New Science Challenge to boost land productivity and the environment

  • Steven Joyce
Science and Innovation

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today launched the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, which aims to enhance primary sector production and productivity while maintaining and improving land and water quality.

The National Science Challenges are dedicated to breaking new ground in areas of science that are crucial to New Zealand’s future.

“From an economic standpoint they don’t come much more important than this,” Mr Joyce says.  “There is increasing confidence that new agricultural tools will be able achieve both these crucial objectives for New Zealand.  The job of this challenge is to use science to accelerate the development of these tools.”

The Our Land and Water Challenge is the ninth of 11 to be launched, and receives funding of up to $96.9 million over 10 years.

Hosted by AgResearch, it involves the 6 other CRI research partners - ESR, GNS Science, Landcare Research, NIWA, Plant and Food Research, and Scion – and 5 universities and affiliates – Auckland University, Lincoln Agritech, Lincoln University, Massey University and Waikato University.

“The Government’s Business Growth Agenda targets a doubling of primary sector exports by 2025, while the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management looks to ensure water quality and use is properly provided for over the long term,” Mr Joyce says.

“The Our Land and Water Challenge will provide the science necessary to bridge these two goals, and is critical to New Zealand’s economic and environmental wellbeing.

“It will deliver new ideas, technologies and systems for primary production, from paddock to consumer, while using a wide range of scientific collaborative approaches to improve land and water management, and drive behavioural change.”

Initial research will include projects on:

  • Identifying contaminant flow pathways and dilution processes in soil and water to help make better land management decisions and reduce environmental impact
  • Developing “next generation” farming systems that deliver high profits with a low environmental footprint through new specialty products, new forage and new feed, or infrastructure systems
  • Exploration of new technologies such as such as drones, precision agriculture, and animal and plant genetics, information systems and diverse products to make the best possible use of New Zealand’s diverse land resources
  • A project to capture New Zealand’s innovation talent, drawing on the knowledge and experience of leading farmers, growers and foresters to design targeted solutions for primary production systems.
  • Designing effective collaborative processes and tools for achieving water quality limits.
  • Development of a national mātauranga-centred framework through case studies in Northland to aid development of Māori agribusiness and community wellbeing.

The National Science Challenges are designed to tackle the biggest science-based issues and opportunities facing New Zealand. Each Challenge includes both new funding and funds that will become available as current research contracts directly related to each Challenge mature.

The new Challenge money comprises $133.5 million over four years allocated in Budgets 2012 and 2013, and continuing funding of $30.5 million per year thereafter.

For more information about the National Science Challenges, visit