WATCH: Louis Davis - "Tutu, a solution to the feral goat problem"

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Stoats, ferrets, or possums may immediately spring to mind when you think of New Zealand’s pests, but as Scotts College student Louis Davis explains, they aren’t the only ones wreaking havoc on our natural landscape.

Feral goats, found now in all three of our main islands, with population numbers estimated in the hundreds of thousands, are causing serious damage to native trees and plants with their tough horns, trampling hoofs and ripping teeth.

Current methods of controlling the feral goat population are either too expensive, logistically complicated or chemically hazardous. However, Davis believes he has the solution.

Click here to watch his presentation at this years Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards, where he makes the case for the mass planting of the toxic native Tutu plant as the most effective method of dealing with a goat problem spiraling out of control.

WATCH: Bronwyn Wilde - “Food Chain - Improving Food Safety Using Blockchain Technology”

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“Globally, The World Health Organisation estimates that food born illnesses affect one in ten people a year, while in 2009, the cost to New Zealand of the world’s six most common food-born illnesses was 161 million dollars. Meanwhile, the total value of our food waste annually is over half a billion dollars, with 30-50% of food never reaching human stomachs.”

These rather alarming statistics kicked off Auckland University student Bronwyne Wilde’s impressive presentation at this years Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards.

Click here to see Bronwyn explain how a system emphasising ‘traceability, transparency and trust’ may be the answer to this worrying dilemma.

WATCH: Elen Zhang - “The Answer is Smaller Than You Think: Nanotechnology”

From a young age, us kiwis hear the terms ‘clean’, green’ and ‘100% pure’ applied to our country.

It is a source of great national pride, something that has attracted tourists from across the globe for decades as they seek an ‘untouched’, ‘unspoiled’ little corner of the world.

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But it is a true reflection of New Zealand?

Mount Albert Grammar’s Ellen Zhang doesn’t think so.

In her presentation at this years Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards, Zhang suggests the 100% pure slogan is nothing more than a marketing myth, disguising the ugly truth of a nation with some serious emissions issues.

However, she also offers a solution.

Click here to watch her explain the potential of nanotechnology, a rapidly developing tool that may have the power to decrease energy use, pollution and greenhouse gasses, not just here, but across the world.

WATCH: Eira Beverley-Stone - "Vertical Farming: Food for Thought"

As the world population grows steadily toward its threshold, developing more sustainable, space conscious methods of food production has become a top priority.

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For a time now, researchers have been investigating the possibilities of ‘vertical farming’, a practise by which the products of agriculture are grown in vertically stacked layers in order to maximise land space, negate the effects of variable climates on production and prevent the further degradation of global natural habitats.

For New Zealand, this system could be of monumental benefit, solving persisting issues with kiwi food production and providing a boon to the economy.

In her presentation at this years Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards, Rangiora student Eira Beverley-Stone broke down the complex science of vertical farming and offered it as the way forward in New Zealand’s agricultural future.

Watch Eira’s presentation here

WATCH: Grace Cowley - "A Proposal for Geoengineering"

The concept of Geoengineering - a deliberate, large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s climate system to mitigate the adverse effects of global warming - has faced considerable scepticism in the 50-60 years since its introduction.

This is hardly unexpected; many find the notion of employing human, technological intervention to solve issues that were, in the first place, caused by human intervention and technology, somewhat oxymoronic.

However, as the effects of climate change become increasingly measurable and catastrophic, and scientists continue to voice their support of the idea, it may be in our best interests to shelve natural human scepticism and give the possibilities of geoengineering reasonable consideration.

This is the credo of Otago University student Grace Cowley, who’s presentation at this year’s Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards looked at how practises like solar radiation management and ocean fertilisation could be of significant aid in the battle against rising global temperatures.

Watch Grace’s presentation here.

Jury decision on Glyphosate calls into question legal process rather than the science

Jury decision on Glyphosate calls into question legal process rather than the science

The outcome of last month’s controversial Johnson Vs Monsanto lawsuit left some scratching their heads, while others jumped for joy.

Dewayne Johnson, a former school caretaker suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, filed a lawsuit against Agrochemical company Monsanto in 2016, claiming long-term exposure to their widely-used herbicide Roundup was the cause of his affliction.

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Industry leaders respond to 'misleading' compliance report

Dairy NZ and Federated Farmers have voiced their dissatisfaction with Forest and Bird’s recently released report on dairy farming compliance, calling it misrepresentative and inaccurate.

The report involved an audit of nationwide annual dairy farm monitoring, compliance and enforcement programmes for the 2016-17 year, concluding: “there is still a significant lack of consistency in how different regional councils monitor for compliance and take action against those dairy farms that are seriously non-compliant”.

However, Katie Milne, dairy farming President of Federated Farmers, says these inconsistencies are to be expected and do not indicate poor compliance monitoring:

“There can be various levels of reporting across the councils, this stuff is region specific, which makes sense. If you take Canterbury and the West Coast for instance, you’re talking a difference of up to 5 metres of rainfall in a season, so you’re obviously going to have different issues to deal with when it comes to stocking rates, groundwater effect and so on.”

A key finding of the report was that “only half of all councils inspect 100 percent of dairy farms annually”, a statement Milne says doesn’t tell the full truth:

“The fact that not every dairy farm is audited by the regional council every year doesn’t mean they’ve not been audited full stop. Most dairy farms have an assurance scheme with their milk company, and that aside, the milk companies get Asure Quality to come along and do an inspection themselves. Admittedly, that’s predominantly about the food/hygiene side of things, but they are at times employed to do a further check.”

Milne also says certain farms, identified as having excellent track records, will be audited biannually. This not only incentivises good, consistent farm practises year in year out, but allows a greater deal of attention to be focussed on farms that need it:

“If you have a good track record, your system is up to date and reliable, and nothing’s changing in terms of cow numbers, then the council will say to you, “well you’ll be on a biannual audit”. On the other hand, people who are right on the line will need to have more visits to make sure they’re OK.”

Arbitrarily auditing all farms annually as a blanket policy, Milne says, would only waste time and resources, and lead to council complacency:

“You want them [regional councils] to be in a position where they can spend that money wisely (it’s rate payers money) versus them simply adopting this attitude: “well we’re going to just do annual visits for every farm and because your farm is always up to standard, we will just sit around with you and have a cup of tea”. We don’t want these things to simply become a tick-box exercise, that’s where the real problems will come in, because you’ll have council’s treating it complacently like they’re giving out parking tickets and they’ll miss something happening elsewhere that’s actually important.”

Dairy NZ’s David Burger was equally disappointed with the report, saying, like Milne, that it fails to tell the whole truth:

“It’s a one-year snapshot. It’s very difficult to compare a trend with a one-year snapshot. The dairy compliance story is actually a very good one across the country for us. I mean if we look at the statistics for dairy non-compliance 10 years ago, the numbers of non-compliant farms were significantly higher than what we have now. In areas like Waikato, Canterbury, Southland, where we have a lot of dairy cows, the statistics used to be 10-20% non-compliance, and now we’re down to less than 5% in those regions, even smaller numbers if you go by current regional council reporting data. We’re very disappointed that the report takes a very simple view, a one-year snapshot, when we know that over a long period of time there’s been a significant change in this space.”

Burger also agrees the report attempts to “compare apples with oranges” in it’s summary of nation-wide compliance:

“It’s very hard to compare regional council statistics across the country because every regional council approaches this slightly differently. You’re not really comparing apples with apples, and I understand a number of councils have voiced their discontent with that aspect of the report.”

Indeed, Waikato Regional Council (who were given an ‘F’ grade for compliance enforcement in the report) have responded to the criticisms, saying Forest & Bird’s findings were ‘outdated’ and their claims misleading.

The council, like Milne and Burger, say it is simply not realistic to expect 100% of farms to be monitored annually without seriously denting the pockets of ratepayers:

“We have a very proactive team who monitor these farms and another team who responds to complaints from members of the public about poor farming practice. In an ideal world we would inspect every farm every year, however that would be a huge burden on ratepayers of the Waikato.”

They also point out that considerable changes have been made to compliance monitoring in the Waikato region since the 2016/17 dairy season, something the report fails to factor in.

Horizons Regional Council have also responded to their rating (a D), saying the report used insufficient data and failed to look at the whole picture.

Horizons strategy and regulations group manager Dr Nic Peet said although the council had only done consent monitoring on 58 per cent of the 938 dairy farms under its umbrella in 2016-17, every dairy farm would get a visit within two years.

Resources for the year in question had been focussed on the farms that either did not comply or had known risks like old equipment.

For David Burger the inaccurate criticisms of the report do nothing to detract from the hard work that has gone into ensuring diary farm compliance in the past 20 years:

“The key point for us is that we have been doing a lot in this space for the past 20 years, and our current dairy water accord reflects that. We feel that as a sector we are on the journey to significant environmental change. The jobs not done but we’re certainly heading in the right direction.”