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$400k grant for new rural innovation lab

The Rural Innovation Lab will start by identifying three 'on-farm' innovation projects based on technologies such as cloud, big data, the internet-of-things and artificial intelligence.

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

The lab will engage farmers and growers across Manawatū-Whanganui to drive new thinking in the primary sector, particularly digital farm opportunities. It will also serve as a pilot initiative for the development of similar programmes across New Zealand.

“This initiative will help to develop and potentially support the commercialisation of new ideas and technologies, which will improve land use in the primary sector,” Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau says.

“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 Rural Innovation Lab is being supported by many organisations, including the Palmerston North City Council, Microsoft New Zealand, Massey University, local economic development agencies and the Manawatū-Whanganui Farmers and Growers Innovation Collaborative.  

“The Rural Innovation Lab is a model example of local people, businesses and the community, progressing a project that aligns with their economic aspirations. The Government is proud to support this work,” Mr Tabuteau says.

Massey Business School Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Stephen Kelly.

Massey contributes funding, evaluation and research expertise

Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Massey Business School Professor Stephen Kelly says the University will contribute funding, administrative support and research expertise to the ongoing evaluation of the project.

“We are holding an event at Central Districts Fieldays to start identifying at least three major ‘on-farm’ innovation projects based on technologies such as cloud, big data, the internet-of-things and artificial intelligence.” 

The projects will be chosen through a competitive process with proposals assessed by an independent panel. The criteria include increasing economic output; enhancing returns for Māori assets; contributing to the mitigation of, or adapting to, climate change; and fostering the sustainable use of natural assets.

Professor Kelly says a research team from the Massey Business School is already working on an aligned research project. 

“The Massey Business School 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.”

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