Dung Beetle Innovations
Launched in 2014, Dung Beetle Innovations owes its existence to the combined efforts of co-founders Dr Shaun Forgie, Andrew Barber and John Pearce.
These three stand on the shoulders of those visionary farmers who were members of the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group that campaigned since 2009 for the introduction of dung beetles to New Zealand. It’s taken a lifetime of research and dedication to get this far; now we’re ready to fly.
so, where's the beef with animal agriculture?
Dairy and beef cattle in New Zealand produce 85 million tonnes of dung per year.
Sheep, plus horses and alpaca, produce over 14 million tonnes of dung per year.
Tonnes of dung is deposited annually on our New Zealand pastures.
Dung Beetle Innovations is dedicated to rebalancing New Zealand’s pastoral farming systems – improving water quality and soil health – through leadership, education and the establishment of dung beetles as a sustainable farm management practice.
“Can you remember a time when the pastures were piled high with dung? When the river was too polluted to swim in?” If, 25 years from now, our kids think we’re making up stories, we’ll have realised our vision: A sustainable, low-cost solution to the environmental and economic challenges we face today.
Meet the Team
Dung Beetle Innovations are a small but dedicated team of experts, focused on delivering practical and sustainable solutions in animal agriculture.
Andrew has extensive experience in managing large multi-stakeholder projects. He became involved with dung beetles through project managing the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group; the Ministry for Primary Industries SFF farmer lead project that was granted approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to import dung beetles.
Andrew brings to DBI his project and business management skills, together with an in-depth understanding of the New Zealand agricultural industry.
Dr. Shaun Forgie
Shaun is an internationally recognized entomologist, with PhD and MSc (Hons) degrees specialising in dung beetle reproduction, ecology and evolution. His work has been published in all media and peer reviewed scientific journals.
In his previous role as a research scientist for Landcare Research, New Zealand’s foremost environmental research institute, he received a science excellence award for his key role in the Dung Beetle Project that ultimately led to DBI. Combined with his extensive rearing experience and fieldwork, he brings to DBI a wealth of expertise that is instrumental in its success.
Over a million good reasons…
“There are 6.5 million dairy cows in New Zealand, each producing on average 27 kilograms of dung a day. By the time you add in another 3.6 million cattle and 27.4 million sheep that is over 100,000,000 tonnes of dung each year.”
This has been a rigorous process of ticking the right boxes dating back to 2009.
Public and iwi consultation workshopsNovember 2009: Public and iwi consultation workshops
Possible risks/costs/benefits of introducing dung beetles brainstormed with representatives from, the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group (DBRSG), AgResearch, Ngati Whatua Nga Rima o Kaipara, Rangitāne o Manawatū, University of Auckland, and Landcare Research.
First Appeal with ERMAJune 2010: First Appeal with ERMA
The Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group, assisted by Landcare Research, lodges an appeal with the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) to release 11 species of dung beetles in New Zealand
Public submissions closeOctober 2010: Public submissions close
Period for public submissions ends. Response is mixed; some submissions are in support, some are opposed while others can’t decide.
Landcare Research respondsNovember 2010: Landcare Research responds
Landcare Research responds to scientific issues raised in public submissions.
ERMA public hearingDecember 2010: ERMA public hearing
ERMA holds a public hearing to debate benefits and potential issues.
ERMA approvalFebruary 2011: ERMA approval
ERMA approves the release without controls of 11 species of dung beetles.
First two species importedMarch 2011: First two species imported
The first two species (Euoniticellus fulvus, Onthophagus taurus) are imported into containment
Additional research conductedMarch 2011: Additional research conducted
University of Auckland raises additional concerns after approval has been granted and the appeal period closed.
Third species imported, mass rearing commencesJune 2011: Third species imported, mass rearing commences
A third species Geotrupes spiniger is imported into containment. MAF gives permission to release the first three species from containment. Mass-rearing in enclosed facilities commences in Auckland.
Fourth species importedAugust 2011: Fourth species imported
Bubas bison imported into containment but insufficient eggs are laid for disease testing.
EPA upholds approvalNovember 2011: EPA upholds approval
After evaluating additional concerns the EPA (formerly ERMA) affirms their original decision i.e. that any adverse effects would be negligible.
Pre-release researchDecember 2011: Pre-release research
re-release research conducted by Landcare Research.
Two more species importedFebruary 2012: Two more species imported
Onthophagus gazella and O. binodis imported into containment.
TAG establishedMay 2012: TAG established
Stakeholders’ Technical Advisory Group (TAG) established to advise the DBRSG on
the best way to progress the project, to maximize potential benefits while taking into account all stakeholders’ needs and the need to protect the environment.
Sept 2012 – June 2013
Landcare Research trialsSept 2012 – June 2013: Landcare Research trials
Landcare Research conducts three trials proposed by the TAG to answer any outstanding questions.
February 2013 – August 2013
ESR human health risk assessmentFebruary 2013 – August 2013: ESR human health risk assessment
The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) conducts an internationally peer reviewed human health risk assessment.
TAG meets DBRSG with recommendationsSeptember 2013: TAG meets DBRSG with recommendations
The TAG evaluates the commissioned trials and public health review, with a view to identify the next steps and presenting the meetings findings to the DBRSG. With all questions raised adequately answered, the TAG recommends that beetle releases proceed, and that a monitoring programme be put in place.
The DBRSG committee meets to discuss implementation of TAG findingsSeptember 2013: The DBRSG committee meets to discuss implementation of TAG findings
The DBRSG committee meets to discuss the TAG findings. We are now working with our science provider, Landcare Research, to develop a release strategy, monitoring and on-going research programme. These details will be provided to the farming community as quickly as possible.
First dung beetle releaseSeptember 2013: First dung beetle release
The first release of 500 dung beetles (Onthophagus taurus and O. binodus) on New Zealand soil takes place on 26 September on an organic dairy farm in Gore.
First North Island dung beetle releaseOctober 2013: First North Island dung beetle release
The first North Island dung beetle release (species) in Wairarapa.
Dung Beetle Innovations is up and flyingFebruary 2014: Dung Beetle Innovations is up and flying
A total of 74 dung beetle releases have taken place across 7 regions from Northland to
Over 200 colonies have been released to dateJanuary 2018: Over 200 colonies have been released to date
When it comes to world-changing ideas, resistance is always to be expected. The dung beetle solution was no exception.
Exhaustive research, presentations, negotiations, and workshops were conducted in order to satisfy the concerns of all stakeholders: government, EPA (formerly ERMA), upholds approval, iwi, farmers, environmentalists, academics and the general public.
In the face of overwhelming evidence in support of dung beetles, in February 2011 the release of dung beetles in New Zealand was finally given the official green light. However, it would take two further years of continual reassessment before the first 500 dung beetles would take flight in their new home – a dairy farm in Gore – on 26 September 2013.