COMMENT:

Kiwis are prone to bold ideas.

Whether it is tackling climate change, supporting rural communities or increasing the value of our food and fibre products, we don't shy away from doing things differently.
It's this number-eight-wire ingenuity that has resulted in our food and fibre sector being central to our economy.

At MPI, we are set on keeping it that way.

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Our vision is for Aotearoa to be the world's most sustainable provider of high-value food and primary products.

So that's why in mid-2018 we launched Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF), a flagship fund for problem-solving and innovation in the agriculture, food and fibre sectors – enabling us to back good, workable ideas to give them the best opportunity for success.

We are moving from away from a focus on volume to one of value. New Zealand's commodity growth drive has come at the expense of the vital natural resources we need for our primary sector – our soil, water, and social licence to operate.

Climate change is affecting our land, marine environment, and people, and an increased frequency of severe weather events has significant impacts on our rural communities. It's only one reason for us to embrace innovation to ensure the long-term sustainability of our agriculture, food, and fibre industries.

With a budget of $40 million a year SFF Futures provides a single gateway for farmers, growers, manufacturers, and service deliverers to apply for investment in a greater range of projects that deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits to New Zealand.
This comes on top of the more than $850 million committed by both MPI and industry in 27 Primary Growth Partnership programmes, and more than $230 million of MPI and industry investment in well over 1,000 Sustainable Farming Fund projects.

The food and fibre industries are the backbone of our economy, with year-to-date export revenue tracking 4.5 per cent – that's $1.7 billion – higher than last year, according to the latest Economic Update for the Primary Industries.

We want to help extract more value from what they already do, in a sustainable way that means our natural resources will be there for future generations.

MPI can provide funding in several ways, depending on the length and complexity of your project. A small grant (up to $100,000) may be enough to cover the costs of a short-term project. With larger, longer-term programmes, we can provide multi-year, multi-million-dollar partnerships.

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One of the keys to the success of SFF Futures is co-investment.

Multiple partners, including the Crown, have skin in the game by contributing funding, expertise and experience, and sharing risks to create a robust formula for success. SFF Futures turns ideas into reality – a reality that may not have otherwise happened without the fund.

We're starting from a strong foundation.

There are many examples of initiatives and projects making positive differences across New Zealand, from small grass-roots community projects to large-scale industry development and transformation.

Take, for instance, MPI's partnership with Dairy Goat Co-operative to grow a sustainable, high-value goat milk infant formula industry in New Zealand. Another project, Branching Out, seeks to identify up to a dozen food and fibre ventures that have the potential to boost Taranaki's economy. Not to mention a new scheme looking into using Asparagopsis armata, a native seaweed, as a cattle feed supplement to reduce methane emissions from cattle.

These initiatives exemplify exactly what SFF Futures set out to do – shifting from producing commodities to building value, kick-starting innovation, delivering environmental outcomes, and helping to grow our communities and regions.

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In the past 18 months, we have approved 63 projects with a total value of over $89 million from MPI and industry. A further 45 applications are under assessment, with a total value of more than $293 million from industry and MPI.

No matter how big or small, if you've got good ideas that will make a difference to the food and fibre sectors, contact us and let's have a conversation. Let's work together to bring your ideas to life.

More information and contact details are available at sff-futures.mpi.govt.nz, along with examples of the great projects underway.

- Karen Adair is Deputy Director-General, Agriculture and Investment Services, at the Ministry for Primary Industries.