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. 

Perspectives: AGMARDT’s Lee-Ann Marsh on taking action for the collective good

General manager of food and fibres sector funder AGMARDT Lee-Ann Marsh brought a career in global marketing, consumer insight and innovation to the table when she took the helm of the organisation in August. Here she shares insights from initial conversations with industry leaders.

Lee-Ann Marsh

Ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa.

In my first few months as AGMARDT’s new general manager (spent locked down in Auckland while trying to keep home chaos to a minimum) I spoke with a wide range of sector participants and leaders to get a feel for the issues and opportunities they’re seeing. Here are my thoughts, based on the korero and my own thinking and experience.

Globally focussed

A need to be globally focused is critical. What I’ve heard and experienced is that some farmers don’t have a full appreciation of the global consumer demands fuelling the pace of change (including regulation). Anecdotally, those that do are much more open to change.

For some, it’s about a mindset shift from farming as a lifestyle to farming as part of a global export industry; these are not mutually exclusive. Industry should be continually communicating the expectations and opportunities from market back to farm to make it exciting and real.


Water is not being widely discussed. Water is not just about quality, but usage, storage, and conservation, all so critical to sustainable food production.

Consumers are looking to reduce their water consumption and globally companies are acting on this. For example, Unilever is helping people use less water through innovations such as quick-rinse conditioners, spray-on clothes fresheners and smarter irrigation solutions. What are the equivalent solutions for New Zealand agriculture?

One project that AGMARDT is proud to support is Croptide, an agtech solution that aims to give growers the information required to give plants exactly the water they need.

As an industry we need to be thinking more critically and collaboratively about water to be resilient in the face of changing consumer expectations, not to mention weather patterns.

GMO vs Gene editing

Innovation in genetic technologies is another hot topic. I’m not talking about genetic modification (GM), but gene editing which can achieve the same results as traditional breeding but more precisely and rapidly.

The United Kingdom is currently revising how it governs use of genetic technologies.

While this field has been controversial, when benefits such as animal welfare and environmental gains start to outweigh risk, I believe there will be less consumer concern and greater demand for these solutions.

We need to engage meaningfully in conversation and make decisions on this technology rather than continuing with a ‘do nothing’ approach.

Regenerative agriculture

Consumers are wanting to reduce their environmental footprint and food businesses are seeking the same outcomes across their supply chains – regenerative agriculture (RA) is a shortcut to that.

Lee-Ann Marsh

In simple terms, RA is about demonstrable, continuous environmental improvement across soil, water, biodiversity, and carbon.

A recent Beef + Lamb NZ  and New Zealand Winegrowers report shows a clear market opportunity with New Zealand well positioned to take a leadership role. It’s great to see companies exploring and developing programmes to meet market needs and attract stronger premiums such as T&G, Zespri and Silver Fern Farms.

We need to encourage and support farmers and growers who see opportunity and alignment with their businesses to join the RA journey. For others thinking about how to adapt their systems to capitalise on consumer trends, areas like decarbonisation are key even if the regen label is not adopted.

Working for the ‘collective good’ 

In a somewhat siloed industry, I’ve heard examples of groups coming together, then going away to fight for their own piece of the pie, making it difficult to take a holistic, long-term approach to the challenges and opportunities our sector is facing.

We need a new mindset that transcends sub-sectors and enables us to explore new ways of working for the collective good of the sector.

A good example is He Waka Eke Noa, the primary sector partnership working with farmers and growers to reduce Aotearoa’s emissions and build resilience to climate change.

Another, that AGMARDT is funding is Taiao Ora, a pioneering programme for the food and fibres sector based on genuine partnership between Māori and Pākehā, shared values and the wellbeing of nature.

In addition, there’s a need to build capability and leadership through a joined-up approach and to support the unique opportunities within Māori agribusiness. Both topics are high on AGMARDT’s agenda.

Ultimately AGMARDT is here to ignite a better future for food and fibres in Aotearoa, so I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about how we support and fund innovators and leaders. Wishing you all a fantastic start to 2022.

I orea te tuatara ka puta ki waho | A problem is solved by continuing to find solutions

9th February 2022 By Contributor | [email protected] | @foodtickernz

2022 AGMARDT Leadership Scholarships Announcement!

We are pleased to announce that the Board has selected 11 recipients for the 2022 AGMARDT Leadership Scholarship.

It wasn’t easy as we had a record number of applicants, all very high calibre and a good mix of diversity across gender, ethnicity and the value chain.

Happily, we were also able to award more scholarships than usual – a total of $148,000 – as we did not award any last year due to COVID-19.

In making our decision, we have looked for people who are not only talented and have innovative approaches to developing their skills and ideas – but bring a collective mindset to leadership. Leaders who want to have a wide impact are vital to setting up our sector for future success.

Congratulations to all our new scholars and we look forward to watching your journeys unfold.

We present our latest Annual Report

We are pleased to present the AGMARDT Annual Report for 2020/2021,  a significant financial year for us in several key areas.

Firstly, we have seen the resignation of our long-standing and talented General Manager Malcolm Nitschke who we honour in the report. Suffice it to say we are hugely indebted to Malcolm for his leadership over his time and wish him all the best for the next stage of life.

And we are delighted to welcome global marketer Lee-Ann Marsh to the AGMARDT family as our new General Manager. She commenced her role in late August 2021.

Secondly, we have seen a rebound in our investment funds for the financial year ending 30 June 2021, with the Trust Fund at $96.8 million representing an outstanding return of 16.8% for the year – outperforming the strategic asset allocation benchmark of 14.2%. This gives the Trustees confidence to be able to invest both income and capital in the areas where we believe we can have the greatest impact.

Indeed, with our new strategy “igniting a better future for food and fibres in Aotearoa New Zealand’ we are looking to invest in new areas. We want to fund and enable projects that drive collaboration across the industry, look across the value chain and are ambitious and potentially game changing.

The types of projects we want are detailed in the AGMARDT Food & Fibres Aotearoa New Zealand Challenge, a new contestable fund that calls for industry-led proposals in specific areas that we want to invest in. During we launched the first Challenge, awarding two grants. Details can be found in this report.

Overall grants approved for the 2020/21 financial year were $4.35 million, this represented a favourable result from the previous year.

During the year we also engaged the Ākina Foundation to assist in the design of an Impact Strategy and resulting scoring framework. This remains work in progress however, the outcome will deliver valuable insights into the strategic direction of future funding priorities.

And last but definitely not least – in this we showcase some of our fantastic grant recipients, telling the stories of who they are and what they are achieving, from taking engineered socks into the global market and turning wool fibre into filter media to supporting emerging leaders to build their capability through global immersion programme.

Read the report here

Farmer-led project to cut carbon emissions wins AGMARDT Food & Fibres Challenge

A new project that will support farmers to use scientific landscape data to meet carbon and water quality goals has won the AGMARDT Aotearoa New Zealand Food & Fibres Challenge.

The Challenge is a contestable fund from primary sector funder AGMARDT aimed at giving new thinkers with innovative initiatives an opportunity to solve specific priority issues for the sector.

With this second round of the Challenge, AGMARDT invited applications for industry-led initiatives that break new ground in the drive towards a zero-carbon economy.

Thriving Southland, a farmer-led, cross-sector initiative, has been awarded more than $498,000 for its Beyond Regulation project. This will develop and trial a new model for providing farmers with relevant scientific landscape data to inform carbon and water quality solutions, meeting both their own and government sanctioned environmental targets.

“This project is about farmers and the rural community working directly with scientists to make a difference,” says AGMARDT Chair Nick Pyke.

“It’s not only next generation thinking but is being driven by farmers who want to see change from the ground up and at the end will deliver a valuable tool that will benefit rural communities across New Zealand.”

The funding will support a pilot project in Southland’s Matāura River Catchment, delivered as a joint initiative between the rural community, Thriving Southland and local environmental consultancy Land and Water Science.

It will use satellite and airborne data sets to develop a model of landscape properties that highlight variations in greenhouse gas emissions and water quality at catchment, farm and paddock scales. An online portal will also be developed where users can access this information and a training course developed for rural professionals and a support network for land users.

Thriving Southland Chair Jeff Grant says the project is critical for environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing of Southland and ultimately all rural communities.

“It’s fantastic to receive funding through The Challenge for this project. Farmers want to see change and they also want to be confident that their decisions and investments will achieve the desired outcomes.

“Our whole focus is on giving farmers landscape knowledge so they look under the bonnet, understand key issues such as where carbon is being emitted, where mitigation is happening and where and how they can make changes that will really make a difference.

“Ultimately it gives farmers another layer of options for meeting their aspirations for an inherently more sustainable and hence resilient rural environment.”

Mr Grant says farmers are part of the project advisory group to ensure information is practically aligned in an easy-to-use format. Farmers should start to see information they can work with coming out in July 2022.

Thriving Southland is a farmer/community-led group funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Productive and Sustainable Land Use (PSLU) for their programme working with catchment groups to drive change from the ground-up.


Alice Taylor

021 20785648


The Food and Fibres Challenge Aotearoa New Zealand is designed and led by AGMARDT, an independent, not-for-profit charitable trust with more than 30 years’ experience funding and fostering innovation, research and leadership capability in the food and fibres sector.



AGMARDT seeks sector input


Primary sector funding organisation AGMARDT is partnering with Colmar Brunton in a survey to better understand the opportunities and challenges of the food and fibres sector in New Zealand.

AGMARDT General Manager Lee-Ann Marsh says a core focus of the survey is identifying barriers to innovation.

“Our whole mission at AGMARDT is to support and develop new thinkers, innovative initiatives and emerging leaders who will help shape a positive future for the food and fibres sector.

“We want to better understand what it’s like out there, what is the experience of those considering and seeking funding and what we can do as a funding organisation to enhance our support for innovators and leaders across the sector.”

AGMARDT is inviting both past and prospective funding applicants to participate in the 10-minute survey.

“We’d particularly love to hear from anyone who may be thinking about an idea or innovation or undertaking leadership development but hasn’t applied for AGMARDT funding in the past. Your input will be extremely valuable. We thank you in advance for your time.”

The survey runs between December 2nd 2021 to December 9th 2021. You can complete it here. For every survey completed, AGMARDT will make a small donation to the Rural Support Trust.

Lee-Ann says there will also be a second phase of the project in the New Year, surveying industry influencers who advise and mentor innovators and leaders.


Applications open for 2022 AGMARDT Leadership Scholarships

Applications for the 2022 AGMARDT Leadership Scholarships open on Monday 4 October 2021.

AGMARDT supports initiatives that develop future leaders and thinkers within the agribusiness sector. The Leadership Scholarship programme provides outstanding individuals with the financial support they need to develop their ideas and skills, to help ensure New Zealand’s regions and communities remain vibrant and economically sustainable.

The scholarships, up to a maximum of $15,000 (incl GST) per scholar, are available annually.

AGMARDT Chair, Nick Pyke said: “We are looking for the next generation of leaders who will use their fresh ideas and skills to ensure agribusiness continues to play its vital role in New Zealand.

“Our Leadership Scholarships are available for individuals wishing to advance their leadership or governance skills to take on future roles within agribusiness. Successful applicants will demonstrate innovative approaches to leadership development – not just a course or two but a programme of activity that will build their capability across a range of areas.”

Successful scholarship applicants will have the opportunity to:

  • Achieve their potential through a comprehensive, personalised development plan
  • Develop and advance their management, leadership and governance skills
  • Explore opportunities for personal development beyond New Zealand’s borders, and
  • Participate in programmes that make a positive difference to New Zealand’s food and fibres sectors and are aligned with AGMARDT’s strategic interests and purpose.

Applicants must be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents, living here, who intend to maintain a career in the country’s food and fibre sectors and want to advance their leadership potential and skills and create impact.

Preference will be given, but not limited to: applicants who have not previously received AGMARDT assistance, who are involved in the agricultural, horticultural and/or forestry sectors and who are seeking new and innovative approaches to development.

They will show strong potential as a future leader and demonstrate, through a comprehensive plan, their intention to undertake a broad range of study/development.

For full details of criteria and the application process see, Applications should be submitted via the online portal (

Applications close on 31 October 2021.

AGMARDT appoints new board chair



Nick Pyke has taken over as Chair of the AGMARDT Board of Trustees.

Mr Pyke, who has been a member of the board for two years, has succeeded Richard Green, who will step down from the board next year after six years as a trustee, the last two as Chair.

Nick Pyke is a founder and director of Ag Innovate Ltd and Leftfield Innovation Ltd and has extensive governance experience with agricultural businesses, farms and industry good organisations. His previous roles have included CEO of the Foundation of Arable Research (FAR) for over 20 years, from its inception.

Prior to that he had a scientific career with MAF, DSIR, HortResearch and Agriculture Canada, working mostly on horticultural crops. He has held positions on several national advisory groups and received a number of awards recognising his contribution to agriculture.

“Richard understands the industry so well and has done a brilliant job,” said Mr Pyke. “I share his passion for the work that AGMARDT does. Our board is strongly focused on aligning with the AGMARDT strategy and on continuing to build the fund so that we can invest more in grants back into improving the food and fibre sector through innovation and developing leadership.”

Mr Green said it had been a great privilege to serve on the board.

“AGMARDT has regularly ‘refreshed its bench’ through bringing in new trustees to ensure diversity of thought and fresh ideas,” he said.

“The recent appointment of our new general manager, Lee-Ann Marsh, was a logical time for me to also decide to step down as chair. I am looking forward to my final few months on the board and to supporting Nick and our fellow trustees in continuing the fantastic work that AGMARDT does.”

Agribusiness in Schools

AGMARDT is a committed partner of the multi-awarding St Paul’s Collegiate School’s Agribusiness in Schools programme exposing thousands of students every year to the skills and opportunities available in the primary sector beyond the farm gate.

St Paul’s initiated the programme in 2014 seeing the need for a formal agribusiness programme at NCEA level; and a vision to take the programme into schools across the country.

St Paul’s, the Ministry of Education, NZQA and the primary industries collaborated to design the programme that prepares the best and brightest students for careers in the primary sector.

Led by the St Paul’s programme team of Kerry Allen, Agribusiness Project Curriculum Director and Melanie Simmons, Agribusiness Advisor, the programme has achieved the vision.

In 2020, St Paul’s along with business partners, AGMARDT, DairyNZ, Beef+LambNZ, Meat Industries Association, Gallagher, Rabobank, NZ National Fieldays Society, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc and Fairview Motors, have made the agribusiness programme available to 97 schools in within New Zealand, reaching a total of 3,055 students in 2020.

“Having AGMARDT on board as a partner from the start, and its ongoing commitment, means we are able to focus our time and energy squarely on getting on with this important work rather than on seeking other sources of funding.” Melanie Simmons, Agribusiness Advisor.

The Ministry of Education has also now deemed agribusiness a subject of national significance, to be developed as a standalone subject separate from business studies where it currently sits in the curriculum.

Melanie and Kerry are both on the Ministry’s NCEA Review of Achievement Standards (RAS) Subject Expert Group for Agribusiness and additionally Kerry is on the Agricultural and Horticultural Science RAS group. The Ministry has also awarded Agribusiness in Schools the contract to be the network of expertise for the new achievement standards, which will be rolled out from 2024.

Getting more teachers to train in teaching agribusiness is a core focus. Melanie has been visiting schools and universities including Lincoln, Massey, and Otago, presenting on the Agribusiness curriculum, the agribusiness standards and encouraging graduates to use their degrees to teach it.

To support teachers, Melanie has also been establishing regional Agribusiness hubs across New Zealand. The hubs will ensure Agribusiness as a subject is self-sustaining with cluster meetings to facilitate support for teachers in the regions, professional development, and help with moderation, fieldtrips, guest speakers and more.

In another significant achievement, in 2020 Agribusiness in Schools was recognised for its outstanding contribution to protecting New Zealand’s environment from pests and diseases. The programme team won the inaugural kura/school award in the Ministry for Primary Industries’ New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, thanks to a new unit of work written to help New Zealand students better understand biosecurity within NCEA Level 3 Agribusiness.

The achievement standard, which has been made available to all New Zealand secondary schools as part of the agribusiness subject, covers the impacts of biosecurity on the primary industry and the types of practices in place, while allowing students to come up with their own innovative future proofi­ng ideas.

“Our desire is now to see that every secondary school in New Zealand will help implement the biosecurity contextualised achievement standard through the new agribusiness subject, improving knowledge right across the country,” Kerry Allen, Agribusiness Project Curriculum Director.

The team have also been developing new resources, including a workbook for Level 2 Agribusiness with the educational publisher ESA and are in the process of writing of the Level 3 Agribusiness workbook.

Work is also being done in collaboration with Seafood NZ and the Meat Industry Association to develop teaching resources on the seafood and meat processing industries.