New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age

agresearch nzbida land image overlay
The New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age programme is all about harnessing the power of digital technologies to enable the transformation of New Zealand Food Systems.


In late December 2018, MBIE approved a new SSIF platform for AgResearch called the ‘New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age’ (NZBIDA). The primary deliverable is a ‘proof of concept’ that AgResearch will be both instrumental and necessary in helping transition New Zealand’s pastoral sector to one that’s more agile, adaptive and sustainable.
AgResearch is developing up to 22 unique proofs of concept to demonstrate how digital technologies will enable this transformation.


A ‘proof of concept is evidence derived from an experiment or pilot project that will demonstrate feasibility. 
“As a country, we recognise that we must transform our whole food production system,” said NZBIDA programme manager and Principal Scientist, Mark Shepherd. “AgResearch believes that digital technologies can help in a number of different and unique ways to achieve the move to high-value foods, diversified landscapes, the need for high quality products with proven provenance, and much more.”

There are five outcomes for the project:

Outcome 1

Enabling and supporting the transition.
Transforming the innovation system, including the redesign of markets, service industries, institutions, social norms and rules. Mark says, “This outcome is about macro-scale thinking: This is what the future might look like and these are the barriers that need to be overcome to realise that future.”

Outcome 2

Enabling users to choose the best portfolio of enterprises for their unique circumstances.
This is about understanding trade-offs such costs and effects on the environment at a paddock, whole farm system and catchment level, and designing reconfigured systems via models, visualisations and scenario testing.

Outcome 3

Building consumer confidence and trust in product provenance.
This is about developing methodologies that will allow hyper-transparency across the value chain and connecting land management to verified product attributes that meet consumer demand.

Outcome 4

Enhancing the provenance of products with a unique Māori story.
This is about integrating mātauranga Māori with digital agriculture and designing value networks that will deliver to economic, social, environmental and cultural outcomes.

Outcome 5

Harnessing and unleashing the power of data to guide decision-making and reveal alternative solutions
This is about using technology to gather big to small data, integrating data, using artificial intelligence techniques, exploiting data variability in space and time, and designing real-time monitoring and measuring systems.


agresearch nzbida data image 2

What’s next? 

As the programme is now in its final year, Mark is starting to turn his attention to the next phase. “There’s a lot more science to do before June,” he says, “but by Christmas, we need to have identified the natural progression next steps beyond this initial programme. 
“What we need is enough evidence combined with a coherent, compelling narrative of what transformation might look like and a whole story that we can confidently put in front of our stakeholders to show that we’re making progress, that this is an opportunity for everybody, and that with the right funding and the right partnerships, we can really accelerate progress.”


In parallel with developing transformative concept proofs, the NZBIDA programme has also been experimenting with the way we conduct science research at AgResearch. 
They highlighted three critical areas to explore: 

  • investing in AgResearch’s strategic capability particularly in data science
  • testing the effectiveness of using agile innovation methodology in a science research organisation, and
  • ensuring the research is done through multidisciplinary teams. 

Do you want to work with us?

If you’d like to talk to one of our researchers in the NZBIDA team please click here to contact our Partnerships and Programmes team.