Friday, July 18, 2014

R&D is Shaping Southland's Future

Venture Southland's Steve Canny explaining the potential of methane capture to Russel Norman

Russel Norman spent today in Invercargill (interview 6:20 in) and he spent a good part of the time learning about the many projects on the go here that will provide Southland with a more diverse and sustainable economy. It was a timely visit because a few days earlier Russel had announced the Greens' ambitious Research and Development Policy (even receiving the Business NZ seal of approval).

It has been recognized that not all of Southland's agricultural land is suitable for dairying because many soils are not resilient to heavy stock numbers and the demands of the industry on our waters systems (both consumption and pollution) are unsustainable.

Venture Southland has researched a range of protein sources that can be produced well in our soils and climate and oats came out clearly in front. Southland was once known for its oats and we even had a processing factory based in Gore that was well known for its porridge. There will be some like myself who can still remember 'Sergeant Dan the Creamoata Man'

Gore Creamoata Factory

Oats can produce more protein per hectare in Southland, with fewer inputs, than dairy farming and there are a number of value added products like oat milk that would have strong markets amongst those who are lactose intolerant (especially Asia). Having a viable alternative to dairying will make our economy more resilient and growing oats, as an expanding industry, will take a lot of pressure off our environment.

Venture Southland is also involved with two significant projects that will soften the environmental impact of the expanding dairy industry. The first is the research and development of a methane capture system that has the potential to provide 70% of the energy needs of the average dairy farm. If it can operate well in Southland's cooler climate it could then be rolled out across the country and would substantially reduce our agricultural GHG emissions in an economically beneficial way.

Monitoring methane emissions from a Southland dairy pond.

The other project is an educational one being rolled out to farm managers. The Lean Project is a programme that supports farm managers to put in place efficient systems that not only increase profits but enables them to operate in a more sustainable way. Farms save money if they use less wasteful practices and if they manage their stock well then there will be benefits for the environment too. No matter how good the technology is, or the system are, it comes done to the people that operate them. Ongoing training and support is essential.

The future of the Southland economy is dependent on ensuring our existing industries become more sustainable and that we can add greater diversity to what we currently do. Investing in research and development, and sharing what results, is a big part of this.


2 comments:

Ray said...

All good stuff, I really like the way that Southland goes about this
Just a pity your Leader has his eyes closed (and I suspect his ears) in your header picture
The Greens have a record of being against anything new

bsprout said...

Ray, you are mistaken. The Greens embrace the new and innovative. Sadly it is this Government that supports business as usual. Just irrigating more and expanding herds and milk production isn't the way to go. We need to manage the industry as it is before growing stock numbers further (currently averaging around 500 more per day). We need to move to value added rather than just increasing milk powder production.

Watch Russel's interview, he explains the situation well.