By supporting the creation of a strong, sustainable agriculture sector, AgResearch aims to enable Aotearoa New Zealand to build thriving landscapes in a changing climate with agriculture as the backbone of the New Zealand economy. 

Creating value and impact

In February 2023, we began a programme of work to refresh our research strategy to better respond to the rapidly evolving challenges affecting the agriculture, agri-food, and agri-tech sectors.  

Our aim was to:  

  • Address the major challenges facing the pastoral industry, both currently and in the foreseeable future.
  • Narrow the breadth of our research to focus on areas where we can have the most significant impact on the agriculture, agri-food, and agri-tech sectors. 
  • Build depth in these key areas to maintain or gain national and global leadership in the field and be the preferred research provider. 
  • Demonstrate thought leadership in agriculture, agri-food and agri-tech related science. 
  • Prepare and position our workforce for future challenges and opportunities. 
  • Ensure long-term financial sustainability for AgResearch.  

We undertook an iterative consultative process involving extensive engagement with both scientific and other staff members within our organisation as well as external stakeholders and thought leaders.   

This extensive process has resulted in five new research priorities (see below). With these priorities clearly defined, we aim to address primary industry challenges and deliver science-based solutions with the biggest, most significant impact.  
Sustainable agriculture in a changing climate

Dedicated to addressing the challenges and increasing threats from climate change faced by dairy, sheep and beef farmers, this priority delivers actionable, science-based solutions, tools, and knowledge to maintain both environmental and financial sustainability in farming practices.  
Thriving intergenerational landscapes and wellbeing

Grounded in kaupapa Māori principles and led by Māori, this priority is centred on creating resilient, thriving whenua Māori farming landscapes that are not only productive and sustainable but also cater to the cultural and social wellbeing of future generations that equally benefits Māori as well as all New Zealanders.   
Transitioning agri-food systems

Transcending the scope of individual farms to catchments and regions, this priority challenges the paradigms of land use with community-centric sustainable design and practices that prioritise long-term environmental and community health, stability, and wellbeing.   
Biosecurity threats

Safeguarding plant and animal health, this priority reinforces biosecurity defences by being squarely focused on establishing more resilient and environmentally responsible farming systems that can withstand the biosecurity challenges of today and tomorrow.  
Enabling emerging foods

Taking a highly partnered approach, this priority provides New Zealand with alternative proteins and technology-led production systems while ensuring food safety, quality, health, and nutrition are not compromised. 

Integrated traverse themes for AgResearch’s research priorities

In the realm of agricultural research and innovation, the integration of traverse themes transcends our flagship projects, applying universally across all research priorities. This inclusive approach underscores our commitment to addressing the multifaceted challenges and opportunities within the sector, guided by the expertise of distinguished leaders in five key areas: Te Ao Māori, Systems Biology, Data Science and Digital Technology, Social Science, and Farmer Engagement.

Te Ao Māori
The principles of Te Ao Māori are woven throughout our research endeavours, reflecting a deep respect for the cultural values and knowledge systems unique to Aotearoa. This theme champions the integration of indigenous perspectives across our research priorities, ensuring that our scientific pursuits honour Māori values and practices and incorporate them when appropriate.
Systems Biology
Systems Biology adopts a holistic approach to understanding and improving the intricate interactions within ecosystems. This theme is pivotal for achieving ecological balance, promoting sustainable land use, and enhancing the health of ecosystems. By embracing systems thinking, we aim to foster resilience and sustainability in agriculture, ensuring that our practices contribute positively to the well-being of both the environment and communities.
Data Science and Digital Technology
This is all about harnessing the power of Data Science and Digital Technology to drive innovation and enhance decision-making across all research priorities. From predictive modelling and supply chain analytics to the early detection of biosecurity threats, this theme plays a crucial role in transforming agricultural practices through cutting-edge technologies and data-driven insights.
Social Science (including Economics)
The Social Science theme, including Economics, enriches our research by embedding human behaviour and economic considerations into our strategies. This theme is essential for informing policy recommendations, addressing social and cultural factors, and understanding market dynamics. Our expertise ensures that our research is not only scientifically sound but also economically viable and socially responsible.
Farmer Engagement
Our Farmer Engagement theme emphasises the importance of connecting with and understanding the needs of the farming community. This theme is dedicated to ensuring that our research is grounded in the realities of agricultural practice, fostering collaboration and communication that address the aspirations and challenges of farmers. We aim to create research outcomes that are directly relevant and beneficial to those at the heart of the agricultural sector.  

Excellent science, where it matters most

By focusing on areas where we can be most impactful, our five research priorities ensure that our scientific endeavours remain at the forefront of innovation and relevance. This approach enables us to continue producing high-quality, cutting-edge research that not only responds to current challenges but also anticipates future trends in agriculture, delivering to the evolving needs of both the agricultural sector and consumers.  

Our research priorities also emphasise the formation of robust partnerships. By co-designing with Māori, other CRIs, industry, farmers, Government, and other research institutions, we can create synergistic teams that bring diverse expertise and perspectives. This collaborative approach is pivotal to ensure that the outcomes of our research are comprehensive, inclusive, and have the greatest, positive impact on the sector and communities.  

We choose to promote a kaupapa Māori research priority (‘Thriving intergenerational landscapes and wellbeing’) alongside others that offer opportunities to align traditional mātauranga Māori with contemporary scientific methods. With that, we aim to enrich our science in a way that is uniquely Aotearoa-based. This approach not only respects and preserves indigenous knowledge but also provides innovative perspectives to agricultural and agri-food science. 

By identifying and focusing on key areas of research, we ensure that our resources are allocated effectively, maximising the return on investment. This approach allows us to deliver the most relevant and impactful science to meet New Zealand’s needs, while also fostering a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. 

It’s important to note that our new research priorities are also focused on achieving financial sustainability for AgResearch with a stronger return on investment for New Zealand. By focusing on areas with the highest potential for impact and return, and making smart, forward-thinking investments in technology and people, we aim to create a more financially robust and sustainable organisation. This approach enables us to continue delivering high-quality research and development, while maintaining financial health and resilience. 


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