An exciting, funded thesis opportunity for students interested in regenerative food systems in New Zealand
Regenerative agriculture has gained momentum as increasing groups of farmers become preoccupied by ‘soil health’ and attentive to the practices required to augment and sustain soil biodiversity. Regenerative agriculture builds on the principles of circular farming, enhances biodiversity as ‘nature-inclusive’ farming, mitigates climate change, adopts ‘a true costs’ approach towards the impact of (diverse modes) of food provisioning, and includes more sustainable, inclusive business models. It has been identified as a major solution for carbon sequestration and a response to destructive environmental consequences of conventional or industrial agriculture on the planet and climate.
Farm Next Door, is an entrepreneurial initiative from the Taranaki region that applies precision tools to small-scale ‘hyper-localised, backyard’ urban, community supported farming/horticulture. Farm Next Door intend to nurture and facilitate the support structure for a new urban farming community. This network of local producers will farm regeneratively, earn income from their own land, and supply local, values-based produce for local consumption.
Exploring innovative and sustainable food systems, Like Farm Next Door requires attention to both production (regenerative agriculture) and consumption (the conscious and responsible consumer). What is required is a more holistic approach to how business is conducted – one that is inclusive of social good (Vishwanathan, Seth, Gau and Chaturvedi, 2009). A focus that is inclusive of consumption allows us to understand how more sustainable patterns of consumption might be co-created through an in-depth understanding of what, how and where we choose to onsume. Engaging with the forces required to alter consumption enables a greater transformative societal shift (Fuchs and Boll, 2018).
Research project and thesis opportunity
Within this context, Massey University and Wageningen University have set up a research project that allows for 2-3 Master thesis students to conduct their research on regenerative farming. Four broad research questions provide a framework for the overall project, with smaller subsets of emergent questions guiding the focus of each individual student thesis:
- How can regenerative, circular, zero-waste systems be embedded within the Farm Next Door initiative and multiplied across all urban farming practitioners that will be part of this operation? What are the challenges, constraints and opportunities presented by such a holistic approach?
- What innovative 21 st century economic and business models provide the basis for sustainable livelihoods and thriving communities? What lessons can be drawn from initiatives across various global contexts?
- How are changing food production-consumption interfaces and the increasing demand for traceable, environmentally sustainable, nutritious foods promoting co-creation of common or public goods or positive externalities of innovative food systems? How are these forms of value demonstrated?
- How can issues of equity, ethics and responsibility be integrated within agrifood transformations and changing land use practices to secure sustainable livelihoods and promote flourishing communities in Taranaki?
Research will entail immersion in the Taranaki region at different junctures by all the researchers, to enable the development of context-based understanding in addressing the broad research questions outlined above. It will also enable the practical action research derived from the series of targeted inquiries identified by Farm Next Door listed below:
- To identify the emerging decentralised small scale organic farm movement in Taranaki – what? when? where? how?
- To explore how precision horticultural practices and the latest AgTech solutions can be adapted and applied to the emerging decentralised small scale organic farm movement in Taranaki
- Understand producer and consumer dynamics – motivations to engage and co-create a new way of producing and consuming food and how behavioural change in ethical purchasing behaviour is encouraged to a wider demographic than the current “local ethical consumer”
In consultation with their identified thesis supervisor(s), students will select one of the 4 broad questions listed above for their thesis topic and develop subsets of smaller, more focused research questions to guide their field work in Taranaki. Alongside this more academically-oriented focus, they will apply appropriate methodological approaches to integrate key action research components based on the targeted areas of inquiry developed by Farm Next Door. This dual aspect to the research undertaken in this project will provide academic rigour whilst retaining direct and practical relevance to the Farm Next Door initiative and its wider purview in Taranaki.
Expected start of the thesis: between January/February 2020.
Expected fieldwork period: April – July 2020 (4 months)
Requirements and procedure
Interested students can apply for this possibility by sending and email to Dirk Roep/Jessica de Koning/Mark Vicol to express their interest in this exciting opportunity. In order to be considered, students must meet the following criteria.
- Students are enrolled at the Wageningen University
- Students are preferably part of one of the following programmes:
- MID programme, specialisation Sociology of Development
- MOA programme, specialisation Sustainable Food Systems
- Students preferably have completed RSO-31806 Sociology of Food and Place and/or RSO-30806 The Sociology of Farming and Rural Life
- Students must be willing to work in a team led by Massey University
- Students must be willing to stay in New Zealand for a period of 4 months
- Students meet the criteria of entering New Zealand set by New Zealand immigration.
Final selection of candidates will be made by Dirk Roep, Jessica de Koning and/or Mark Vicol.
In return we offer
- Relevant work experience in a research collaboration between Massey University and Wageningen University
- Reimbursement of costs of travel, housing and transport (incl. return flight Netherlands-New Zealand).