The viability of regenerative farming is being put to the test in the largest study of its kind.
Two North Canterbury dairy farms, running side by side, will be compared, with one using conventional farming and the other taking a regenerative approach.
The government will contribute $8 million towards the project in partnership with Ngāi Tahu and Ngāi Tūāhuriri.
Ngāi Tahu Farming general manager Will Burrett said the seven-year project aims to demonstrate the industry benefits of sustainable practice.
"We are changing essentially three things within our system. to a more diverse pasture species, no synthetic fertilisers… all organic... and a longer grazing length.
"Just trying to work closely with the environment, trying to rebuild our soils, reduce our water use and improve our product and nutrition that is coming out of our operations, and show the industry what good looks like."
The start of the seven-year experiment was made official today and will be conducted over an area roughly four times the size of Hagley Park, making it the largest study ever conducted comparing the different approaches.
Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor says the results are likely to have a significant impact on the industry.
"What we are doing here is we will validate with scientific research… so other farmers looking at moving in this direction can see the facts."
Lysimeters will analyse water samples to show the environmental footprint of each farm.
The study will also look at the impact on farm workers measuring well-being, engagement, sleep and fatigue, and productivity.
O'Connor says big names are likely keeping an eye on the outcome.
"The finances will be crucial farmers will always ask those questions.
"But they have to look forward to companies like McDonald's and Nestle, that are looking to source from regenerative farming practices."