rural Professionals Fund projects, distributed via the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Managers

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Ground cover plants to replace the 'weed spray strip'

Weed management in Nelson orchards could be transformed by successfully growing hardy, perennial ground cover plants to outcompete weed species under apple and pear trees. Current standard orchard practice is to use herbicide sprays in the area under trees, to remove competition for nutrients and water from unwanted 'weed' plants. This has been reliable and cost-effective management practice but leaves ground bare, susceptible to erosion and with overall reduced health. Some chemicals have also been found to harm pip fruit trees. This project aims to contribute knowledge to the goal of eliminating the need for herbicides in future.

Rural Professional: Aimee Lister (AgFirst)
Project Team: Craig Hornblow (AgFirst), Rob Holtham (Willisbrook Orchard), Anna Lambourne (NZ Apples and Pears), Jake Tully (NZ Apples and Pears), Rebecca Campbell (Plant & Food Research)

Herbs take on weeds in orchard trial

6 December 2022
Farmer’s Weekly

Social media update

March 2022

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Pines as a nurse crop to establish natives

The Emissions Trading Scheme provides an opportunity for sheep and beef farms to diversify income by retiring marginal land into exotic or indigenous forestry. Farmers typically see native trees as beneficial to their landscape, but the cost and time to establish indigenous forestry is a barrier. This project will investigate the potential for using pines as a low-cost, low-stress nurse crop to establish native bush. Pine plantations across Waikato will be surveyed to provide guidance on the relevant factors required for a successful transition, and an economic analysis will determine costs, carbon accumulation and revenue.

Rural Professional: Steven Howarth (AgFirst)
Project Team: Phil Weir (AgFirst), Adam Forbes (Forbes Ecology), Martin Coup (farmer)

This project has submitted an academic journal paper that will be added below once published.

Nurse pines could support native regeneration

Tony Benny
New Ground, December 2023

Social media update

May 2023

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How to winter better

Wintering on the West Coast of the South Island is a challenge. This project aims to provide West Coast farmers with a range of wintering options and information to improve their environmental outcomes. This project will interview West Coast farmers who use standoff pads, winter herd shelters, and composting barns, to discover their motivations, reasoning, and other options they've considered. The differing wintering options will be modelled through OverseerFM and Farmax to understand the economic and environmental implications of making these changes to the farm system.

Rural Professional: Andrew Curtis (Primary Insight)
Project Team: Taane Johnsen (Westland Milk), farmers TBC

Lifting the game for West Coast wintering

Delwyn Dickey
New Ground, December 2023

Better Wintering – West Coast

September 2023
Project report

Coping on the Wet Coast

November 2022
Dairy Exporter

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Composting 'mootels' on the West Coast

This project aims to provide New Zealand dairy farmers with a clear pathway to developing a composting shelter (or 'mootel'). It will undertake an in-depth analysis of the design, capital costs, and process of shifting to a mootel system, based on real experiences of transitioning by two West Coast dairy farms, including their biophysical and economic data. A transition map will be developed to clarify considerations for moving from pre-mootel to post-mootel. A final report will provide unique contextual information on the pros and cons of integrating composting mootels into a West Coast farming system.

Rural Professional: Robb Macbeth (Rural Consulting)
Project Team: Keith Woodford (Agri-Food Systems), Rachel Durie (Perrin Ag), Josh Brown (Rural Consulting), Harry Millar (Rural Consulting), Gaye and Murray Coates (Haupiri farm), Carmel and Matt O'Regan (Mangawaro farm)

Mooving in on the soggy West Coast

Delwyn Dickey
New Ground, December 2023

Composting Mootels on the West Coast

September 2023
Project report

Composting Mootels in a West Coast Context: Summary for Farmers

September 2023
Summary for West Coast farmers

Morning Report at 06:27 a.m.

11 Sep 2023
Radio NZ

Going under cover

November 2022
Dairy Exporter

Social media update

March 2023

074 Wheat And Cows 400sq Bernard Spragg Infairlienz

Milling wheat as a nitrogen scavenger

Almost all milling wheat used in the North Island is imported. Diversifying land use by integrating spring wheat into a farm system may provide environmental benefits due to its ability to 'scavenge' nitrogen following pasture or vegetable crops in a rotation. This project will model and measure the environmental, production, greenhouse gas, and economic impact of growing spring wheat within North Island farm systems. This will be ground-truthed at two sites: pasture to wheat in the Wairarapa, and within a vegetable crop rotation in Ohakune. The outcomes will be used in a wider milling wheat programme that aims to increase the area of the North Island growing wheat from 40ha to 600ha by 2025.

Rural Professional: Nick Pyke (Leftfield Innovation)
Project Team: Stuart Ford (The AgriBusiness Group), Julie Lambie (The AgriBusiness Group), Mariana Andrucelli (Lincoln University), Ra Smith (Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa)

Wheat shows promise in North Island

Tony Benny
New Ground, December 2023

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Electrocoagulation treatment for dairy waste

Electrocoagulation is currently used to treat wastewater from activities such as mining. This project will investigate using electrocoagulation as a treatment for dairy waste, and assess whether this technique could recover enough phosphate and nitrates to reduce fertiliser costs, and enable water recycling. Research will take place on the Te Rarawa dairy farm, Tupehau Dairy, which currently uses 220,000 litres of water a day in the wash-down process, including the feedpad, with the water currently irrigated on land. Success will be measured through water sampling, recycled water use, water to be discharged meets recreational standards for freshwater following treatment, cost savings, and nutrient testing of the fertiliser by-product.

Rural Professional: Chevon Horsford (LIC FarmWise)
Project Team: Andreus Kurmann (Far North Enviro Lab), Stewart Otene (Te Waka Pupuri Putea Trust), Chris Moretti (Te Waka Pupuri Putea Group)

This project encountered setbacks and was not able to deliver a full technical report.

Information Type Hero Interactive Tool

Can green crops capture enough nitrogen for vegetable growing?

Nitrogen fertiliser use is becoming increasingly restricted and expensive, so vegetable growers are looking for new methods to manage the high nitrogen demands of their crops. Despite the extensive use of clover grasses to capture nitrogen in pastoral farms, this approach isn't widely used for intensive vegetable production. There is a lack of New Zealand-specific data for suitable green crops that can capture and supply nitrogen for vegetable production. This study will undertake field trials to quantify the nitrogen captured by legume/grain cover crops, and will investigate how quickly it is then released into the soil, longer-term nitrogen losses, and profitability.

Rural Professional: Dominic Ferretti (Ferretti Growers)
Project Team: Sjef Lamers (Sustainable Nutrition)

This project has submitted an academic journal paper that will be added below once published.

Organic farming trials show promise

July 2023
Top South Farming (page 28)

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Local grain economy

Aotearoa's food imports are dominated by grains. We have the land and industry support to grow much more of our own arable food, but our processing mills have little incentive to ensure grains are New Zealand grown, leaving our farmers in price competition with bigger global players. This project will analyse what is required to enable arable farmers to develop on-farm processing mills, to support local food security. The team will take lessons from other on-farm processing initiatives, such as on-farm pasteurising, mobile abattoirs, and small-scale fish processing facilities, assessing how they have overcome barriers to enable success.

Rural Professional: Angela Clifford (Eat New Zealand)
Project Team: Heidi McLeod (Lincoln University), Hamish Glendinning and Simon White (Ludlow & Woodbrook Farms)

Downsizing to upsize the local grain economy

Delwyn Dicky
New Ground, December 2023

NZ Food System Innovators

October 2023

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Systems thinking for future farm design

Farmers need support to identify and implement resilient strategies, customised for their farm business, that allow them to plan for a productive and profitable future - while reducing their risk of nutrient losses to water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing carbon sequestration, paying respect to the local cultural context, and supporting the welfare of humans and animals. This project aims to design a 'systems thinking' framework for farm planning that considers the interconnected ecosystem that underpins farm function, applies mātauranga Māori principles, and helps farmers design production systems that will lead to a resilient farm business in the future.

Rural Professional: Anna Higginson (Agri Magic)
Project Team: Charlotte Glass (Agri Magic), Piripi Perry-Smith (Agri Magic), Richard and Chrissy Wright (Tamar Farming), Tony Coltman (Canlac), Dr Liz Wedderburn (AgResearch)

Seeing the big picture

Daniel Eb
New Ground, December 2023

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Using eDNA to identify taonga species

The native species that live in our rivers leave tiny traces of genetic material in the water. This environmental DNA (eDNA) can be detected to help communities understand the health of the water and the taonga species it supports. This project will compare eDNA from two farms and a culturally significant headwater site, to understand the ecosystem changes as the awa travels through different landscapes. The results will enable farmers to see where wildlife and farmed animals are contributing to eDNA, provide a method to detect positive change in future, and provide communities with a way to connect more deeply with their awa and its ecosystems.

Rural Professional: Arapera Paewai (Taiao Ora Contracting)
Project Team: Penelope Drysdale (Te Miro Farm/Drysdale Dairies), Adrian Cookson (AgResearch), Shaun Wilkinson (Wilderlab NZ), Amy Gault (Wilderlab NZ)

eDNA reveals awa’s secrets

Elaine Fisher
New Ground, December 2023

What is eDNA?

March 2023

Country Calendar

24 September 2023

Watch from 15'20"

Blair and Penelope Drysdale: Te Miro Farm

19 May 2023
REX Rural Exchange podcast

What lives in the river

January 2023
Dairy Exporter

See also 'Paradise by the awa' in the same issue for a profile of Penelope and Blair Drysdale, the owners of Te Miro farm

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Te rito hāpori: Building understanding in a budding industry

Medicinal cannabis growing is suitable for integration within many existing commercial farming systems, providing opportunities for diversification of both farm activity and income. Outdoor-grown medicinal cannabis is becoming increasingly viable across New Zealand as regional supply chains emerge, develop, and mature. This project aims to produce a web-based 'grower's handbook', sharing knowledge from four Otago-Southland commercial growing operations. It will describe best-practice crop management techniques and relevant factors for integrating medicinal cannabis cropping within existing farm systems.

Rural Professional: Jaye Cavaye-Astle (Te Ao Kakano)
Project Team: Donald Morrison (Te Ao Kakano), Phil Morrison (Across Performance), Timbo Deaker (Viticultura Cental Otago)

Information Type Hero Video

Solar energy integration with livestock farming

Solar farms are typically installed as a large-scale monoculture of photovoltaic panels. The opportunities for integrating solar with more traditional farming are usually presented from the viewpoint of how farming might complement an energy business, such as by reducing the need for mowing, rather than how an energy enterprise might complement an established farming business. This project aims to establish how solar arrays could be incorporated into livestock farms in the Canterbury region to provide environmental and animal welfare benefits by offering low-maintenance shade, while also generating renewable energy for financial benefit.

Rural Professional: Anna Vaughan (Tambo)
Project Team: Alan Brent (Victoria University of Wellington), Jim Hinkley (Victoria University of Wellington), Pablo Gregorini (Lincoln University), Wim de Koning (Lincoln University), farmers TBC

Farming sunshine

Delwyn Dickey
New Ground, December 2023

Solar panels light up drystock income

12 September 2023
Farmers Weekly

Agrivoltaic research takes off

December 2022
Dairy Exporter

Tools & resources Ngā utauta me ngā rauemi


What is eDNA?

Amy Gault, Freshwater and Community Science Lead from Wilderlab, talks about eDNA. She was filmed at Te Miro Farm, while sampling the source of the…
View Video
Technical Report

Agrivoltaics: Integrating Solar Energy Generation with Livestock Farming in Canterbury

With increased interest in energy generation of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in Aotearoa New Zealand, agrivoltaics provides the opportunity to increase the productivity of…
View Technical Report

Integrating solar electricity generation with livestock farming in Canterbury

Aotearoa New Zealand has committed to actions to mitigate climate change. By 2050 the intention is to be transitioned to a net zero carbon economy.…
View Summary
Technical Report

eDNA as a holistic measure of pastoral landscape effects on taonga species

Freshwater quality is measured with key indicators such as faecal indicator bacteria (E. coli), nitrates and phosphates. For communities, such indicators are vague and somewhat…
View Technical Report

Case Study: Establishment of Ground cover species in Apple Orchard

We wanted to better understand if low-growing, perennial plants can be established as a ground cover in pipfruit orchards, as an alternative to a traditional…
View Summary
Technical Report

Establishing perennial ground cover species, as a management practice to suppress weeds in a pipfruit orchard’s “weed spray strip”

Can low-growing, perennial plants be established as a ground cover in pipfruit orchards, as a replacement for a traditional ‘weed spray strip’ management practice? In…
View Technical Report

In the media Mai i te ao pāpaho

Pathways to Transition Projects

Dsc9947 Enhanced Nr 1200px Credit Richie Toa Mills

Ngā Tai-o-Rongo

Revitalising ancestral knowledge systems to provide a pathway for Māori landowners to work with the environment, rather than on the environment.
View Project
This project has produced
Information Type Icon Video Outline
Te Taiao framework in use

Lessons from Our Land and Water

The Our Land and Water National Science Challenge journey to a Tiriti-led science partnership: the lived experience and the lessons learned
View Project
Tukituki River and Te Mata Peak. Photo: Phillip Capper via Flickr

Synthesis Scenarios for Future Land Use

Steering land use change to meet water quality targets, through the synthesis of Our Land and Water research
View Project
The Collaboration Lab

The Collaboration Lab

Determining the role of collaboration in transforming management of land and water
View Project

Trust and Social Licence

Investigating the importance of trust and approval by the community of the primary sector’s practices, and the connection to productivity and sustainable growth in New…
View Project
Rural Professional Fund 2021 22

Rural Professionals Fund 2021–22

There were 12 successful projects in the second funding round for the Our Land and Water Rural Professionals Fund.
View Project
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