This month Element readers decide on the 'People's Choice' from the 11 social enterprises in the Launchpad accelerator, thereby deciding who receives the $20,000 prize from Contact to help further their endeavours. Social enterprises are purpose-driven organisations that trade to deliver social or environmental impact. Click below to access the voting form, and click on each team's name to learn more.
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RB: Describe Food, Farms and Fresh Water (FFFW)?
Rhys Millar: Intensive farming can significantly harm the quality of our streams and rivers. FFFW is establishing a framework and an accreditation system for sheep and beef farmers to improve the quality of waterways while supplying the public with high quality meat. Our accredited certification system is attached to a value chain that delivers a price premium to farmers whose practices repair and protect waterways. This enables farmers to reinvest in the farming practices that deliver world-leading environmental outcomes.
RB: Tell us about the brains behind FFFW.
RM: FFFW started with myself (Rhys Millar) and Natasha Garvan. We've expanded to four - including Taupo-based Mike and Sharon Barton. Natasha is a resource management lawyer and brings project management skills to the team. I'm an environmental planner with experience in achieving solutions enhancing the sustainable use of our land. Mike and Sharon are farmers in the Taupo catchment. They run a farm that operates under New Zealand's toughest environmental standards for water quality. They're leading the way in demonstrating that environmental guardianship and good business are not mutually exclusive.
RB: Tell us about the "aha" moment?
RM: Natasha - through her work in the Land and Water Forum process - was becoming aware of the decline of freshwater quality in New Zealand and the predicament that farmers are often in. And I've always wanted my children to enjoy the same kiwi upbringing I did - swimming in our rivers! We were connected by a mutual friend and had a lot to share about the decline in water quality, and creating change through a market-led initiative. Conversations with others throughout the sector pointed us towards contacting the Bartons.
Help FFFW by completing its survey.
RB: What gaps does FFFW fill?
RM: Farmers operate under a food production system of intensifi cation that doesn't recognise the true cost of food. As a consequence, negative externalities, such as water pollution, aren't accounted for - both in the cost of farming and in the cost of food. By providing products which are underpinned by robust auditing, independently certified to meet high standards for water and sold for premiums, FFFW's model supports rural communities, reduces environmental pressure and allows Kiwis to contribute to fixing an environmental problem.
RB: What will society look like in 10 years because of FFFW?
RM: Our rivers and lakes will be swimmable and fishable, with healthy freshwater ecosystems. Our supply chain will be shorter, enabling farmers and consumers to better understand each others' needs.
RB: Do you see FFFW evolving into something bigger?
RM: Our certification system and model has applicability to all land uses. However, we're starting with the red meat sector (beef and sheep) since we know it is under pressure, but typically has lesser environmental impact than more intensive land uses such as dairying. We see potential to expand this model into other sectors but first we want to demonstrate the willingness of Kiwis in a model that supports meat farmers.