Peanut Progress

June 2024

Adomestic peanut industry moving closer to becoming a reality in Northland. 

A thriving domestic peanut industry is now a step closer to reality in Tai Tokerau Northland, with the second year of commercial scale trials nearing completion. In the 2020/2021 season, Plant & Food Research began the first trial with peanuts in small plots to see if they could be grown in Northland.  


Following the success of that trial, Northland Inc has taken the lead, to test the feasibility of growing peanuts at a commercial scale on 1ha plots with support from Plant & Food Research and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, and with funding from Pic’s Peanut Butter, MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund, and Northland Inc.   


Plant & Food Research 

In May 2021, Rural Delivery visited a site near Kaipara, where a selection of cultivars of Spanish peanuts were being trialed and assessed for growth, yield, pest, and disease susceptibility by Plant & Food Research. Josh van der Weyden (Research Associate) and Declan Graham (Business Manager, Science), have been involved from the beginning. 


Work to date has focused on establishing the best varietals for the conditions in Tai Tokerau Northland. Now a commercial-scale trial is underway on six sites, four are located around Kaipara and two in the Far North. In Pouto on the northern side of the entrance to the Kaipara harbour, plants went into the ground in October 2023, with harvest for these peanuts anticipated in March or April of 2024. 


Plant & Food Research is currently establishing the science behind the optimal growing conditions for the selected varietals.  


A variety of measurements (canopy cover, branch, and pod counts) are taken at numerous stages of plant development to capture these data and ensure when growers take up the opportunity, they are in the best position to maximise returns. 


Northland Inc 

Peanuts are a valuable crop. They are a well-known source of healthy nutrition for consumers, but they may also offer benefits to the soil in which they are grown, due to their ability to host a nitrogen-fixing organism that lives in nodules on the roots. Additional research on this is under way at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research. 


Northland’s climate and sandy soils appear to be well suited to growing peanuts, but there is some way to go before it becomes an established part of a crop rotation in the region. Project Manager Greg Hall of Northland Inc explains that for this to be a viable option for growers, it must be profitable. Also, there needs to be a support structure for an industry to thrive. Harvest equipment and drying and storage facilities will need to be accessed and developed. Transport and distribution systems will also need to be considered.  


The next step for this ambitious programme is to develop a business case study on the economic impact of growing peanuts in Tai Tokerau once the viability of the plants and their crop is fully established. 


Pic’s Peanut Butter 

For Pic’s, the ambition to help create and support a fully integrated, more sustainable, domestic peanut industry has been long held. They supported the initial trials and will continue to play an active role in the future, as a committed purchaser of locally grown peanuts.   


CEO Aimee McCammon says a New Zealand based industry would mean that the NZD$10 million spent each year on imported nuts for their Nelson-based business would be re-directed to the domestic economy. Pic’s peanuts are currently being sourced from South America and Australia, so a local source would significantly reduce the carbon footprint for the B-Corp Certified peanut butter manufacturer. Disruptions and delays due to global supply chain issues would also be mitigated by growing locally. 


Owner and founder of Pic’s, Pic Picot, says there is optimism that the social impact on the region will be positive also. Aside from the economic and environmental benefits to Pic’s specifically and ‘New Zealand Inc’ generally, Te Tai Tokerau will benefit from additional income streams and stable careers for local iwi, farmers, and residents. 


Consumers may well benefit too. Aimee says initial tests suggest the nutritional values of the locally grown cultivars are higher than imported nuts. “This gets us super excited about the potential of our local industry,” she says.