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Four innovative projects will help solve NZ’s agriculture issues

New Zealand’s Massey University is a key partner of the Rural Innovation Lab, which will support four rural innovation projects.

As reported, the projects came from a wide call-out for people to submit ideas that will help solve burning issues in the rural sector, as identified by farmers and growers.

Supporting farmers via innovation

The Lab Chairman explained that farmers are facing a myriad of challenges and the best way to get ahead of disruption is to innovate.

The four innovation projects were selected from a pool of 50 applications.

These projects exemplify the sort of enterprise and innovation that they want to see in the rural communities.

The food and fibre industries are the backbone of New Zealand’s economy, delivering more than NZ$ 45 billion in export revenue last year.

The four Rural Innovation Lab projects are:

  1. WombatNET

A 14-year-old entrepreneur from Whanganui is using the latest rural networking technologies to provide broadband connection to rural communities at an affordable cost.

He has already run a small-scale trial on a rural property in Okoia where he beamed a farmer’s home broadband connection down to his woolshed, making high-speed Wi-Fi available on every corner of his farm.

The Lab will provide support in purchasing critical infrastructure, engage with the smart farm network to expand its reach, and gather user feedback.

  1. AbacusBio

AbacusBio will design a calculator to estimate on-farm carbon emissions.

The project will bring together Manawatū-Whanganui farmers and AbacusBio’s data scientists and software developers to co-design the calculator.

The Lab will provide support by connecting the initiative with its extensive farmer network and support farmer input into the design.

  1. A peer-to-peer lending platform

This platform will create financial opportunity for farmers.

The website and app-based platform will allow farmers to list their unused machinery and generate income from it.

All machinery will be covered by insurance, protecting both owners and users. It will allow farm jobs to be carried out without the wait time and costs associated with hiring contractors.

The Lab will support the initiative in getting the idea off the ground, including concept validation and business model development.

  1. Māori Agribusiness Collective

The project aims to develop a Māori Agribusiness Collective, which will support greater participation of Māori landowners in the economic growth of the Manawatū/Whanganui agribusiness sector.

The project will develop an engagement programme to support whānau to develop their land in a sustainable way for future generations.

The Lab will support relationship engagement and co-ordination, as well as the development of ongoing communications channels.

Addressing key challenges in the rural sector

The Rural Innovation Lab was launched in Palmerston North in February 2019.

Since then, it has engaged with over 150 farmers, growers and Māori landowners to identify the key challenges they face, and develop solutions.

The four key projects will receive a package of support from the lab. This includes:

  1. Project facilitation from start-up experts
  2. Access to partners within the lab’s collaborative network
  3. Mentoring by leading farmers and growers in the Manawatū/Whanganui region
  4. A contribution to project costs.

The Lab will support the four project teams as they engage with farmers and growers to help shape their ideas, facilitating their development over the next few months and providing them with mentoring from leading farmers in the region.

The Lab received NZ$ 400,000 of funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

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