By Sally Murphy of RNZ.
A Marlborough company is looking whether using excess or reject apples from Nelson orchards could be used as stock feed in dry areas along the east coast.
Farmers around Seddon and Ward are struggling with extremely dry conditions.
Many have started to feed out early, with concerns supplementary feed will run out before the winter.
Kiwi Seed owner Bruce Clarke said apples were used as feed by some farmers last year and with difficulties getting peas and barley more are interested in the fruit this year.
Before marketing apples to farmers, Clarke is investigating what nutritional benefit the fruit may have.
"We've sent away samples to our nutritionist who is the expert so we're just waiting to hear back.
"There are willing sellers, orchards with excess apples, usually the seconds which have marks or the ones which are too big to fit in the trays, so they're perfectly good apples," he said.
The cost of apples when landed on the farm is significantly cheaper than other feed options at about $175 a tonne. Peas cost about $500 a tonne and barley is around $450 a tonne.
"The thing is apples carry a lot of water or juice, but even when you take that out the cost is still cheaper.
"We just need to make sure there is nutritional value in them for stock first."
Clarke said farmers were interested in the idea, but as with anything new, were cautious.
If it worked it would solve two problems; finding a use for excess stock or rejects from orchards and farmers struggling to get feed, he said.