Organics Aotearoa News

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Message from Ken Shirley, Executive Director of OANZ

It is with some regret that I advise this will be my last contribution to OANZ News. I have resigned my position as Executive Director (effective from August 30) and begin my new role as CEO of the Researched Medicines Industry Association in early September.

It has been a privilege and a joy to be closely involved with the establishment of OANZ during the past 16 months. There is a wonderful opportunity for the New Zealand organic sector led by OANZ to realize the goals set by the visionaries who developed the OANZ concept. The attainment of these goals will largely depend upon the sustained commitment of the member organisations.

My very best wishes to all. I have enjoyed the journey this far and will watch further progress with a keen interest.

Unique organic mulch, made from waste paper, attracts global interest

EcoCover’s unique organic mulch� in use at one of New Zealand’s oldest vineyards, Cook’s Landing, south of Auckland.

Kiwi-designed technology that turns waste paper into certified organic mulch, is starting to attract international interest.

EcoCover, based in Auckland, manufacturers the unique mulch, which is designed to replace conventional black plastic as a natural weed mat. It also conserves water, enhances soil quality and improves plant growth, as well as providing erosion control and acting as excellent protection of watercourses for dairy and sheep farmers.

While interest in EcoCover has been slow but steady during the last few years, the company has suddenly found its production plant going into overdrive to meet new export orders. But it is not simply selling the EcoCover mulch. It is selling the rights to the technology itself, so overseas buyers can make their own EcoCover products, using local waster paper. This makes much better sense from an environmental viewpoint.

EcoCover’s Chairman, Murray Cruickshank, last month signed a multi-million dollar manufacturing plant contract with a company in the Czech Republic. This first European plant will be commissioned early next year. A few weeks earlier, Mr Cruickshank signed a contract for a plant in Coffs Harbour, Australia. This plant will be commissioned by the end of 2007. Recent interest has also come from the United States, including former US Vice-President Al Gore’s investment fund.

EcoCover’s recently-appointed Sustainability Advocate, John Coombs, is trying to spread the word about the product’s environmental benefits, with a view to weaning farmers, horticulturalists and others away from black plastic mulches.

EcoCover is made from waste paper, with a small amount of organic fertiliser added, and bonded together with organic latex, then baked in an oven to create a solid mat.

EcoCover is made from waste paper, with a small amount of organic fertiliser added, and bonded together with organic latex, then baked in an oven to create a solid mat. The product is BioGro and AgriQuality certified. Unlike black plastic, there is no need to remove EcoCover from the soil. It can just be ploughed in, and will naturally replenish the soil nutrients.

Independent research by Massey University recently compared EcoCover with conventional black plastic mulch for growing tomatoes and capsicums, in an organic trial using no chemical fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides. Tomato yields using EcoCover were almost 30% greater than with plastic mulch, and for capsicums, EcoCover outperformed plastic with yields increased by more than 42%.

Mr Coombs notes that, from an agricultural productivity perspective, these results are quite astounding. “Imagine yourself as a tomato or pepper farmer being able to increase your income by 30 to 40% without any additional input costs.”

Massey University trials found EcoCover, used as a mulch in horticulture, can lead to plant growth up to 2.7 times faster than normal.

The Massey trials also found suppressing weeds in forestry, can lead to plant growth up to 2.7 times faster than normal during the first three years. This rapid plant growth means the plants sequester more carbon, more quickly, so it’s good news for climate change. In addition, EcoCover’s moisture retention abilities mean soil can contain almost 10% more organic matter within one year of starting to use the mulch.

Mr Coombs is particularly trying to encourage local authorities to see the benefits of EcoCover. North Shore City Council is looking at the possibility of converting more than 65 tonnes of waste paper into EcoCover, which it is using in its parks and gardens. He hopes many more councils will follow suit, providing a local outlet for recycled paper, rather than exporting it to China.

The company is trying to get Government backing to promote the use of EcoCover more widely throughout New Zealand. But the way interest is growing in EcoCover already. the biggest challenge may be just to keep up with demand.

Special Open Day at Conference

Organics Aotearoa NZ is inviting the public to learn more about organic production with a special ‘Open Day’ registration to attend the Organic Sector Conference at Lincoln University next Saturday.

The special one-day registration rate of $100 will include keynote addresses from Dr Ton Baars - Professor of Biodynamics at Kassel University (Germany) - and Professor Roger Hitchings, the head of advisory services at Britain’s Elm Farm Research Centre.

Sessions throughout the day will cover organic certification, the market for organic products, organics and the environment, the Organic Advisory Programme, Maori values, organic techniques, animal and plant husbandry, and the threats and opportunities that New Zealand organic producers may face in the future.

Ken Shirley, OANZ Executive Director, says that there is a groundswell of public interest in organic production and that the conference provides an excellent opportunity for everyone to learn about the health, environmental and trade benefits that organic production can offer.

To register for the Saturday sessions, email or call the OANZ office on 04 890 3769.

Professor Ton Baars’ programme

The following meetings are open to the public:

� Hawke’s Bay - workshop on organic pipfruit. August 29.

- workshop on organic pipfruit. August 29.� Hawke’s Bay - workshop on Biodynamic R&D.� August 31.

- workshop on Biodynamic R&D.� August 31.� Northland - Field-day with TOPIS. September 8.

- Field-day with TOPIS. September 8.� Palmerston North - presentation at Massey University. September 11.

- presentation at Massey University. September 11.� Manawatu - Field-day for dairy and pastoral. September 12.

- Field-day for dairy and pastoral. September 12.� Taranaki - Field-day for dairy and pastoral. September 13.

- Field-day for dairy and pastoral. September 13.� Waikato - biodynamic pastoral workshop. September 14.�

Contact details and more information is available at this link: Ton Baars’ Visit.

New Zealand on show at Australia’s Organic Expo

Kiwi businesses have a new low-cost opportunity to participate in Australia’s leading organic and environmental show in Melbourne, from September 7-9.

The Organic Expo is expecting to attract more than 10,000 attendees to Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Buildings, with the first day reserved for trade visitors. The Expo is one of Oceania’s major platforms for showcasing certified organic products. It includes a demonstration stage, ethical fashion show and programme of seminars and panel discussions with celebrities, and key industry and professional speakers.

OANZ is offering to coordinate a New Zealand presence on a proportionate cost-sharing basis. We have secured a 6×3 metre site. More information about the Expo is available at

If your business would be interested in joining an OANZ-coordinated stand, please email or call 04 890 3769 before 5pm Monday.

Langham Hotel goes organic

The upmarket Partington’s restaurant at The Langham Hotel in Auckland is to run a two week ‘Organic Encounters’ menu using 100% certified organic New Zealand ingredients.

The Organic Encounters menu, on offer from August 15-24, will include an eight course dinner for $130. All ingredients will be certified organic, with an accompanying selection of 24 organic wines.

Executive chef Ofir Yudilevich says he always uses organic ingredients wherever he can on all his menus but he sympathises with smaller restaurants who struggle to find the time to source certified organic ingredients.

“I love that New Zealand has such a diverse range of organic providers and look forward to the time where they are able to operate their businesses at more sustainable levels so organic can become the norm,” Mr Yudilevich says.

Call for papers for ISOFAR conference

The Second Scientific Conference of the International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR) is to be held in Modena, Italy, from June 18-20, 2008. It will include oral presentations, posters and workshops, including papers from the EU ‘Quality Low Input Food’ project, the Organic Fruit Conference and the IFOAM work group ‘Agrobiomediterraneo’.

Contributions will be peer-reviewed. The deadline for paper submission is October 15, 2007. More information is available at

Organics News Roundup

A selection of recent stories on organics from news media in New Zealand and around the world.

Organic apple project
The Dominion Post 02/08/2007

Orchardists expect to benefit from a $2.7 million project to grow organic apples and pears which have no detectable pesticide residues. The “apple futures” project is a partnership between the economic development agencies and the three main apple growing regions: Otago, Nelson and Hawke’s Bay. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise will provide $2 million in funding - in addition to $666,000 from Pipfruit NZ - to target affluent consumers overseas who are willing to pay for pesticide-free fruit. More …

CER Group businesses both trading profitably 08/08/2007

The combined trading operations of publicly listed CER Group recorded an EBIT of $393,000 for the six months ending 30 June 2007, an increase of 79% on 12 months previously. Sales for the six months from its two businesses, Certified Organics and NZ Nature, were up 10% to $2.78 million. “Both businesses made major progress in the first half of the financial year, and are on track to record their best-ever performances, said Chairman Dr Wayne Cartwright. “NZ Nature increased EBIT by 23% to $318,000 and sales by 24% to $1.8 million. “If sales volumes continue on present trends, revenue for NZ Nature for the full year will be in excess of $6 million.” More …

Alpe joins CER Group board

The New Zealand Herald 02/08/2007

Chris Alpe is joining the board of publicly listed CER Group, which operates Certified Organics and direct marketing company New Zealand Nature. Alpe is chairman of the Auckland Festival Trust and a director of Canterbury of NZ, I-Cap and AJ Hackett. He had also been chairman of Tasman Agriculture and Espace Clothing. In the early 1980s he founded Maui, becoming an executive director of Tourism Holdings when it bought his business. More …

Canada unveils new organic logo 31/07/2007

The Canadian government has launched a new organic logo designed to tell consumers that they are purchasing products that are federally certified as organic.The logo is part of the nation’s new Organic Products Regulations announced in December 2006. It will be permitted for use only on those food products certified as meeting Canadian standards for organic production, such as using natural fertilizers and raising animals in conditions that mimic nature as much as possible.

Certified products must also contain at least 95 per cent organic ingredients, said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in a statement. The Canada organic logo is due to be phased-in by December 2008, after which point it will be mandatory that all organic products be certified for interprovincial and international trade.
More …

The individual comments and views expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily represent the view of OANZ.

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