Patch – bringing farms to the tourism table

Meet Patch, the Lightning Lab Tourism team that is creating New Zealand’s distributed campground in order to facilitate transformative experiences and connect people to nature. 

Patch is New Zealand’s first distributed campground. Co-founders Christina Baldarelli and Steffen Merten found there was a disconnect between the beautiful New Zealand landscapes tourists imagined and the campgrounds that awaited them when they arrived.  Steffan says, tourists are coming to New Zealand seeking unqiue, and authentic transformational experiences and yet they get here and they find themselves on a standardised tourist treadmill.

“Tourists come to New Zealand for a once in their lifetime trip, and have huge expectations, and while we have this beautiful landscapes, tourists are finding it hard to find them.  The result is an underwhelming experience for tourists, and a stress on our amenities and infrastructure.”

Patch believes there’s a different way.  


Jumping the creek

Patch provides a way to connect Farmers with international tourists, providing access to their beautiful landscapes on their own patch of land. The aim is to make this simpler for farmer and visitor making the process seamless and valuable for both parties. 

“We will provide the amenities for farmers to be able to host visitors easily and still be able to continue with their day-to-day responsibilities of running a farm,” Christina says. “Farmers are renowned for their hospitality.  Some are already offering tourists a memorable hands-on kiwi experience.  We just want to make it easier.”

The team has found that farmers are interested in diversifying their on-farm income through tourism but they put it in the too-hard basket. After all, they got into farming for the fresh air and honest hard work, not sitting behind a computer managing booking enquiries. Patch with help to bridge this gap, taking care of the admin and leaving the farmers to keep their land and stock in the clean green condition that attracts the tourists in the first place. 

“The farmer will have the choice to be able to engage with the tourists. However they could also just provide the land, which makes it very hands off and easy for the farmer.”

The Patch team consisting of Christina Baldarelli, Steffen Merten, Kris Herbert, Anna Greenhow and Liam Carroll, have a wide range of backgrounds including journalism, data science, design and adventure tourism management.


Milk the Cash Cow

Patch is focusing on ways to help farmers cash-in on the opportunities presented by exploding visitor numbers, along with an increasing hunger by consumers to know where their food comes from.  The tourism figures show that a record 3.82 million visitors stepped onto New Zealand shores in March 2018. That’s about 10,465 visitors a day.  Tourism New Zealand predicts visitor arrivals to New Zealand are expected to grow 4.6% a year, reaching 5.1 million visitors in 2024.

Farm-based tourism has been recognised as a distinct activity for more than a century, and it is also increasingly evident in Europe, Canada, and the USA. New Zealand has a longstanding reputation for our clean, green image. Tourists are enticed by picturesque scenery and want a patch of pristine natural solitude,  Christina says. It just makes sense to make our biggest asset available to the world in a way that is sustainable and helps bolster our two biggest exports. 

“In most cases, successful agri-tourism operators showcase what they already have. Many tourists have a desire for an authentic experience and to do the things we take for granted.”

“We want more tourists to experience New Zealand how they envision it before their trip, by connecting them with farmers that have the land (but maybe not the time) to give them those unique experiences.”

“It’s all about the great outdoors. It’s what makes farmers love working on the land, and it’s what brings people to New Zealand. It happens that these two groups feel a strong connection to the land, and we think that bringing them together can create a powerful experience.”


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