A man looking into large-scale growing of kiwifruit in Central Hawke's Bay says if it works it could turn the district into the Napa Valley of the North Island.
Project manager Geoff Burke said there was potential for Central Hawke's Bay to grow high-value crops — not just kiwifruit, but other commodities like nuts, and grapes for wine making.
"The significance of it, if it rolls out, is quite big potentially."
He said growing high-value crops in Central Hawke's Bay would not only benefit the district but potentially Hawke's Bay as a whole.
"Central Hawke's Bay could be like the Napa Valley, where you've got a lot of high-value crops, so there's a lot of wealth being produced. That feeds into local communities and that can widen Hawke's Bay's offering from a tourism point of view.
"To be taking the first step along that path is pretty exciting to be involved with and to be making happen."
The project is looking at five properties and their capacity to grow kiwifruit.
"So what that means is looking at the water and the soil and the climate and those kinds of things.
"The second part is to model out what that looks like financially."
The idea was to help farmers understand whether kiwifruit production was viable for them to pursue.
The project should show the viability of growing kiwifruit for farmers not involved in the project as well.
"It should give a lot of useful information around the cost of development and what is required to make it successful."
No kiwifruit will be grown during the project, which will wrap up in late February or early March, and Burke said the earliest kiwifruit would be planted in Central Hawke's Bay is 2020.
The project is financed through MPI's Sustainable Farming Fund Tere, which funds projects up to $100,000.
The group is one of 31 projects given funding through the SFF Tere, and the larger Sustainable Farming Fund.
Other projects to receive funding range from exploring fish behaviour at pump stations, to building up New Zealand's beekeeping industry, to reducing nitrogen leaching through plantain pastures.
MPI's director of investment programmes, Steve Penno, said the fund had been vital in starting community-led projects.
"The new 31 projects cover from apiculture and dairy to soil management and horticulture, and are great examples of innovative thinking.
"These projects look at tackling problems or advancing opportunities for the community. They'll contribute to growing our regional economies, protecting our environment and providing social benefits for New Zealand."