Māori potatoes (taewa) grown at Koukourārata Marae on Banks Peninsula have been selling like hot cakes at farmers' markets around Christchurch.
Manaia Cunningham is driving the project to create new and potentially lucrative markets for the tasty purple spud. He also plans to develop a local kai co-operative for traditional Māori crops.
"I love hearing the stories of potatoes being turned into chips. The nutrient values of the taewa exceed other types of potatoes and the skin holds the nutrients...The value-added products that will come from the skins alone, who knows?" he says.
To learn about growing the taewa organically Manaia is working closely with Dr Charles Merfield, head of the Future Farming Centre at Lincoln University. Their goal is to combine modern science with traditional Māori practice.
Manaia believes it's a successful collaboration.
"The research he's done by using ultra-fine mesh on potatoes to stop psyllid and blight infection has been crucial. We won't spray on our lands in Koukourārata. We will not use harsh synthetic chemicals. We've used mesh and the yield and outcomes have been outstanding".
Several tonnes of taewa have been harvested this year and the yield is expected to increase next year.
Any profit from the business, Hāpai Produce, will go back to the marae and its people.
"Our marae has 5,000 shareholders, half of them are under 25, and our shareholders will get dividends by uniform grants and by grants for school fees".
Māori adopted taewa after the potatoes were introduced about 200 years ago and quickly started planting large crops. Taewa were easier to grow than kūmara and produced higher yields.