Plantand FoodResearch will undertake a feasibility studyto see if almonds can be grownsustainablyin New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay.

The goal of the study isto providediversification opportunities forlocal dry stockfarmers,rather thantrying to replicatethe large-scalealmondmonocrop system of California.

“Ideallyfarmerswill be able tosetaside some of their pastoral land for growing almonds,as a way of diversifying and deriving better value from theirland,” said Plant and Food Research business managerDeclan Graham.

AgFirst will undertakeafinancial analysisas part of the project.This analysis willconsiderthe economics ofsetting up a profitable almond orchard system –factoring inmarket prices, climatic volatility, and environmental sustainabilitychallenges.

'We need to understand whether Kiwis wouldprefer tobuy New Zealand almonds and whether growers would be able to get the returns they need,' Graham said.

If the feasibility study shows almond growing has promise, the next step would be growingtrials.

'We’d look atexperimentingwith the Future Orchard Planting Systems (FOPS) approach,which optimisestheuse ofsunlight for higher yields and quality,' Graham said.

'We’dalsoinvestigateif we cangrow almondsusing less watercompared tocommercialpracticesoverseas, as well asan integratedpest management approach.'

The project hasbacking from central and local government,alongsidePicot Productions – the producer ofthePic’sbrand of nut spreads.

New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries is investingNZ$67,000through theSustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund into project.