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.