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Synlait, Danone partner on $3.8m regenerative project

6th December 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

New Zealand dairy company Synlait and Paris-headquartered Danone are backing a regenerative agriculture project that aims to support dairy companies mitigate climate change via soil health.

The companies have partnered with AgResearch and secured $2.8m funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund to bring forward the research into soil health.

Synait and Danone would contribute a further $1m to the five-year project, which would study soil health on 10 farms to determine the impacts of changes in soil health on production, farm resilience and the environment, including climate change.

Two paddocks on each of the 10 farms in Waikato, Canterbury, and Otago would be dedicated to a comparison between conventional practices and regenerative practices, focusing on greater pasture diversity and reduced nitrogen fertiliser use.

The findings would help respond to a need for evidence that regenerative practices can make a positive difference in sustainable food production.

The partners said an assessment of soil health on farms is not routinely conducted in New Zealand, and so practical tools are needed to help farmers understand the detailed state of the soils and how best to manage them.

As well as on-farm production and performance, improved soil health is expected to benefit the wider environment with improved fresh water and nutrient outcomes, support for biodiversity, enhanced soil carbon storage and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

“A focus on soil health will be a key part of our industry’s journey to keep making milk in the most sustainable way,” said Synlait’s director of sustainability, brand, beverages and cream, Hamish Reid.

Danone New Zealand director Steve Donnelly added that ultimately the company wanted to support farmers and provide solid guidance based on scientific evidence.

“We are proud to leverage Danone’s significant global expertise in regenerative agriculture to support new on-farm practices in New Zealand and across the dairy sector.

“This project is a pioneering step in Aotearoa to build new farming models that help mitigate climate change, preserve or restore soil quality and secure farmer welfare, all while preserving the quality of New Zealand dairy.”

Some initial assessments of soil health have been conducted, and the trials on the 10 dairy farms involved are expected to begin early in 2022. Results will be made available from the research.



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