Food, Farms, Forests & Freshwater Stories

Our Food Network

Project Management

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0212 548 928


Community-led projects that booster our economy, look after our land and provide for our people is right up our street.

Our Food Network aims to stimulate the production, consumption and distribution of local food in Dunedin.  We do this through running ground up projects by working with our local community. Our projects include the Neighbourhood food harvest, the tree maintenance programme and the school garden resource.  Check out our website for more details:


New Zealand Farm Forestry Association
Group Certification Scheme 

Strategy and Policy Development
Completed 2018

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0273 877 866

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0212 548 928


We created a toolkit to help small farm forestry owners to work together to become Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.  The toolkit provides videos explaining each phase of the project, including the preparation for group membership and obtaining group membership, to achieving group certification as well as the managing and monitoring once certified (internal monitoring and auditing).


Forest Stewardship Council

Policy Development

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027 3877 866


The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) recognises that its certification process is foreboding and off-putting for the small guys.  Ahika is part of the team who are working towards changing the certification process by developing user-friendly guidelines and standards, as well as an online spatially based land management planning system.  This online system will allow small forest owners to input data and management decisions about their farms, forests and conservation areas.  It guides users through the needs of FSC certification, delivering a certifiable management plan out the back end.

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Food, Farms & Freshwater

Sustainable Business Development
2015 - 2018
0273 877 866


Ahika is all about valuing our unique place in the world and this collaborative project is all about enhancing business practice to look after our place.

Ahika has teamed up with Mike Barton, farmer and co-founder of Taupō Beef and Natasha Garvan, a Resource Management Lawyer to create 3F.

Our 3F vision is for New Zealand and international consumers to value and choose food products that support farmers to farm more sustainably, with the result that water quality and biodiversity are restored in New Zealand within two generations.
For our vision to become a reality we need to create transformative change across the supply chain for agriculturally based food products, and significantly improve New Zealand’s environment. The first key step is for Food, Farms and Freshwater (3F) to create and communicate a new environmental standard and verification system for farming.  We want this standard to deliver swimmable and fishable water. The system will be designed to be cost-effective and easy to use, and also able to credibly withstand consumer and competitor scrutiny. Our aim is that farmers who meet the standard (verified through auditing) will receive a premium from processors/retailers/consumers to enable them to reinvest in environmental services, and incentivise change for other farmers.

The second step is to grow the market for superior quality food products that meet this standard. This is necessary to provide greater incentives and funds for farmers to deliver swimmable and fishable freshwater. Following this, it will be necessary to grow the supply of food that meets the 3F standard. This will ensure that the market is consistently satisfied and that processors or other groups of farmers can more securely invest in creating and promoting brands that meet and use the 3F environmental standard.

3F intends to establish itself as a charitable trust, with the aim to create a business model to become a self-sustaining social enterprise as soon as it is viable to do so


Otago Food Economy

Research & Analysis
Completed 2015
0273 877 866
0212 548 928


Helping to create a localised food economy not only feeds the belly but our pockets too, it benefits local communities and it reduces our carbon footprint, all things we love to do at Ahika.

Do you know where your food comes from?  

This project, funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries, is all about understanding our own local food economy and exploring the capacity for the Otago Region to supply its own food needs in a sustainable way.  The goal of this research is two-fold.  Firstly, to evaluate the potential of the current Otago food production and distribution system to meet the food needs of its population, and secondly; to promote a more resilient food system that is embedded in localisation and can demonstrably contribute towards improved social wellbeing, strengthened economy and a reduced environmental footprint.

We have made available all of the resources (project report, toolkit, surveys, templates, etc.) we created on our Otago Food Economy Project page (see below) for you to use, free of charge.

We hope you find it useful and you enjoy creating your own LFE project

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Blueskin & Karitane
Food System Assessment

Research & Analysis
Completed 2014
0273 877 866
0212 548 928


At Ahika, we want to unlock how individuals value food and how it contributes to the strength and wellbeing of communities.

The Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust (BRCT) is charged with identifying actions that will assist a network of communities to recover from potential adverse effects of climatic changes and the end of cheap oil.  In 2013 the BRCT were considering whether the rich and diverse lands of their small rural corner of New Zealand could feed the people who live in that same area.
Ahika provides the project management and research and analysis skills to assist community groups, such as the BRCT, and along with valuable GIS mapping and footprinting knowledge from the Otago Polytechnic we put a spotlight on food production and consumption in this rural corner of New Zealand.  

We found that despite the diverse land uses of the rural area and the large quantities of red meat and dairy produced there is currently not enough food produced and staying in the area to sustain the relatively small population.  We examined the amount of food that is actually produced through GIS mapping and researched the typical omnivore needs of a community this size.  Our results show how all our locally produced protein is flowing away from our local community faster than we can consume it locally.  More positively, we discovered the strengths of the informal food economy and how a community that grows together can really become more resilient, through stronger networks, sharing knowledge and creating neighbourhood experiences.


Red Meat Study

Research & Analysis
Completed 2012
0273 877 866


This project lies at the heart of what we do here at Ahika – keeping the home fires burning and ensuring what we grow/make here is sold, stays and is profitable here.

"How do we get our red meat into our local towns?" This is the question that a group of sheep and beef farmers in Otago were asking themselves.  Current practice means that the majority of red meat grown on one farm is transported out of town for killing and processing, then once in the system becomes impossible to track and any opportunity for identifying local food goes out the door.

We helped these Otago farmers to understand the barriers and the opportunities for supplying red meat locally by exploring drivers for demand and the philosophies that underpin local food systems, we talked to local consumers and trade customers to understand their requirements regarding local meat with the help of the market research company “Windshift”.  We assessed business models that could enable the implementation of local ‘red meat’ food systems.  Finally, we evaluated the opportunities and the challenges and provided recommendations to the farmers. 

Ahika provides project management and research and analysis for a wide variety of community groups or sector specific business groups to turn their ideas into tangible, workable and understandable things (in this case, a report).  In brief, we found that local red meat is in high demand, especially if it is clearly labelled or the story is easy to follow.  The process for the farmers, however, is more of a challenge and careful thought needs to go into how food safety requirements and subsequent barriers can be overcome.


Otago Food Economy Project


Welcome to the Otago Food Economy Project.

We have uploaded a range of resources and information to help you understand
your own community's Local Food Economy (LFE).

We have divided the project into two parts for ease of use:
The Report and The Toolkit (both are explained in detail below).

Many thanks to our funders.


Otago Food Economy Report


Food Economy Toolkit

Local Food Economies (LFE) is the economic and social system for growing, processing, distributing and consuming food within a local area, building social capital and increasing resilience in farming communities by increasing activity within the local economy.  Through collaborative processes, a LFE can build community cohesion and greater consumer understanding of food and farming systems which in turn further breaks down social barriers between New Zealand’s rural and urban communities.

The Otago Food Economy (OFE) project has created a better understanding of the capacity for the Otago region to supply its own food needs with the purpose to promote more resilient food economies that have a stronger focus on localisation.

We have provided a summary of each chapter below, however you can download our full report here (6.4MB).

We have created a Food Economy toolkit to help you to understand your Local Food Economy (LFE) and explore the capacity for your town/city/region to supply its own food needs in a sustainable way.  This toolkit will provide you with the background research, case studies and step-by-step exercises to gather the information you need, as well as provide some processes and suggestions about how to then use the human assets in your community to explore the opportunities for potential change within your existing food economy.

We have provided an overview of the toolkit at the very bottom of this page (below the summary of each chapter of the report).

In addition, you can download the entire Food Economy Toolkit here (9.9MB).

Otago Food Economy Report
Summary of each chapter

Chapter One:

Chapter Three:
Overview of the
Existing OFE

Chapter Two:
Baseline Foodshed

The aims of the research were primarily in two parts: firstly, evaluate the food production potential of the region’s productive land relative to the food needs of its population, understand how much local food is currently sold and consumed and the reasons why individuals and businesses are or are not involved in the Otago Food Economy (OFE); then secondly, the project was to identify opportunities, test their viability then propose next steps in achieving the goal of increasing the activity within the OFE.  In doing so the research team was able to identify what makes the current OFE operate successful and then identify the barriers to scaling-up the Local Food Economy (LFE).  Otago was chosen as the region for study as this is where the research team are based and had the best contacts with local producers, retailers and consumers.

The first step of the OFE Project was to map and calculate the Otago Foodshed.  The purpose of this baseline assessment was to determine the self-sufficiency of Dunedin and Wanaka in meeting their food needs.  In the context of local food economies, a foodshed assessment is useful in determining the current food production of a region and the potential the region holds to meet its local food demand.  The findings of this foodshed assessment are quantitative, and have a primary function of establishing a snapshot of the current level of commercial food production and the extent of the food consumption within the two communities.  Both communities were shown to have enough land to potentially support them, but current production of some foods meant it was surplus to requirements whilst others, such as horticultural products were largely in deficit.

Food economies are big and complex.  The previous chapter highlighted the number of farms, the amount of produce and the range of products produced.  Chapter 3 provides additional insights into the OFE regarding total economic value, infrastructure requirements, and a geographic map of food related businesses in Dunedin and Wanaka.









Chapter Four:
the LFE

Chapter 4 reviews the international and New Zealand literature relating to LFEs.  A challenge throughout the research was to clearly define what ‘local’ meant and how and why this definition varied in relation to different stakeholders.  Farmers’ markets are just one vehicle for delivering local food to consumers but they highlight the real opportunity for producers and vendors to make a positive contribution to their local communities.  The research team partnered with the Otago Farmers Market (OFM) as an opportunity to explore the OFE and its impacts on individuals.  The literature highlights a number of barriers and challenges to LFE which were used to inform the development of the various surveys, which in turn were used to gather the data which informed the following three chapters.

Chapter Five:
Consumer Opinions
about LFE

Chapter 5 looks specifically at the consumer motivations and opinions for being involved in the LFE.  In order to understand these different perspectives both an academic review of literature was carried out, and then a survey of OFE customers.  The literature allowed a broader understanding of motivations from other place and cultures, whilst the local survey tested these results.  The survey of consumers was carried out at the OFM, the data analysed, and summarised.  At the end of the chapter the points from the literature review and OFM customer survey are compared and conclusions drawn.


Chapter Six:
Producer Motivations for Participating in a LFE

The producer motivations chapter is presented in three parts; the literature review, results from the OFM vendor survey and case studies which present three of the vendors who operate at the OFM.  The case studies provide further detail about how producers rely on the various distribution systems within both the conventional and local food economies to sell their products.  The literature review highlights four key producer motivations that are then used as a basis for comparison to the results of the two surveys.


Chapter Seven:
Otago Retailer

This chapter explores how a range of different types of retailers approach the procurement of local products.  It starts by asking for a definition of ‘local’ and whether they currently use, stock or supply local products.  Retailers were asked what, if any, potential there might be for these businesses to consider buying more local products in the future and what would need to happen to make this possible.  The chapter then concludes with a discussion of the major findings.

Chapter Eight:
Summary of the Otago Food Economy

Chapter 8 summarises and compares the information gathered in the previous seven chapters.  Consumer demand for local Otago food is considerable, with producers receiving consistent support from customers who believe in supporting ‘local’.  The findings highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the OFE.  This provides a basis upon which to move into a discussion about opportunities and actions for further development of the OFE.

Chapter Nine:
Focus on the
Red Meat Sector

One objective of this project was to provide viable options for catalysing local food economies within the broader OFE.  Results from the previous section highlighted the opportunity to focus specifically on the red meat sector.  Being one of the two most dominant agricultural sectors in the Otago region, it is a sector that is seeking new opportunities to reinvigorate what is currently a struggling sector.  The section uses case studies, stakeholder conversations and a SWOT analysis to assess the potential for pursuing a plan to increase the activity and further localise the Otago red meat sector.

Chapter Ten:
Evaluating the Risk of Shortened
Food Supply Chain

The development of an alternative, shorter food supply chain allows producers to bypass intermediaries and to develop autonomous marketing strategies based on differentiation.  Such strategies give producers the possibility of keeping a bigger share of the value added within the farm and within the local economies.  This chapter seeks to evaluate the risks of shortened food supply chains, and in doing so give confidence to producers, retailers, and consumers, about the viability and effectiveness of short supply chains.

Chapter Eleven:
The Future - What Would a Vibrant and Resilient Otago Food Economy Look Like?

Looking at the Otago Food Economy as a tiered structure, for the foreseeable future it will be led by a strong export-focus, but one that places greater emphasis on value, and less emphasis on efficiency at all costs.  There is however opportunities for a new mid-scale direct producer-consumer food economy model.  This will be based upon collaborative value chains, where small-medium scale producers collaborate with like-minded processors, distributors and retailers, to increase the scale and availability of local food using infrastructure and systems that meet the needs of both household and retail consumers.

Chapter Twelve:

Chapter 12 presents nine possible solutions and recommendations including educational campaigns, advocacy, building a story/brand, aggregating productions and increased collaboration between both producers and sellers.


Chapter Thirteen:
Models for delivering solutions

The final chapter uses some of the local food models discussed in chapter 4 and the solutions and recommendations from chapter 12 and explores how these might work in the Otago context and who would need to support it.


Food Economy Toolkit Overview

A LFE project involves three key steps. Firstly, to identify a community need, secondly to evaluate the potential of your current food production and distribution system to meet the food needs of its population, and thirdly; to promote a more resilient food economy that is embedded in localisation and can demonstrably contribute towards improved social well being, strengthened economy and a reduced
environmental footprint.  From our own experience we have divided the toolkit into five sections (PLAN | MAP | IMAGINE | FIND | ACT) with a total of eight stages of work to complete in order to move from knowing nothing about food economies to having a step-by-step action plan of how to make positive financial, environmental and social changes to your existing food economy.


Plan your project

‘Planning’ involves creating a shared understanding of what is a ‘Local Food Economy’ (LFE) and a common sense of purpose among the project team, local food producers (farmers and growers), farmers’ market vendors, consumers, food premises (retailers) and grass roots groups involved in food economies.  It is essential that everyone who participates in the planning process have a common understanding of what the project is about and why and how your current food economy is not providing a healthy thriving LFE.  This section promotes greater cooperation and collaboration of what the project is about and what is hoped to be achieved.

Here are some research and initiatives that other people have worked on.  Please download and read them to learn more about food systems/economies.  We hope you find them informative.


Map and summarise your existing food economy


When a community understands its food economy it can work towards protecting and strengthening it.  This section helps you map key elements of your existing food economy including the built, social, physical, financial, natural, political and human capital already available in your community.  These threads are often woven together to create a food economy, and must be unwoven in order to identify where food comes from and how it is produced, distributed and sold.  The motivations for why people take part in either the local or conventional foods economies are also important.

We have put our experiences into a format (excel spreadsheets and word documents) that might be helpful to you.  There are survey questions and templates that require you to input your data.  We hope you find them useful.


Imagine the potential changes to your Local Food Economy (LFE) & create a vision and strategy


A shared vision for change is one that includes a common understanding of the problem and a collaborative approach to solving it through purposeful and agreed actions. This third section provides the opportunity to collaboratively imagine your future LFE and with expert input refine your draft vision and strategic objectives.

We have provided a few more readings for you as well as a few templates that might help you with the visioning process.  We hope that they are interesting and useful.


Find and test the business case for potential change

In order to develop the business case for investment and advance the prospect of a robust regional food economy it is important to both illuminate these opportunities and to identify any barriers that may inhibit such development.  This section focuses your thinking towards the business side of LFE.  Approaching it in a considered and analytical manner is important, as ultimately it will help to harness support and resources for subsequent action.

We suggest you use MPI'stool "where do I fit?"  to learn more about your own situation.


Have an agreed plan and act


This final section involves charting out a plan to bridge the gap between where the food economy is today and where the community wants the LFE to be in the future. Stage 6 of this toolkit focused on creating a clear vision and strategic objectives with the stakeholder group, this stage was important as it solidified what you aim to achieve. This final section builds on your work to identify a list of possible actions that are required to make your vision of your future LFE a reality. The prioritisation of these actions depends on which actions will move your community toward a healthy LFE the fastest, while building on the assets already identified in the community, optimising flexibility and getting the best bang-for-your-buck. This supports effective action planning and step-by-step implementation.

We have provided an action plan template to help you create your own action plan.