A new research and development programme is aiming to help the agriculture sector respond to increasing demand from consumers for "greener" food.
The five-year programme, by Canterbury-based start up Leaft Foods, will develop technology that extracts edible proteins from New Zealand-grown green leafy crops.
Its technology will be used to produce high-quality protein in the form of gels or powders that can be used in a range of foods. The company will also produce an animal feed optimised for ruminant nutrition with the potential to lower nitrogen losses and emissions on-farm.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor visited Leaft's facility south of Christchurch on Tuesday to launch the initiative, which he said could have far-reaching implications for the sector.
"A growing number of global food manufacturers and consumers are demanding that their proteins come from a sustainable source.
"This could be a game-changer for pastoral enterprises seeking to take environmental leadership, by providing them with a low impact, locally sourced feed, and the opportunity to diversify into low-emission farm systems."
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will contribute $8 million towards the programme's total cost of $20 million through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund. Leaft Foods will make up the remaining $12 million.
Maury Leyland Penno, the co-founder of Leaft Foods, said the company is aiming to "demonstrate the viability of a sustainable and market-responsive farming system".
"Backing from MPI accelerates our ability to do that and places us in the leading pack of global food innovators."
The company's general manager Ross Milne said the programme would allow the company to expand on preliminary research and continue to grow its team.
Leaft Foods is based in Lincoln, Canterbury.