Regenerative Agriculture provides the solutions to many of the problems the world is facing, a Policy Think Tank organised by EIT’s Research and Innovation Centre heard last week.
The forum, which was held at EIT’s Hawke’s Bay Campus in Taradale on Thursday, was called Regenerative Agriculture and the future of farming. Addressing the socially-distanced crowd were Edgar Burns, Associate Professor at the University of Waikato and the inaugural Hawke’s Bay Chair of Integrated Catchment Management, based at EIT; and local farmer, Greg Hart, from Mangarara Station near Elsthorpe, Central Hawke’s Bay.
Greg said the “interesting times we are living in” meant farmers had to look for alternative ways of working their land.
“Last year (because of COVID-19) gave us the opportunity to pause and think about life. Regenerative agriculture has a lot of solutions to the problems we are facing. It is a paradigm shift in our thinking.”
“It is a mindset and a way of approaching food production and life on the land in a holistic way. It is about understanding that we are a part of nature, not apart from nature.”
Greg said that regenerative agriculture is committing to grow food in a way that makes the whole world better.
He said this approach to farming and conservation could not succeed without partnerships and Mangarara Station had a good relationship with EIT as part of the Air New Zealand Trust Learning in Nature programme.
Greg and his wife Rachel are in the process of transitioning their traditional sheep and beef farm to a farm fit for the future by adding diversity of animals, plants and people. They have an eco-lodge and actively support educational visits and initiatives concerned with reconnecting people, nature and personal wellbeing.
Edgar told the forum that regenerative agriculture was a set of principles and practices that enrich soils and improve water quality and management. It is a farmer-led movement that reduces tilling, fertilizer and spay use, and increases ground cover.
“Regenerative shifts from maximising production to a greater focus on profit, animal and farmer wellbeing. Environmentally it approaches farming as a biological system.”
“Regenerative acknowledges simply being sustainable at present levels of agricultural damage is no longer sufficient.”
“It is not just about sustainability. You would not want to sustain what we have, you want to regenerate.”
He said the potential of regenerative agriculture for farmers was innovation in farming, being environmentally competent, a carbon drawdown of Greenhouse Gas emissions, shifting from blame to farmer wellbeing, re-routing farm viability, as well as biodiversity benefits encompassing stewardship and kaitiakitanga.
Edgar grew up on a farm near Hastings, previously taught at EIT and recently returned from 12 years at La Trobe University in Melbourne. His University of Waikato position works with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, and he has published several articles on regenerative agriculture.
EIT’s Research Development Manager, Dr Pii-Tuulia Nikula, thanked the two speakers and said another Policy Think Tank Forum had been scheduled for early December this year.
This Policy Think Tank forms part of EIT’s broader sustainability programme. EIT is committed to developing awareness among students of the significance of their actions or inactions on a sustainable future.
EIT is, for the second year in a row, a finalist in the prestigious Green Gown Awards, run by the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS). EIT has been shortlisted in the Benefitting Society category for its community-focused Learning in Nature (LIN) project.
LIN has been developed through research and regional engagement with educators and learners at EIT and through communities of practice. It has advanced teacher ability to embed nature literacy and sustainability values within the region’s educational culture from early childhood to post-graduate level teaching.
EIT offers Diplomas in Environmental Management and next year will be delivering a degree with a major in Biodiversity Management.