Owen Hembry

Owen Hembry is the business news editor of the New Zealand Herald

Ballance project wins $9.75m

Ballance Agri-Nutrients CEO Larry Bilodeau. Photo / APN
Ballance Agri-Nutrients CEO Larry Bilodeau. Photo / APN

Fertiliser company Ballance Agri-Nutrients has been granted $9.75 million for a project aimed at boosting agricultural production while minimising environmental impacts.

Head of research and environment Warwick Catto said the programme would focus on product improvement and development, and education for farmers to encourage rapid adoption of new technologies.

The company's core business was providing plant nutrient products and advice, Catto said.

"We will ensure what we provide now is even more sustainable by improving the nitrogen and phosphorus efficiency of our products," he said. "We will also be working on new biologically based products to improve nutrient and pest management with fewer environmental effects."

The $9.75 million of funding by the Government's Primary Growth Partnership would be matched by farmer co-operatives during the next seven years. The project would be in addition to Ballance's normal planned investment in research and development of $12.5 million during that period.

Ballance agro-sciences general manager Willie Thomson said rising costs, growing environmental pressure at home and global consumer demand for food produced sustainably were all increasing challenges for farmers.

"New Zealand's global point of difference is our high quality, safe food," Thomson said. "To retain this advantage, we need to reduce our environmental footprint and reassure consumers that the food we produce is both safe and sustainable."

Chief executive Larry Bilodeau said up to 60 per cent of New Zealand's primary production depended on the continued use of fertiliser.

"Fertiliser has enabled the intensification of our farm systems in New Zealand, and environmental pressure is building," he said. "By reducing reliance on traditional fertilisers and targeting the nutrient losses which have environmental impacts, we are safeguarding the pastoral sector's productive future."

Through more efficient use of agri-nutrients farmers would be able to produce more with less, he said.

"This is a win-win for farmers, the environment and for New Zealand as a whole."

The Ballance project takes funding awarded under the PGP since 2009 to $227 million, which included industry contributions of $493 million. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said the programme could bring an overall benefit to pastoral farming estimated at more than $340 million by 2025.

- NZ Herald

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