A Nelson-based business has kicked off a project to see whether peanuts can be grown commercially in Northland.
The Pic’s Peanut Butter project is being backed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) which is contributing more than $59,000 to the trial.
The trial is being held at three locations – on a kumara farm at Ruawai, on the Pouto Peninsula near Dargaville, and on Māori land in the Kai Iwi Lakes district.
The peanuts were planted in late October and are expected to be ready for harvest within 16 to 20 weeks.
Plant & Food Research is providing its expertise and managing the project trials, which use Spanish Hi Oleic peanuts.
Its science business manager, Declan Graham, said the three locations had different soil types and environments to see where peanuts grew best.
“A soil temperature of around 18 degrees is ideal, so the window for getting the peanuts in the ground and harvesting them is small,” Graham said.
“This type of peanut is most widely used in confectionary and snacks, as well as peanut butter production. Their high oil content makes them ideal for crushing.”
It wouldn’t be smooth sailing for the project as they juggled other aspects, including weed control and pests.
Pic’s Peanut Butter currently uses about 2500 tonnes of peanuts a year.
Picot Productions owner and founder Pic Picot said it had always felt a little weird to make the iconic product with imported ingredients.
“These trials have the potential to make a very real difference to our carbon footprint and redirect the millions of dollars we spend on imported nuts to Northland, easily my second favourite region of New Zealand,” Picot said
MPI investment programmes director Steve Penno said if it was successful, peanut farming could bring new employment opportunities to Northland and boost the local economy.
“This project fits perfectly with our goal of funding projects that will make a positive and lasting difference,” Penno said.
“This project has the potential to lead to a new industry in Northland, which will bring new value into the region and create more jobs for New Zealanders.”