By Maja Burry of RNZ.
A new industry report has found there are opportunities for New Zealand's farmers to take advantage of the global regenerative agriculture trend, but there isn't a clear definition and understanding of what the practice is.
The primary sector groups Beef + Lamb New Zealand and New Zealand Winegrowers commissioned the research with some funding support from the Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.
It focused on the current state and future market potential of regeneratively produced food and wine within three of New Zealand's international markets - the US, Germany and the UK.
Report co-author Mike Lee, from the US-based food innovation agency Alpha Foods, said while there was no single definition of what regenerative agriculture was globally - most agreed at its core it was about improving the health of the land, plants, animals and people.
Read the summary report here.
Lee said developing a set of principles at the national level could give New Zealand's farmers an edge as the demand and market grows for regenerative products.
He told RNZ that when his team spoke to some New Zealanders as part of its report, it found there were some misconceptions about how well-established regenerative agriculture was.
"There was this kind of almost assumption that ... regenerative agriculture is the thing that's been already happening and well established and it was sort of New Zealand's job to learn what everyone was doing and kind of adopt that and jump on the bandwagon. I don't think that's as much the case."
Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor said New Zealand's pasture-based farming systems meant it was better placed than some other countries to meet regenerative agriculture principles.
"This isn't to say all farms are applying all regenerative agriculture principles all the time... [but] our farming systems are so different from conventional agriculture such as in North America with their feedlot-raised beef and sheep meat," he said in a statement.
"What this all means is there could be a significant opportunity for New Zealand sheep and beef farmers and winegrowers to capture this value in the marketplace."
Beef + Lamb NZ market development manager Nick Beeby said the organisation would work with farmers and other industry partners to develop a firm plan on how the red meat sector could capture this potential value for New Zealand.
Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Nick Beeby about regenerative agriculture on The Country below:
"The risk here is if we don't do it, others in the marketplace will do it for us and that will be based off their systems," he told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
"The next step for us here is to work with our farmers, our meat processing and marketing companies to start the conversation around what it means here in New Zealand.
"Do we want to take this opportunity ... and if so, do we want to create a set of standards, or certification, that could be used."
Julia Jones heads analytics for NZX and previously was a farm enterprise specialist at KPMG.
She told RNZ that regenerative agriculture could be an emotive topic for farmers, but it presented opportunities that should not be ignored.
"This is not about one thing, it's not about those five principles of soil, it's actually a holistic mindset ... so we need to be really careful that we don't get so emotional and feel judged by it, that we actually miss all the opportunities of it," she said.
A positive aspect of the report was that it identified that regenerative agriculture had come from farmers rather than consumers, Jones told The Country's Rowena Duncum.
Listen to Rowena Duncum interview Julia Jones about regenerative agriculture on The Country below:
"So farmers have actually educated and driven this through the market."
She applauded Beef+Lamb New Zealand "for having the courage" to look into regenerative agriculture.
"There's more danger in us not looking at this," she told Duncum.
In the past, the farming sector, as well as other industries, had been too slow to move on marketing opportunities or had oversold things that did not matter to consumers, Jones told RNZ.
"You'll see lots of [marketing] things where there's just scenery, well, every country has scenery."
"Well, every country has scenery.
"Grass fed is a really good example... we've missed quite a big opportunity as a country. You know, we've only just started putting 'grass fed' on labels a couple of years ago."
- RNZ with additional reporting from The Country