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The Challenge has pioneered a ‘think piece’ process that resources researchers and stakeholders to explore ideas, refine research questions and co-author a paper. In many cases, this has led to the co-innovation of a research project


Regenerative Agriculture Think Piece

Regenerative Agriculture Think Piece
May 2020 – November 2020

Grelet GA, Lang S, Merfield C, Calhoun N, Robson-Williams M, Anderson C, Anderson M, Apfelbaum S, Baisden T, Barry M, Beare M, Belliss S, Borrelli P, Bruce-Iri P, Bryant R, Buckley M, Burns E, Cavanagh J, Chan D, Clifford A, Clothier B, Conland N, Cournane-Curran F, Crampton E, Davidson M, Dewes A, Donovan M, Doolan-Noble F, Driver T, Dynes R, Fraser T, Garland C, Good H, Gordon I, Greenhalgh S, Gregorini P, Gregory R, Griffin F, Harcombe M, Harmsworth G, Holdaway R, Horrocks A, Jones J, Kerner W., King J, King W, Kirk N, Kirschbaum M, Laubach J, Lavorel S, Le Heron E, Letica S, Lister C, Macmillan K, Maslen D, Mason N, Masters N, Matthews J, Mcglone M, McNally S, Mcneill S, Millard P, Minor M, Mudge P, Norton D, O’Connell S, Orwin K, Perley C, Phillips C, Pinxterhuis I, Price R, Rachel M, Rissman C, Roudier P, Saunders C, Saunders J, Schon N, Selbie D, Smith P, Stanley-Clarke N, Stephens T, Stevenson B, Stronge D, Su J, Tait P, Taitoko M, Tapsell P, Teague R, Todd J and Vernon J.

Increasing numbers of farmers are transitioning to regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, and multinational food companies are promoting its uptake globally.

The fast pace of adoption has created an urgent need to better understand what regenerative agriculture means in the New Zealand context, and for scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

Twenty short reports outlining what we need to know about regenerative agriculture in New Zealand were released in five ‘bundles' from late October through November 2021, with each release accompanied by a webinar.

This series of reports is complementary to the white paper released in February 2021 and will provide details about how the information contained in the white paper was acquired.

Download the White Paper below, and find all topic reports and webinar links on the Regenerative Agriculture project page.

Contributed to:

Policy Think Piece

The impact of policy on sustainable land use options in New Zealand
October 2018 – April 2019

Dr Nigel Bradly, Cerasela Stancu, Chris Keenan, Weo Maag, Alistair Mowat, John Reid

Do current national and regional policy frameworks discourage (or insufficiently encourage) change at the scale and diversity needed for the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge (OLW) to achieve its objective?

The overall finding of this think piece is that current national and regional policy frameworks, and their implementation, do act as barriers to the Our Land and Water objective: “To enhance primary sector production and productivity while maintaining and improving our land and water quality for future generations”.

There is a need for more targeted science to close knowledge gaps in policy, practice and outcomes for land and water use and management. For decision-makers in both the public and private sector, the knowledge available and accessible at the point of decision-making has a direct impact on the quality of decisions. (The scope of the inquiry expanded to include private sector policy and implementation, because these also significantly influence current and future land use, and associated environmental outcomes.)

See also two case studies by Rob van Duivenboden: Policy Think Piece Case Study 1; Policy Think Piece Case Study 2

Transformation Think Piece

Transformation Is ‘Experienced, Not Delivered’: Insights from Grounding the Discourse in Practice to Inform Policy and Theory
January 2018 – June 2018

Ronlyn Duncan (Manaaki Whenua), Melissa Robson-Williams (Manaaki Whenua), Graeme Nicholas (Institute of Environmental Science and Research), James Turner (AgResearch), Rawiri Smith (Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi), David Diprose (Emerdale Farm)

Calls for transformation, transformative research, and transformational impact are increasingly heard from governments, industry and universities to set a course towards sustainability. This paper contributes to broadening the concept of transformation for Our Land and Water, which has been tasked with transforming the way we use and manage our land and water.

Drawing on perspectives of those involved in working with communities to bring about change in how land and water are managed, the objective of this research was to elicit a range of practice-based encounters of transformation. The paper provides insights on where transformation takes place, what the first step of transformation might look like, and what might be deemed transformational.

In addition to the often-cited ingredients for transformation – catalysts for change, barriers to change and power relations – this research identifies precursors for change and processes for change. In identifying precursors and processes for change, the findings bring into view the often unseen internal and experiential dimensions of transformation.

This project informed Our Land and Water’s strategy for 2019–2024

Sustainable Development Goals Think Piece

A review of New Zealand’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
March 2018

Stephen Flood (Manaaki Whenua), Peter Edwards (Scion), Karen Fisher (University of Auckland), Roa Crease (University of Auckland), Stephan Rupp (Branz)

This think piece highlights an opportunity for New Zealand’s National Science Challenges (NSCs) to make a distinctive and lasting contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with potential to increase the capabilities of New Zealand’s science institutions.

The report provides some guidance on who should hold responsibility for the goals in a New Zealand context, and how existing science might inform and help measure progress towards the goals.

The findings suggest that New Zealand needs to increase its ambition in relation to the SDGs. Specifically, there needs to be a direction from government, ideally in the form of a Cabinet Paper, with clear recommendations, priorities and an approach for implementation and reporting.

The case studies in this report provide a basis for establishing how existing science outputs from the NSCs can help inform and measure progress towards the goals.

Social Licence Think Piece

Trust, engagement, information and social licence – insights from New Zealand
July 2017 – December 2017

Peter Edwards (Scion), Aysha Fleming (University of Tasmania), Justine Lacey (CSIRO, Australia), Libby Lester (University of Tasmania), Libby Pinkard (CSIRO, Australia), Katharina Ruckstuhl (University of Otago), Carel Bezuidenhout (Scion), Tim Payn (Scion), Karen Bayne (Scion), Tracy Williams (Plant and Food Research)

This research examines trust at the government, industry, community nexus, as mediated by media, and its effect on social licence to operate.

Researchers attempted to understand levels and importance of trust in New Zealand's natural resource sectors by examining ways of building, maintaining and assessing public trust in a post-truth society. We surveyed 128 New Zealand public and held a stakeholder forum about perceptions of trust in relation to natural resource sectors.

The results provide indications of novel advances around trust and trustworthiness. In contrast to other literature, we find a nuanced understanding of trust among respondents in relation to the media ‒ respondents distrusted actors cited in media more than the media outlet or platform itself. Further, our findings suggest there is no discernible change in trust levels in the post-truth era, in this context.

Resilience Think Piece

Applying the concept of resilience to an integrated research programme
November 2017

William Kaye-Blake (PwC New Zealand), Michael Dickson, Hannah Stapley

The aim of this report was to provide transparency for improved strategy, co-ordination and integration of the Collaborative Capacity (called Capacity for Transition from from 2019) theme within the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge using a resilience framework.

We found the funded and aligned programmes all cover the Institutional dimension, and some specifically aim at building Economic and Environmental resilience, directly supporting the Challenge mission. Additionally, the programmes are engaged with the other dimensions: Social and Cultural. The wide spread provides evidence that these are interdisciplinary research programmes.

The focus on Institutional resilience is based on an assumption that it will produce the Economic and Environmental gains targeted by the Challenge. This assumption could be converted into a testable hypothesis by theme and programme leaders.

The report recommends evaluating how learnings from case studies could apply to the National context, and developing indicators for the programmes so that progress towards achieving theme and Challenge outcomes can be tracked and described.

Vision Mātauranga Think Piece

Enhancing Māori agribusiness through kaitiakitanga tools
April 2017 – June 2017

Dr Jessica Hutchings (Massey University), Dr Jo Smith, Dr Nick Roskruge (Massey University), Dr Charlotte Severne (Massey University), Dr Jason Mika (Massey University), Dr Joy Panoho (Massey University)

Māori approaches to lands and waterways assume an indivisible relationship between human and non-human entities. This paper provides an overview of Māori conceptual underpinnings related to land, water and people from Māori agribusinesses, environmental and resource management sectors.

Māori agribusinesses take a dynamic and holistic approach to natural resources that seeks to balance commercial and cultural imperatives. Balancing these dual aims could be enhanced by the uptake of Māori science and knowledge systems applied in environment and resource management contexts.

We provide an overview of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) tools in the Māori environmental and resource management sectors. We explore the potential adaptability, scalability and transferability of these tools to the Māori agribusiness sector with prioritised suggestions for future developments.

A more robust knowledge transfer system that makes research relevant to the end user is needed, along with more innovative research agendas based on the needs of diverse Māori communities, and capability development that supports Māori agribusiness initiatives.

Bioeconomy Think Piece

Enabling a transformation in New Zealand’s bioeconomy
March 2017 – June 2017

Anita Wreford (Scion), Karen Bayne (Scion), Peter Edwards (Scion), Alan Renwick (Lincoln University)

The OECD called for a global transition towards a bioeconomy in 2009, which resulted in a number of nations adopting strategies to develop their bioeconomy. New Zealand’s large biological resource base, cultural heritage in farming, and global dominance in livestock production, should make it well-positioned for bioeconomy-based wealth creation.

However, ecological and societal limits require the current economic farming model to be re-evaluated. Using a transformation lens and bioeconomy framework, this paper discusses what is required for New Zealand to transform into a fully functioning bioeconomy.

The paper identifies several critical elements of a bioeconomy that are lacking or not fully developed in New Zealand, notably finance and governance, and the need for public engagement in policy.

To enable New Zealand to realise the potential opportunity the bioeconomy offers, a more integrated and cohesive primary sector model is required that goes beyond tweaking the existing regime, towards supporting and developing new niche production sectors, based on a clear vision jointly conceived with wider society.

Genomics Think Piece

Applications of the Soil, Plant and Rumen Microbiomes in Pastoral Agriculture
July 2016 – October 2016

Graeme Attwood (AgResearch), David Chapman (DairyNZ), Shannon Clarke (AgResearch), Jeanne Jacobs (AgResearch), Sinead Leahy (AgResearch), Richard Muirhead (AgResearch), Suzanne Rowe (AgResearch), Steve Wakelin (AgResearch)

This paper was commissioned by Our Land and Water to test the hypothesis: “Significant additional gains in soil, plant, and animal productivity, coupled with reduced environmental footprint can be realised through appropriate matching of functional genotypes (plant and animal) and understanding the interactions among soil, plant and animal microbiomes.”

Producing dairy, meat and fibre products relies on the biological processes occurring in soils, plants and animals. Each of these biological components have their own microbiome, viewed previously as distinct entities. However, these microbiomes operate under similar ecological principles and are physically connected via water, carbon and nutrient cycles. These microbiomes can be considered a meta-community (farm system biome).

While opportunities through manipulating individual microbiomes are being investigated (eg rumen methanogenesis), there may be opportunities for system-wide gains by looking across two or more microbiomes. We reviewed the work done in soil, plant and animal microbiomes and explore what additional benefits may be possible through understanding their interactions, and matching soil, plant and animal genotypes to increase productivity and reduce environmental footprint.

Indicators Think Piece

Co-Innovation Leads to High-Impact Indicators
July 2016 – September 2016

Loretta Garrett (Scion), Anne-Gaelle Ausseil (Manaaki Whenua), Tracy Williams (Plant & Food Research), Estelle Dominati (AgResearch) and John Dymond (Manaaki Whenua)

This paper was commissioned by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge to test the hypothesis: “Co-innovation leads to high impact indicators.”

The Challenge had already made a clear commitment to deliver its outcomes using co-innovation approaches, involving stakeholders in design and implementation processes to help ensure results are representative, usable and deliver impact.

The research team reviewed existing indicator initiatives, assessed current approaches to the design and use of indicator sets, and explored the opportunity for co-innovation to guide the development and implementation of indicators for monitoring and evaluating land and water values.

This report was used as a discussion paper at the Oceania Ecosystems Services Forum in March 2017.

Contributed to:

Data Think Piece

A Data Ecosystem for Land and Water Data to Achieve the Challenge Mission
July 2016 – September 2016

Dr David Medyckyj-Scott (Manaaki Whenua), Dr Kristin Stock (Massey University), Robert Gibb (Manaaki Whenua), Professor Mark Gahegan (University of Auckland), Dr Helge Dzierzon (Plant & Food Research), Dr Jochen Schmidt (NIWA), Dr Alison Collins (Manaaki Whenua)

To address the question “What are the best data structures for land and water information to achieve the Challenge Mission?” a small group of experts were commissioned to produce this white paper.

The growing diversity, complexity, and volume of data represent a rich source of opportunity to lift primary sector productivity, social license to operate, and value for premium product. Thus one of the greatest ‘additionality’ gains for Our Land and Water is gathering this amorphous collection of data into a dynamic, shared data ecosystem in which data can be widely used, and more easily understood, integrated and analysed.

The use of a Data Management Maturity Model was recommended as a framework for thinking and action. The paper set out a set of principles and practices the Challenge should adopt, described a roadmap to achieve the data ecosystem including first steps, and identified an initial set of research topics.

This paper contributed thinking to the MBIE National Research Information System (NZRIS), expected to launch its first iteration by the end of 2019.

Incentives Think Piece

How Value Chains Can Share Value and Incentivise Land Use Practices
July 2016 – September 2016

Caroline Saunders (Lincoln University), Paul Dalziel (Lincoln University), Mark Wilson (Lincoln University), Tiffany McIntyre (Lincoln University), Hilton Collier (AgFirst), William Kaye-Blake (PwC New Zealand), Alistair Mowat (Thought Strategy), Tava Olsen (University of Auckland), John Reid (University of Canterbury), Jacques Trienekens (Wageningen University)

The research team was commissioned to write a paper on how value chains can better share value (economic, environmental, social and cultural) from consumer to producer and incentivise land use practices that relieve tensions between national and international drivers.

This involved a review of the high impact scientific literature, and an application in the context of New Zealand export value chains to explore the ability of value chains to share value, paying particular attention to governance issues. Because the focus was on value chains from consumer to producer, the review concentrated on market-oriented, collaborative value chains.

The research provided insights into the characteristics of “good” market oriented value chains for delivering value that incentivises sustainable land use practices and how these characteristics might be relevant for collaborative value chains for New Zealand’s key export products from its land and freshwater resources.

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