A Victoria University lecturer says the rise of businesses owned by hapu and iwi business and their move into international investment needs a lot more study.
Political science academic Jason Young has received taxpayer funding of $345,000 from a Marsden Fast-Start grant to research Maori engagement in farming in a poor region of China.
He will also study Fonterra's five dairy farms in the more developed Hebei Province.
The Marsden Fund is administered by the national science academy, the Royal Society of New Zealand, and supports research projects in a range of areas.
Dr Young says he will compare investment in developed and developing rural regions and examine the role of foreign investment in China's agricultural sector.
He says Maori engagement internationally - as well as specifically with China - has been understudied.