20 Sep $10M project combines indigenous knowledge and practices and science to safeguard food supply
A new research project to future proof and protect Aotearoa food systems and the environment has attracted more than $10 million in funding this week.
The collaboration between the Sustainable Nutrition Initiative® (SNi®) of the Riddet Institute, hosted at Massey University, and iwi group Wakatū Incorporation was selected by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as a recipient for their 2024 Endeavour Fund round on Friday (September 15).
The project, “Kai anamata mō Aotearoa – exploring future food system scenarios and impacts”, will address the growing concerns around sustainable nutrition and food affordability, says project co-leader Professor Warren McNabb. The project is funded for five years.
“This will be a transformational change benefiting Aotearoa New Zealand,” Professor McNabb says.
The project aims to identify equitable and resilient food systems to reduce Aotearoa New Zealand’s vulnerability to climate change and economic pressures.
The Riddet Institute is a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), hosted by Massey University, focusing on advanced food research. Based in Nelson, Wakatū Incorporation is a whānau-based business owned by families descended from the customary Māori landowners from Te Tauihu (the top of the South Island). Wakatū Incorporation is one of the largest private landowners in Te Tauihu, managing a diverse portfolio of vineyards, orchards and farms, and water space, as well as large retail, residential and office properties. Through Kono NZ they export beverages and AuOra facilitates their research and development programme in functional food and ingredients.
Professor McNabb says an interactive model will be developed as part of the project to help transition Aotearoa New Zealand to a carbon-neutral economy and ensure the wellbeing of the people (tangata ora) and the environment (taiao ora).
He says the project will ensure Aotearoa New Zealand’s food system feeds all New Zealand’s communities.
Wakatū Incorporation General Manager and project co-leader Miriana Stephens says the project willaccelerate momentum towards climate positive food production systems. The project aligns with Wakatū Incorporation’s 500-year intergenerational vision, Te Pae Tawhiti, which focuses on reconnecting whānau to whenua and protecting and enhancing taonga for the benefit of current and future generations.
“The project will facilitate tikanga-led, land use opportunities and Mātauranga to develop opportunities in sustainably produced nutrition, health and wellbeing of people and our environment according to our traditions and knowledge.”
Data from testing scalability of current, new, and indigenous species and practices will be used to model the impact of their commercial use, as part of agricultural and land-use options in Te Tauihu.
This project builds on world-leading global food system modelling (DELTA Model®) from SNi®, says Dr Nick Smith.
“Weighing the many trade-offs of changes to the food system is a difficult job for decision makers. This project will bring diverse data into one interactive tool, to make visualising the problem that much easier.”
The project has a cross-organisation, multidisciplinary team, including research partners from AgResearch, Lincoln University and Kōtātā Insight, with expertise in all aspects of the food system. There are two international advisory panels, as well as an Aotearoa New Zealand industry advisory panel Stakeholder Ownership Group involving Fonterra, Zespri, Horticulture-NZ, MPI, Beef+Lamb NZ, and Aquaculture-NZ. These stakeholder advisory panels are anticipated to grow throughout the project to reflect Aotearoa’s diverse food system and interested parties are encouraged to contact the SNi® team at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Endeavour Fund encourages researchers to consider a diverse range of ideas and conduct excellent research with transformational potential. The Kai anamata mō Aotearoa project was successful under the Research Programmes stream, which invests in ambitious research ideas which have credible and high potential to positively transform New Zealand’s future.