Consultants say an increasing number of farms are using less-intensive approaches, aiming to improve the environment and be more sustainable.
When Golden Bay's Mark Manson moved away from conventional farming techniques, he was told, "the wheels would fall off the farm within two years".
"And it’s been 12, 13 years now and it's going fine," Mr Manson.
The dairy farmer uses the soil nutrient management system called Kinsey-Albrecht, which targets individual nutrient levels.
"The difference between this programme and most programmes that you'd look at is not, 'how do we get the plant to make as much as it can make?' So much as 'how do we improve the soil, which then grow a good yield but also high quality?" explains American soil consultant Neal Kinsey.
"We look at the soil and measure what the soil already has and then what it needs for production. And if you already have enough you don't need to add more," he says.
Two hundred kilograms of nitrogen fertiliser per hectare was previously used on Mr Manson's farm.
Now across the entire operation, Mr Manson says "we averaged I think 36 kilograms last year of nitrogen".
Critics claim the practise is "psuedo science" with little convincing data, and could end up costing farmers more.
But a study's underway at Backtrack Dairies farm in Methven, comparing it to a conventional system.
Now in its fifth year, researchers say more time's needed to draw any firm conclusions, but the farms have remained productive while using less fertiliser.
Research soil scientist Abie Horrocks says there’s still much more to learn.
"I feel like this is quite an exciting space in regards to what the more conventional agriculture can learn from the more regenerative, biological approaches to farming, especially in the space of diversity".
Ms Horrocks says there's no "single right way" to practice more sustainable agriculture.
"There's many different scenarios and ways in which this can be done," she says.