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Whenua Ora Tangata Ora Partnership Leads The Way Forward In Regenerative Agriculture

Whenua Ora Tangata Ora partnership leads the way forward in regenerative agriculture

An initiative targeted at establishing and supporting a critical mass of New Zealand landowners to use regenerative farming practices was launched today.

Whenua Ora Tangata Ora is a joint partnership between FOMA Innovation, the science and technology arm of the Federation of Māori Authorities (FOMA); Soil Connection, biological farming and soil health experts; and Toha, an environmental impact platform that recently launched Calm The Farm to support farmers to reduce their environmental and climate impacts while improving financial resilience.

“Transforming ‘industrial farming’ practices in Aotearoa through regenerative agriculture to reflect true kaitiakitanga (guardianship) is the way of the future,” says FOMA Innovation lead representative, Te Horipo Karaitiana.

Regenerative agriculture involves switching on-farm inputs from synthetic chemical fertilisers to natural fertilisers and minerals, amongst other changes in management practice. For the past 15 months, FOMA Innovation, together with Toha, Soil Connection, and iwi and Māori farmers across Aotearoa, have been investigating the potential of a regenerative approach to food production in a New Zealand and Māori context, through a number of regenerative ‘pilot’ farms.

Mr Karaitiana says that the regenerative approach to food production for wellness makes sense and there is a significant and aligned opportunity for Māori to invest in this space.

“For us, it is about protecting the mauri (life force) of the whenua (land), while at the same time being able to maintain levels of food production that enables the farming and agriculture industry in Aotearoa to thrive – a regenerative approach has shown to be able to help achieve this,” says Mr Karaitiana.

“From a Te Ao Māori perspective, we are interested in not only the on-farm aspects of regen ag, but also the whole supply chain, including the value proposition in markets with consumers who have an aligned interest in holistic wellbeing.”

“For FOMA, regenerative agriculture is also an important part of our overall land management, land use and land ownership strategy.”

Currently, more than one million hectares of Māori farmland are being used for mixed dry stock or dairy use.

Mr Karaitiana notes that Māori landowning collectives are in a unique position and have a significant opportunity to be able to be at the forefront of current changes in Aotearoa farming systems and subsequent food value chains.

“Through well-executed regenerative farming practices, we can introduce long term enviro-economic stability to Aotearoa, and we believe Māori, together with others who can see the potential of regenerative farming, can lead this transformational change.”

The Whenua Ora Tangata Ora Governance Team, comprising of FOMA Chair, Traci Houpapa; FOMA Innovation Lead, Te Horipo Karaitaina; Toha Co-founder, Mike Taitoko; and Soil Connection CEO, Greg Barclay; will oversee strategies that contribute to accelerating the deployment of regenerative farming practices across Aotearoa.

“We are committed to working together to provide a holistic end-to-end solution for New Zealand landowners, promote awareness of the benefits of regenerative farming, and most importantly build a pipeline that that builds regenerative practices throughout the entire value chain,” says Mike Taitoko.

A growing number of farmers are already transitioning to regenerative farming practices to improve productivity, create resilient farms and reduce environmental impacts, especially with freshwater, and Whenua Ora Tangata Ora provides the resources and knowledge to promote and enable the transition. Regular field days are organised to farms who have successfully transition to regenerative agriculture, and advisers are on hand to walk farmers through the conversion process, which typically takes 12 to 36 months.

“On these farms, we can clearly see increased productivity and profitability, and so we know that this method of farming is economically viable,” says Greg Barclay.

“Most importantly, we can see improved soil, pasture and animal health, enhanced freshwater quality, and greater farmer health and wellbeing.

“We also note greater on-farm resilience during major weather events, because the soil is more easily adaptable to being able to replenish itself in those situations,” says Mr Barclay.

“Regenerative farming essentially allows the whenua to regenerate itself completely – it’s nature mimicking nature, it’s what it’s good at.”

About FOMA Innovation

FOMA Innovation’s role is to provide thought leadership, navigation and ultimately seek change in the science system to benefit FOMA Members. FOMA Innovation focuses on six key elements: Whakaputanga – Access and Influence; Taiao – Land, Water, Atmosphere, and Energy Development; Matauranga – Insights from quality information; Rangatahi – Youth Development; Whanaungatanga – Relationships; and Rangahau – Research and Development. At a practical level, FOMA Innovation’s four key transformational projects including, Genomics and the Biosphere; the Solutions Lab; Rangatahi (Māori youth) programmes with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM); and Regenerative Agriculture.

About Toha

Toha is an environmental impact platform that supports ventures to reduce their environmental and climate impacts while improving financial resilience. Through Calm The Farm, a Toha regenerative agriculture venture designed to accelerate the global transition to regenerative agriculture, primary industry leaders have come together to build healthier, more resilient soils to reduce nutrient run-off and sedimentation, improve pasture and animal health through traditional and innovative land practices. Toha delivery partners are successfully transitioning conventional farms to biological and regenerative farms to build a healthier, more sustainable business model with a lighter footprint and improved financial performance. Toha is driving the impact funding programme to support farmers and advisors.

About Soil Connection

Soil Connection brings deep and practical knowledge around biological farming. Its goal is to produce nutritious plant and animal proteins which starts with the farmer – healthy soil starts with a healthy plant, so to build carbon and humus, a well-photosynthesising plant is needed to achieve this. A farm’s ability to be highly productive at a low cost is reliant on a mineral-rich carbon deposit with strong and active microbiology. Our soil is a living system – the desirable microbes are ultimately responsible for the availability of all nutrients in the soil and as a result, any fertiliser material used must be compatible with these microbes. If the microbe is happy, it will take care of nutrient availability to the plant.

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