Farmer appointed as new trustee to AGMARDT


Photo – Ben Tosswill.

Hawkes Bay farmer Ben Tosswill has been appointed as a new Trustee to the AGMARDT Board of Trustees.

Ben is owner/operator of Birch Hill Station with his wife Libby in the Hawkes Bay. He is also Chair of the Beef+Lamb NZ Eastern North Island Farmer Council and a member of the Beef+Lamb NZ Farmer Council National Executive.

AGMARDT Chair Nick Pyke says Ben brings a valuable mix of skills, experience, and perspectives to the Board, says Chair Nick Pyke.

“We are really thrilled to welcome Ben to the table. As a farmer, he brings an understanding of the industry, a strong focus on what will benefit it going forward, and his networks and connections in the sector.

“With his significant experience in the finance industry globally and locally, he also brings a keen interest and eye for future investment trends, innovation and new technology.”

Prior to farming Ben worked as a rural bank manager before travelling throughout Africa, South America, and Europe. He lived in London for three years, where he worked as an analyst in corporate and investment banking.

Ben says he is excited to be appointed as an AGMARDT Trustee and looking forward to being part of a team that helps shape the future.

“We are living in an exponential era where the speed of technological change is accelerating, and people are adopting modern technology rapidly.

“AGMARDT plays a crucial role in fostering innovation, enabling emerging leaders to develop their capabilities, and driving positive change in the food and fibres sector.

“I want to see our sector leading the world in terms of reputation, opportunity, and innovation. Collaboration will be a key driver of this, something that AGMARDT helps to facilitate.”

Nick says AGMARDT is also farewelling Richard Green, who has stepped down from the board having fulfilled the role of both a Trustee and the Chair over his six years with AGMARDT.

“We want to say a huge thank you to Richard who has provided his time and significant expertise to help AGMARDT and the industry,” says Nick.

“We have valued his knowledge and understanding of the food and fibres industry and his guidance across the range of projects, as well as his business and financial acumen. This has helped ensure our fund is more secure in these volatile times.”


For more information contact

Alice Taylor 021 02785648

Taranaki Rural Energy Project


Photos – Property of Venture Taranaki and Taranaki Catchment Community.

A pilot project in Taranaki is trailblazing initiatives to help farmers improve on-farm energy-efficiency, energy resilience and reduce on-farm emissions.

The Taranaki Rural Energy Project is a collaboration between Federated Farmers, Taranaki Catchment Communities, Taranaki Regional Council and regional development agency Venture Taranaki – working closely with farmers, energy companies, equipment suppliers, programme partners, and agencies.

AGMARDT funding has enabled the project to take its first steps, undertaking initial pilot trials in farmer education and advice for energy efficiency.

Anne Probert, Venture Taranaki GM Regional Strategy and Sectors says on-farm energy use presents an area of opportunity, and farmers are keen to be more sustainable, identify efficiencies, and advance low emission energy options.

“To be able to do this and to capture these gains, they need help to understand their on-farm energy profile and how they can improve low-emission productivity. They also need to know what the best low-emission investment options are and have confidence about making those investments.

“We’re really grateful to AGMARDT for coming on board and making it possible for our Taranaki collective to design and trial such a farmer-led rural energy advisory service”

This involved engaging two people to visit a cross-section of farms, undertake on-farm energy audits and identify some ‘quick wins’ as well as longer-term energy solutions. Outcomes were also collated for the project team along with practical feedback on the value and potential extension of such a service and how it could be used to foster sharing of rural energy information and best practice.

Learnings from this pilot are being used as a foundation for potentially establishing a farm energy adviser role, which could serve as a blueprint for similar programmes throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Future plans could also include the possibility of farm visits, events, and information sharing on rural energy to support initiatives within the programme focus areas.

Funding from AGMARDT has enabled the project to develop a business plan and launch a centralised hub online where farmers can engage and access the programme.

Leveraging the collaborative nature of the project, core focus areas include working with partners to develop data systems that enable farmers to make the required energy-related investment decisions to support the project goals.

Another area is working to identify local resource capacities such as solar and river flows for renewable energies and the feasible technologies to support these.

The project is also supporting collaboration between energy infrastructure companies and the Taranaki rural community to increase supply resilience and support transitions to new technologies.

“Ultimately, the big focus of this project is creating a collaborative and farmer-led approach that fosters practical advice and support and closes the information gap farmers currently face in relation to the rollout of cost-effective, technically feasible, and readily available energy solutions.

“Learnings, case studies, and resources from the project will be available to all farmers in New Zealand. Over time, this will help to future-proof farms in terms of meeting their energy supply needs and also place them at the forefront concerning trialling, testing, and utilising new energy technologies and low emission options.”


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 [email protected]m by 9am on Monday 22nd August 2022.  Please send any questions about the programme to this email as well.