Mitchell Smith and Steve Smith of AB Lime Ltd


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2023 Finalists: Mitchell Smith and Steve Smith of AB Lime Ltd – Quarry, Fertiliser, Landfill, Dairy & support blocks

Sustainability comes first in decision-making at this Southland dairy farm, with the team taking a long-term view that seeks to protect the environment.

The dairy farm is one of a suite of businesses owned by AB Lime, a family-run operation that is actively striving to have a positive impact on the land and water.

General Manager Steve Smith leads the team behind AB Lime, with the wider operation including dairy support blocks, quarrying, fertiliser sales and distribution, and a landfill. Primarily, four families own ABLime, with representatives from each sitting on the board and many living on the property.

Established in 2013, the dairy farm has a platform of 380ha and generates 15% of ABLime’s income. The team milks a maximum of 950 cows, producing 470,000kg of milk solids in the 2021–22 season.

The team is always looking to improve the business’s environmental impact as they strive for a modest financial profit. This forward focus includes the early adoption of approaches using science and technology – used to guide the team as they reduce the application of nutrients and the number of cows.

Farm goals are guided by extensive water quality testing and data analysis that has been carried out since the farm was converted.

A fulltime biodiversity ranger has been employed to help with sustainability initiatives which include the fencing of vulnerable areas and planting thousands of native trees. They actively manage a 63ha area of remnant native bush and have developed a native nursery that produces 15,000 trees annually.

There has been significant investment in other environmental enhancements, including installation of a sediment control bund and the construction of a composting wintering barn. More recently, the team has started liaising with local iwi – informing plans with cultural knowledge.

At heart, AB Lime is a family business that takes a long-term view of environmental and business sustainability.

Mitchell and Steve are the winners of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award, and NZFET Biodiversity Award.

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