Provincial Growth Fund invests $400,000 in Rural Innovation Lab

June 7, 2019

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  • Manawatū/Whanganui

Mathew Hocken, Rural Innovation Lab Board Chairman, says a $400,000 investment from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) puts farmers and growers in Manawatū-Whanganui at the heart of solving challenges identified by people working in the sector.

Investment from the PGF allows for specialised expertise and project management so that the Rural Innovation Lab can drive new thinking and sustainable practices.

“At the moment, there are solutions being developed without much take up from farmers and growers,” says Mr Hocken.

“The Rural Innovation Lab turns that model around and enables farmers and growers to get involved in an innovative process to answer the challenges directly affecting them,” he says.

“The Rural Innovation Lab has built strong collaborative ties between farmers and growers, Massey University, Microsoft, The Factory, The Collaborative, Federated Farmers and Māori agricultural businesses. We’ve had a lot of interest from other large corporates and the wider agricultural sector,” says Mr Hocken.

Mr Hocken says that the region is lucky to have a wide spectrum of farming and growing sectors close by in the area, from cropping to horticulture, sheep and beef farming and dairy production.

“Local farmers have put their hands up and said we want to be at the forefront of new thinking and ideas – finding solutions to the burning issues,” says Mr Hocken.

This project will give farmers and growers access to new technology that could enhance the value of their land, which is a central plank in Manawatū-Whanganui’s economic action plan.

The project also has financial support from Massey University, Palmerston North City Council, Accelerate25, CEDA, Microsoft New Zealand and the Manawatū-Whanganui Farmers and Growers Innovation Collaborative.  

The Rural Innovation Lab will be a pilot initiative for the development of similar programmes across New Zealand and has had the support of Ministry for Primary Industries since its inception.

The idea for the lab developed from this group who ran New Zealand’s first agricultural technology hackathon two years ago and has since been the subject of international research.

With more than $80 million of funding announced for projects in the region, the PGF has made strong investments across a number of sectors that will help grow Manawatū-Whanganui’s regional economy.

Rural Innovation Lab Vice Chairman James Stewart presenting to a crowd
Rural Innovation Lab Vice Chairman James Stewart presenting to guests that
attended the launch of the Rural Innovation Lab the big picture vision for the initiative.
James Stewart, Damien O'Connor, and Mat Hocken
James Stewart, Vice Chairman of the Rural Innovation Lab, with Damien O’Connor, Minister for Agriculture, and Mat Hocken, Chairman of the Rural Innovation Lab, at the launch of the Rural Innovation Lab at Farm Cave, Palmerston North.