The country otherwise known as Middle Earth may soon also be nicknamed Pandora. 

James Cameron and 20th Century Fox have officially announced an agreement with New Zealand to shoot the next three "Avatar" sequels in the country, a partnership worth at least $500 million in New Zealand dollars (about $413 million U.S.) to the country's economy. 

"It's quite a thrill to be officially saying that we're bringing the 'Avatar' films to New Zealand," Cameron told a press conference. "We had such a wonderful experience here making the first film."

The 59-year-old director committed to a Christmas 2016 release date for the second film, with the others following in late 2017 and 2018 respectively. All three film will be shot at once for a budget Cameron estimate to fall below $1 billion. 

"It's going to be a lot of new imagery and a lot of new environments and creatures across Pandora," he said. "We're blowing it out all over the place. At first I thought I was going to take it onto other worlds as well, in the same solar system, but it turned out not to be necessary. I mean the Pandora that we have imagined will be a fantasy land that is going to occupy people for decades to come, the way I see it."

Cameron, who also reiterated that the second film will explore "underwater stuff" (but will not all take place underwater), provided an update as well on his growing New Zealand farming empire. Since moving to the country in 2012, he and his family have purchased more than 3,500 acres of land in the Wairarapa region of country's North Island, including a commercial walnut farm

"It is going to be tree crops and various grains," he told the Wall Street Journal in a separate interview. "We are going to see what works there. It can be very windy obviously, although we have a number of sheltered paddocks at the foothills of the Rimutaka Range. We are getting into it slowly, but it isn't going to be dairy. I know dairy is a big deal here, and is a sacred part of the economy, but it is just not something I can reconcile for myself. I don't begrudge anyone else, but I can't reconcile it for myself."

Cameron, who recently embraced a plant-based diet along with the rest of this family, said earlier this year that the transition has been an absolute eye-opener for him. 

“I’ve had an epiphany recently,” Cameron told a packed audience during the National Geographic Society's 125th anniversary gala in June. “I want to challenge all of you as people of deep conscience, people who are environment stewards of the earth and oceans … By changing what you eat, you will change the entire contract between the human species and the natural world."

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

James Cameron talks 'Avatar' sequels, farm life in New Zealand
Director agrees to shoot next 3 'Avatar' films in New Zealand, giving the country a potential boost of more than $400 million.