April 2024 Thriving Southland Newsletter

As we sprint into autumn, we hope you’ve managed to sneak a weekend away or some other down time to enjoy a bit of R&R before things ramp up again on farm.
If you were among the lucky bus load who got to tour Forest Lodge Orchard and Garston Hops during the month, you will have come away inspired by the technology and innovative ideas that have been developed into thriving primary sector businesses. If you didn’t manage to get along, check out the article and pics below.
Elsewhere, there’s been action on many Catchment Group fronts with the formation of the Edendale Aquifer Group, emerging native seed initiatives, the Greater Dipton Catchment Group’s upcoming Ballance Farm Environment Awards showcase and exploration of some unconventional farming strategies in Waikaka! You can read more on all of these below.
There are plenty of cool events in April (not to mention the imminent arrival of a chocolate bearing bunny), so check out the calendar to see if there’s something that appeals to you.

Edendale Aquifer Group formed

The Edendale Aquifer Group have recently formed within the Three Rivers Catchment Group's expanding family of sub-Groups. Their aim is to tackle nitrogen leaching challenges in the Edendale region. The Three Rivers Catchment Group now covers the Mimihau, Mokoreta, Glenham and Edendale, better using resources and increasing engagement.
As an overarching Group, the Three Rivers Catchment Group will organise larger events and meetings, and a small committee has been pulled together for the Edendale Aquifer Group (some members are pictured). If you are keen to be involved or hear more about the project, please give Tessa Miller, the Mid to Lower Catchment Coordinator a bell. Keep an eye out for project updates.

Catchment Groups highlighted at Rotary Water Day

Thriving Southland project lead Richard Kyte was busy talking community Catchment Group action at the Rotary Water Day and Multi Cultural Food Festival at ILT Stadium Southland on 16 March. With over 12000 people attending the day it was a great opportunity to engage with the wider community.

Ballance Farm Environment Awards - Greater Dipton Catchment Group

Each year the Ballance Farm Environment Awards showcase and celebrate the great work being done by one of our region’s dedicated Catchment Groups, recognising the efforts of a rural community working together to improve water quality in our local rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands.

The Greater Dipton Catchment Group are this year's showcase. Farmer-led and community driven; the Greater Dipton Catchment Group is spear heading a project to help locals reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions.

Established in 2020, this Group is characterised by strong links to the local community. They initially ran a series of community initiatives to identify the most pressing environmental issues – ultimately leading to the launch of Carbon Neutral Dipton. Supported by funding from Thriving Southland, Carbon Neutral Dipton is focused on exploring different ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farms and in the wider community.

Read more about the great work being done by the Greater Dipton Catchment Group here.

Get your tickets to this year’s awards nights here.

Get inspired!

Looking for some motivation, and new ideas - Unveiling the Future of Farming: Southern AgriTech and Innovation Day 2024

Get ready to embark on a journey of discovery at the Southern AgriTech and Innovation Day 2024 - a unique and immersive experience that bridges the gap between current farming practices, cutting-edge agricultural technology and innovation in the sector. This free event, hosted by Thriving Southland and supported by the Gore Catchment Group, is set to take place on 2 May 2024 at the Southern Field Days site in Waimumu, Gore.

From cutting-edge technology to insightful discussions, the Southern AgriTech and Innovation Day is designed to equip farmers with the tools and knowledge they need to thrive in an ever-evolving industry. With an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, breakout sessions and exhibitors, attendees can expect a day filled with inspiration and practical insights for success in the Southland and South Otago farming landscapes.

It's a chance for industry experts and innovators to showcase their latest advancements and engage directly with the farming community.

Throughout the day, attendees will have the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics, from sustainable farming practices to emerging technologies that are reshaping the future of farming and unlocking new opportunities for growth and efficiency.

In addition to the informative sessions and hands-on demonstrations, the event offers heaps of opportunities for networking and collaboration. Whether you're a seasoned farmer looking to stay ahead of the curve or a newcomer eager to explore the possibilities of modern agriculture, this event has something for everyone.

So mark your calendars and join us at the Southern AgriTech and Innovation Day 2024 on 2 May.

Don’t miss out!! RSVP to confirm your attendance here:

Seeds of Knowledge Initiative

There is an opportunity to explore a potential new project with Travis from Nursery Man.
Nursery Man, a commercial nursery located at 313 Seaward Downs Road, is keen to collaborate with our local Catchment Groups. Travis and his team have proposed a fantastic idea: establishing the Seeds of Knowledge Initiative. Catchment Group members turn up at the Nursey once a month to learn everything from seed collection and potting up, to planting the plant in the ground. Seeds from your own farm can be collected and used at these sessions as well! 

Nursery Man would generously cover all capital expenses, including pots, potting mix, tools, etc. Additionally, mature plants will be donated for community projects or for purchase at a reduced price of $2 - $2.50 per plant (approx). Note, this is in addition to the Mid Oreti Native planting sessions, and provides a wider reach across Southland.

If you are interested in this project, please email and answer the following questions:

  • When you would like this to start? April, June or September?

  • Which Catchment Group you belong to?

  • Is there is anything specific you would like to learn about?

Resource of the Month - Exploring Oats in Southland

A 2022 report delved into the feasibility of a profitable Southland oat milk value chain through a study led by Southland farmers and produced by AbacusBio. 

The report is part of a suite of tools from Thriving Southland to support farmers with a comprehensive framework if they are considering new crops or alternative land uses. It explores factors that need to be considered when thinking about a move to growing oats for oat milk production in Southland. 

The project scoped what production resources are already available, and what further infrastructure or investment would be required and looked at different business models for selling the end product that keep a farmer connection.

The farming land area required to develop the Oat milk industry is relatively small at only 1,200 ha to support the proposed 40 million litre per annum plant. At this scale, oat milk is likely to be supplied by the existing arable industry and have only a small impact on the land use change space. However, there are other options for oats, such as supplementary feed, milling, and supplying the health food industry. 

Check out the report here:

Cherries and Hops Tour kick starts autumn

What better way to kick start Autumn than with an bus trip to Central Otago. After an early start, we headed the scenic route via Gore, Tapanui and Roxburgh so as to avoid the rush hour traffic in Queenstown. After a coffee stop in Roxburgh, we were ready to get out and stretch the legs at Mike and Rebecca Casey’s, Forest Lodge Orchard.  
Forest Lodge was started just five years ago and from the outset it’s clear that they haven’t followed the crowd but have looked for smart novel ways for growing a premium product and differentiate themselves to access a niche market. Their trees are grown using the UFO (Upright Fruit Offshoots) method, allowing them to plant at a higher density than a traditional orchard.

The trees grow up a 2D wire trellis with upright offshoots that produce the fruit. This means that their trees are more productive, while using less land and water than a traditional system with the bonus that harvesting and pruning can be done from the ground. Frost fighting is done with electric fans, irrigation is electric and all the vehicles used on the property are electric including NZ’s first electric tractor, which they recently imported from the USA.

Alongside the cherries and electric vehicles, the orchard makes use of solar panels on the roof and Mike has used his computer programming expertise to devise a programme that allows him to take power off the grid and store it when power is cheap and then feed back into the grid at times of higher demand. A system Mike believes could be replicated on farms across the country.  
After a whistle-stop tour of Forest Lodge and the ins and outs of trading power it was time for us to start heading homewards. With Garston Hops being the next stop. 
At Garston we were met by James McNamee who gave us the rundown on how a hill country sheep farmer started growing hops. The first vines were planted in 2015 and harvested in 2017 as the family looked for an alternative income stream to help bolster the ups and downs of the sheep industry. At the time there was a shortage of hops in NZ, combined with a surge in the popularity of craft beers, with many of the breweries importing hops. Garston is ideally placed for growing hops with the right climate and plenty of daylight hours.

The hops reach maturity after three years and have the potential to produce 2t/ha – currently there are 23ha at various stages of production and they intend to expand to 40ha in the future. This year they have invested in a new drier which will be up and running for this year’s harvest (which will now be underway). After harvest the hops are sent through a thresher and then kiln dried for 6 to 8 hours before being pressed and pelletised.  
Hops are used for bittering and aroma in beer, with 1kg of hops making up to 300 litres of beer (dependant on type of beer being brewed). Garston Hops are supplying a number of NZ breweries, including Altitude in Queenstown who were their first customer. They are now also exporting their product. 
Thank you to everyone that joined us for this road trip. There are amazing things happening in the Primary sector, and it’s incredible what can be achieved when you think outside the box and add some kiwi ingenuity. A massive thanks to the teams at Forest Lodge and Garston Hops for sharing their journeys so openly and honestly with us.

Polar Blast Didn’t Stop the Mid Oreti Nursery Crew

Five hardy souls braved the polar blast in early March at the first Mid Oreti monthly native plant nursery drop in session for 2024. Thanks to Brad, Gabby, Wally, Maurice and Ainsley for their AMAZING efforts.

  • There were 200 pittosporums potted up into bigger pots – all the pots donated by a local farmer through MPI’s On Farm Support Team

  • 96 of Sarah's ice cream container grown pittosporums re-potted into bigger pots – shows how many plants you can grow in that sized container and it was only half full

  • 23 silver tussocks were getting too big for their boots, so we split them and have come out with 46 re-potted and gave them a haircut

  • Great strike rate from our Koromiko cuttings trial we tried out in October 2023. We had little knowledge and just tried a few different things and we got 90% strike rate which is amazing. 

A HUGE thank you to the McKenzie’s Family from Willow Creek Dairies, who donated lots more plant protectors to our Mini Forest Movement plantings to help the community and farmers look after their plants.

Exploring unconventional farming strategies in Waikaka

The Waikaka Catchment Group explored some innovative farming methods and unconventional approaches on David and Jane Pullar's farm. The discussions for the day included the integration of summer crops into farm systems, visual soil assessments, erosion management along stream banks with planting advice, and strategies for tackling erosion on hillsides.

Our guest speaker Sarah Dudin spoke around her experience in understanding and leveraging natural resources on farms, as well as insights into the Land Classification System. Key takeaways included the importance of selecting plants that serve multiple purposes, i.e., enhancing biodiversity, providing shelter, and promoting animal welfare, as well as prioritising planting areas along waterways to mitigate erosion effectively. Big thanks to Environment Southland for their support for this project.

An afternoon with Sir John Kirwan

Wednesday 3 April, 4.30pm
Ascot Park Hotel; Corner of Tay Street & Racecourse Road, Invercargill

Looking after our Mental Health and supporting others is hugely important. Westpac Ambassador of over 10 years, Sir John Kirwan (JK) has a passion for mental health and sharing his own mental health journey with the aim of helping others with theirs.

Event details and registration:

Mid Oreti Catchment Group - Mini Forest Movement Native Plant Nursery drop-in session (first Tuesday of every month)

Tuesday 9 April, 4pm to 7pm, AB Lime Nursery, 10 Bend Road, Winton

All welcome to come to our monthly native plant growing working-bee evenings at the AB Lime Nursery. Your help will go toward growing plants for the Mid Oreti Mini Forest Movement Project, which provides native plants to the local community and landowners for their planting projects. Training is provided and all ages welcome!  Stay for as little or as long as you like.

Run Off Detainment Bund and Constructed Wetland Field Day

Wednesday 10 April, 12.30 to 3.30pm
AB Lime Nursery (end of Bend Road, Winton)
Free bacon butties from 12.30 to 1pm

Join the Mid Oreti Catchment Group for a practical field day to help launch their new wetland project. Come and look at two run-off detainment bunds and a recently constructed wetland. Hear all the details on how these were planned and constructed, followed by a practical demonstration on mapping out a new wetland by Southland Fish & Game. Your chance to get your questions answered. Bring your 4WD if you have one - we will carpool to get to the different sites on the farm.

Slow the Flow with the Gore Waimumu Catchment Group

10 April, 10am to 12.30pm
Driveway between 288-386 Glencoe Highway

Join the Gore Waimumu Catchment Group and Land and Water Science, as we discuss how low-cost, natural, and locally sourced solutions can tackle the challenge of water flow our hill country land. By exploring existing sediment traps and identifying untouched areas like swales and critical source points, we'll uncover opportunities to make a big impact with small changes upstream.


20 April, 12pm to 6pm

Get your tickets here. Get ready for Southland’s most Southland event, Rootstock: a paddock festival celebrating the humble Swede.

Agritech and Innovation Day 2024

Waimumu Field Days site
2 May, 8am to 5pm

RSVP to confirm your attendance here:

Check out the event page and save it to your calendar:

There are likely to be more events in the pipeline so make sure you check out the events section on the Thriving Southland website and the Facebook page for details.
Have a great April,
Ngā mihi
Richard Kyte (Thriving Southland Project Lead) and the Thriving Southland Team


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