Investigative Project Launched by Leaderbrand and Countdown

A project led by LeaderBrand Produce, Countdown and Plant & Food Research is the first industry-wide collaboration to investigate the impacts of regenerative farming practices in vegetable farming, particularly in relation to productivity, profitability, people, and environment.

“Ultimately, we want this project to deliver a framework for how LeaderBrand and other farmers can produce food more sustainably, now and for future generations. We’ve already been working hard in this space, and this joint project will allow us to build on some of our previous and current projects. Having evidence-based solutions for integrated pest management, nutrient budgeting, soil management and crop rotation is a game changer.

“It’s also an opportunity for us to share and engage with our team, iwi, local communities, and customers on sustainable and regenerative practices,” said Gordon McPhail, LeaderBrand’s General Manager of Farming.

The project is being run out of LeaderBrand’s vegetable production operation in Gisborne. A demonstration site was established to trial regenerative practices and evaluate the impacts of using compost and cover crops across varied crop rotations.

It started with an assessment of nutrient release characteristics from compost applied at various rates on different soil types to help understand alternative sources of crop nutrition and how they might complement or offset conventional fertilisers.

The teams are currently reviewing prior experience and published literature on options for cover crops. They’re also evaluating the likely benefits and risks in ecosystem restoration ahead of field trials in Gisborne later in the project.

The project is also focused on the role of perennial plantings in facilitating ecosystem restoration and will engage with staff, community, and iwi to create practices that work with and for the wider community.

“This is an exciting programme to be working collaboratively on with Countdown and LeaderBrand. It provides a great opportunity to test regenerative practices based on scientific evidence that could be successfully adopted at a commercial scale to improve production and environmental outcomes linked to vegetable growing,” said Dr Paul Johnstone, General Manager of Science Sustainable Production at Plant & Food Research.