The Primary Growth Partnership is providing the platform for a sustainable, thriving future for the primary industries, writes Michael Jamieson.

New Zealand is known for its world-class primary products, and they are part of everyday life, contributing greatly to our economy and wellbeing as a nation.

But to truly ensure the future of this vital industry, and New Zealand's long-term economic growth and sustainability, we must continue to innovate and look for better, more sustainable ways of doing things.

This is at the heart of the Ministry for Primary Industries' Primary Growth Partnership (PGP), which is at forefront of boosting the value, productivity, profitability and sustainability of our primary industries.

Through the PGP, the ministry and industry is co-investing $720 million into 20 programmes. To date, there are two completed programmes, 17 under way, and one undergoing contract negotiation.

Advertisement

The programmes cover the breadth of the primary industries, with more than 50 companies and more are likely to get involved.

PGP programmes must push the envelope in terms of innovation, rather than simply improving what they already do. They must stretch thinking and look for newer and better ways of doing things, and we are looking for outcomes for the environment, the economy and society.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) estimates the PGP will add $6.4 billion a year to New Zealand's economy by 2025. There's the potential to achieve an additional $4.7 billion a year by 2025 if all the research and development undertaken by PGP programmes is successful, and the innovations are widely adopted. NZIER concluded that for every dollar invested in PGP programmes, there will be a return of $32, which is a substantial return on investment.

Already PGP programmes have delivered results.

Trials in the award-winning Precision Seafood Harvesting programme show that snapper survival rates are even better than expected, especially when compared with existing trawl performance. There was a 100 per cent survival rate of snapper fished from a depth of 0-20 metres. For snapper taken from a depth of 20-90 metres, the survivability was 79 per cent, and we expect this to increase as the research programme progresses.

The Clearview Innovations programme has commercially released N-Guru, a software tool that enables farmers to tailor application rates of nitrogen to areas likely to produce the highest pasture response.

In addition to enabling more efficient use of nitrogen fertiliser and reducing over-application, there are obvious environmental benefits, and farmers are able to generate greater returns from their land with a lower footprint.

In April, the SPATnz programme opened New Zealand's first dedicated GreenshellTM mussel hatchery. The new facility in Nelson allows SPATnz to selectively breed from many of the best mussels that nature has to offer, enhancing desirable traits such as a faster growth rates, increased resilience and vibrant colour.

Thanks to the PGP, New Zealand's fine wool sector is a step closer to eradicating footrot through ground-breaking research in sheep genetics by the New Zealand Sheep Industry Transformation programme.

Footrot is expensive to treat, and costs farmers $10 million a year. It also limits the expansion of fine wool breeds beyond the high country because wetter, warmer conditions are more conducive to infection.

This programme is using genetic testing to identify fine-wool sheep with resistance to footrot, with researchers now close to developing a simple test for growers to eliminate footrot using selective breeding.

This could see footrot bred out of New Zealand's fine-wool flock.

There are a number of "spill-over" benefits that will flow out of PGP programmes.

The Primary Industry Capability Alliance was spun out of the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain PGP programme and is helping to build the capability and capacity to meet the future needs of New Zealand's primary industries.

PICA is now a standalone entity that has grown in membership. The Alliance is delivering a strong industry-wide message under the brand "Growing NZ."

Earlier this year the Office of the Auditor-General reported that the ministry is administering the PGP effectively, and is protecting the public's investment.

The office noted the ministry's strong focus on promoting more engagement with, and between, industry partners, and identifying opportunities to strengthen PGP partnerships, such as sharing information and expertise to successfully benefits for New Zealand.

The ministry is looking to simplify the reporting and administration tasks involved in PGP programmes where feasible, while still meeting its requirements for reporting and monitoring.

Michael Jamieson is Acting Director Primary Growth Partnership at the Ministry for Primary Industries.