Marlborough Research Centre Trust – Upscaling Organic Waste Streams


Gerald Hope – Chief Executive Marlborough Research Centre Trust, John Patterson – Associate MRC, Bernie Rowe – Chairman, Edwin Pitts – Trustee, (Absent is Ivan Sutherland – Trustee)


AGMARDT provided funding that enabled the Marlborough Research Centre Trust to undertake a waste mapping study across Te Tau Ihu, the top of the South Island. This will support strategies for upscaling organic waste streams.

Industrial scale use of insects to convert waste streams into high quality animal feed is just one of the potential outcomes that could spring from the Te Tau Ihi waste mapping study.

Marlborough Research Centre (MRC) recognised that a comprehensive inventory and analysis of bio resources (waste streams) across the top of the South Island would be a valuable starting point to develop regional strategies and multi-sector business opportunities to recycle and upcycle waste.

MRC associate John Patterson said significant economic benefits are expected to come out of the study, which is now publicly available. It will provide a valuable resource for organisations considering launching new ventures using waste. It is also hoped it will provide a step towards establishment of an industrial waste upscaling plant to produce high value animal feeds.

“The region wishes to establish an environment of cradle to cradle nutrient circularity and reuse,” said Mr Patterson. “The findings of the study can be applied to progress multiple upcycling of organic waste streams. The study has identified what and where the waste streams are and what the resources are and is a fundamental first step to progressing a strategy to upcycle waste streams.”

MRC contracted the study to Plant & Food Research which worked with a bio-waste and insect bioconversion technology expert John Macdonald, of Food Security Solutions Ltd, to survey businesses across the regions that produce waste streams, including the wine industry, other primary producers and processors.

“For instance, grape marc, such as residual skins and leaves, is the waste stream for wine production,” said Mr Patterson. “The Marlborough region produces around 70 to 80 tonnes of this annually.

“Insect farming is one of the opportunities. Insects can potentially be fed using waste streams and then processed for use in high quality animal feed. However, a range of waste streams is needed to create the ‘recipe’ of ingredients required to feed the insects. Organisations considering new insect farming ventures now have easier access to information showing whether sufficient quantities of those waste streams might be available in the region.”

Industrial scale insect farming would implement the latest innovations in sustainable protein production, using the Buhler Insect Technology Solutions (BITS) which uses insects to turn organic residues into protein for feed. While further feasibility studies would be needed, it is estimated such a project would create 50 new full-time jobs and bring investment of $85 million to the region, plus associated value creation.

“The information is now out there and people are starting to use it,” said Mr Patterson. “We have had interest from companies nationally including those looking to understand the financial viability of insect farming, so we will be doing some collaboration to progress how insect farming might evolve in the region. There has also been a lot of interest from the industries that are producing the waste streams.”

The waste mapping project cost $69,000 in total and Mr Patterson said that is unlikely it would have been possible without AGMARDT funding.

“The funding was very valuable. To be truly effective the study needed to cover the entire Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough regions. Different regions have different priorities and it would have been difficult to get everyone lined up. AGMARDT support enabled us to do a comprehensive cross-region study.”

The waste mapping report is now available on MRC’s website at

Strategic Thinking for Agrifood Management Programme (STAMP) – Applications open now

Ensuring our future leaders are equipped to take on the challenges facing the agrifood sector is a big part of what AGMARDT does.

So, we’re thrilled to be a major sponsor and business partner of the Strategic Thinking for Agrifood Management Programme (STAMP), which supports the development of emerging leaders from all areas within New Zealand’s agrifood sector.

Developed and piloted by New Zealand food innovation hub FoodHQ in collaboration with Massey University agribusiness academics, Professor Nicola Shadbolt and Dr Elena Garnevska, over the past three years, the programme focuses on accelerating emerging leaders’ strategic thinking, broadening sector awareness and helping build local and global personal and professional networks.

“The young people who have come through this programme are so inspiring and appreciative,” says FoodHQ Chief Executive Dr Abby Thompson.

“They realise the status quo is not an option and that there are a lot of opportunities waiting to be opened, to build on our strengths like meat, dairy and kiwifruit and introduce greater diversity and innovation.

“It’s so great to have AGMARDT on board to ensure we can continue to help accelerate the skills they need to make change. Without AGMARDT that wouldn’t happen.”

The core approach with the programme is case study analysis based on the time-honoured Harvard Business School methodology.

“Case study analysis not only stimulates the mind to think strategically but gives students some insight to discuss and reflect on real-life situations, the kind of management problems they are likely to face in their careers.

“They get to understand the many different considerations involved, the approach leaders have taken and to learn analytical and problem-solving skills techniques to come up with their own recommendations.”

Another core focus of the programme is extending students’ awareness of the agrifood sector through exposure to its different disciplines and components. This happens through case study work as well as site visits, meetings and panel discussions with those who have knowledge and expertise.

Integral to these activities is bringing participants together with their peers from across the sector and sector organisations to help build networks and relationships.

“Diversity in the cohort is really to ensure we’re getting those different cross-sector perspectives from different aspects such as science, markets and industry on and off-farm, sharing ideas and building relationships.

“Ultimately, collaboration and partnership are fundamental to the future of food, helping build the innovation ecosystem in agriculture, food and technology that New Zealand needs to take to ensure our nation’s future success.”

The programme invites applications from New Zealand based young professionals and postgraduate students (under 30 years of age) from any part of the agrifood sector.  Diversity is a key part of the programme’s success, and current participants include people working in various parts of industry, government and research; and across the whole of the value chain from farming and growing through to consumers and everything in between. It’s not an easy choice with on average 70-100 applicants per year – limited to an annual intake of approximately 10-15 new participants who can participate for up to three years.

“We have between 30-35 participants at any given time, with a current cohort of 32 ranging in age from early twenties to early thirties, with around half of them female.”

The programme is designed not to be an onerous commitment for these often very busy young professionals, with just three to four weekend events a year – and the opportunity to attend the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) conference – and participate in the IFAMA Student Case Study competition.

In fact, in June 2022, three teams were sent to IFAMA in Costa Rica, two of which won first and second place in the case study competition for young professionals.

To apply, please complete the application form and forward with a 2-page CV to by 9am on Monday 22nd August 2022.  Please send any questions about the programme to this email as well.