SFF Futures funds innovative projects that will create more value from the food and fibre industries, writes Steve Penno.

Government-industry partnerships are helping to develop new high-value goat milk products.

MPI is committed towards continuing to back good, workable ideas to help give them the best opportunity for success. Late last year we launched Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) as part of this commitment.

New Zealand has some bold aspirations in areas such as protecting the environment, supporting rural communities, reducing climate change, and increasing the value of our food and fibre products.

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New Zealand has built a reputation as a producer of high quality food and fibre products. The latest Situation and Outlook for the Primary Industries report recently published by MPI shows New Zealand's exports in the year to 30 June 2018 reached $42.7 billion — by 2023 this is forecast to top more than $48 billion.

To ensure value growth continues in our food and fibre sectors, along with its significant contribution to our economy, we need the ability to tackle current and future changes and challenges, and make the most of the opportunities.

Business-as-usual isn't going to cut it. Thinking outside the box and trying new things will.

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.

Partnerships between the Government and industry can achieve some amazing things for the food and fibre sectors, our environment, our communities and wider New Zealand.

For example, as a result of these partnerships, new high-value sheep and goat milk products are being created, information, tools and skills are being delivered to red meat farmers to boost long-term sustainability and profitability, while others are improving the quality of sensitive water catchments, and creating commercial potential for the iconic kōura or crayfish.

At MPI, our vision is for New Zealand to be the world's most sustainable provider of high-value food and primary products. This vision is grounded on prosperity, sustainability and protection from biological risk.

SFF Futures replaced the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) and Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF).

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Through these previous programmes, we've partnered with a range of organisations and companies on innovative projects: creating high-value food and fibre products, enabling better effluent management and nutrient application on-farm, dealing to pests, connecting farmers and industry professionals to boost sustainability, productivity and profitability, and developing new, cutting-edge technology.

SFF Futures enables MPI to co-invest in a wider breadth of programmes across our food and fibre sectors. SFF Futures is strongly rooted in sustainability and wellbeing, and aims to deliver long-term environmental, social, economic and cultural outcomes for New Zealand.

It's a gateway for farmers, growers, businesses, researchers (including Crown Research Institutes), industry organisations, and community groups to secure co-investment for projects that will make a positive, measurable impact in the food and fibre sectors, from the paddock or ocean to the plate.

MPI has $40 million available each year to co-invest in SFF Futures projects. This adds to more than $800 million already committed by both MPI and industry in 25 Primary Growth Partnership programmes, and more than $150 million of MPI investment in well over 1000 Sustainable Farming Fund projects.

Through SFF Futures, MPI can invest in grants up to $100,000 to multi-million dollar, multi-year partnerships, and the projects in between. This broad range of funding increases the opportunities and provides flexibility to co-invest in many projects and with organisations of different type and size. MPI works with applicants on the most appropriate way to invest in their projects.

We encourage applicants to think about what SFF Futures investment would enable that wouldn't otherwise occur, and how their projects could deliver sufficient benefits for New Zealand to justify public investment.

What's important is that any projects are beyond work that already happens normally. This could include extending existing knowledge to a new level, region or sector, and/or significantly scaling up an existing product or service.

We're seeing a steady pipeline of good ideas and new projects from people passionate about making a difference. Government and industry partnerships enabled through SFF Futures have the potential to provide wide-ranging benefits today, while respecting our important role as kaitiaki for future generations.

No matter how big or small, if you have 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 under way.

Steve Penno is Director Investment Programmes at the Ministry for Primary Industries.