February 24, 2024

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Rural Innovation Lab to boost NZ digital farm opportunities

Credit: Massey University

A NZ$ 400,000 from the New Zealand Government’s Provincial Growth Fund was granted to Massey University to help establish a Rural Innovation Lab in the Manawatū-Whanganui region.

According to a recent press release, the Lab will engage farmers and growers across Manawatū-Whanganui to drive new thinking in the primary sector, particularly digital farm opportunities.

In addition, it will serve as a pilot initiative for the development of similar programmes across the country.

Rural Innovation Lab

Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau explained that this initiative will help develop and potentially support the commercialisation of new ideas and technologies, which will improve land use in the primary sector.

The Rural Innovation Lab is a model example of local people, businesses and the community, developing a project that aligns with their economic aspirations.

For Manawatū-Whanganui in particular, land use optimisation is a central plank in the region’s economic action plan.  This project will help to unlock new economic opportunities across the region.

The Government is proud to support this work. Aside from them, there are other organisations that are also supporting the Lab.

These organisations include the University, the Palmerston North City Council, a multinational technology company, and local economic development agencies, among others.

The University will contribute funding, administrative support and research expertise to the ongoing evaluation of the project.

Project Selection

The Rural Innovation Lab will start by identifying at least three major ‘on-farm’ innovation projects based on technologies such as cloud, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

The projects will be chosen through a competitive process with proposals assessed by an independent panel.

The criteria will include:

  1. Increasing economic output
  2. Enhancing returns for Māori assets
  3. Contributing to the mitigation of, or adapting to, climate change
  4. Fostering the sustainable use of natural assets

Moreover, a research team from the University’s Business School is already working on an aligned research project.

It will use its agri-tech expertise to examine the technology adoption decisions of farmers and growers, as well as the actual and potential impact of technology on sustainability within the agricultural sector.

The research findings will no doubt provide valuable insights for the Rural Innovation Lab projects.

Provincial Growth Fund

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is administered by the Provincial Development Unit, which is a part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE).

The New Zealand Government has allocated NZ$ 3 billion dollars over a three-year term to invest in regional economic development through the PGF.

Much of New Zealand’s economy rests on the successes of the regions, with tourism, forestry and the primary industries all strong contributors to the country’s export economy.

However, some regions are challenged with higher unemployment, lower productivity, finding skilled workers, and people who are struggling economically.

Through the PGF, the Government seeks to ensure that people living all over New Zealand can reach their full potential by helping build a regional economy that is sustainable, inclusive and productive.


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