Budget 2015 to give $80m boost for R&D funding

Innovative Kiwi businesses investing in research and development will benefit from a boost in funding for Callaghan Innovation as part of Budget 2015.

The Government will invest another $80m over four years in R&D growth grants, administered by Callaghan, to encourage more private sector research and development and grow New Zealand’s R&D ecosystem.

Growth grants are aimed at bringing New Zealand’s levels of private R&D investment and innovation closer to those of our major trading partners, said , Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.

“The new funding is equivalent to a 14 percent increase in Callaghan Innovation’s total annual R&D grants budget and adds to the $566m committed over four years for R&D grants in Budget 2013,” Mr Joyce says.

“New Zealand businesses have responded positively to this initiative, with 152 hi-tech companies so far awarded growth grants of up to $356 million. That will in turn support business spend on R&D of up to $1.5 billion over three years.

“This is a crucial part of our efforts to boost levels of private R&D spend in New Zealand and lift innovation. A strong emphasis on R&D helps to diversify and strengthen the New Zealand economy and ensure New Zealand companies remain competitive internationally.

“That in turn helps lift New Zealand’s export revenues, job numbers, and the incomes of Kiwi families.”

A range of industries are demonstrating increased R&D activity, Mr Joyce says, with the top two industries by grant value in 2013/14 manufacturing at 54 percent, and information and communications technology at 23 percent.

Growth grants meet 20 percent of the cost of an eligible firm’s R&D programme. To qualify, a business must commit to spending at least $300,000, and at least 1.5 percent of revenue, a year on R&D occurring in New Zealand.

The growth grants are one of a suite of business innovation services provided through Callaghan Innovation, which include R&D Project Grants for smaller companies and those new to R&D, and R&D Student Grants that give graduates the opportunity to work in innovative companies.

The Government’s total investment in science will amount to almost $1.5 billion in 2015/16 – a 70 per cent increase in eight years.

Could global warming incite interest in tropical dairy breeds?

Hamilton-based CRV Ambreed is ready to help New Zealand dairy farming confront the consequences of climate change.

The herd improvement company has widened the focus of its tropical dairy genetics scheme, which has sparked the interest of some Northland-based farmers.

Once only common in parts of Central America, South America, Asia and Africa, Sahiwal and Gyr genetics was introduced by CRV Ambreed to its breeding programme to meet a growing overseas demand for heat tolerance and tick resilience, combined with the added benefits of New Zealand’s grazing genetics.

A number of New Zealand farmers dealing with sub-tropical environmental conditions have since started using the crossbred option to build heat and parasite resistance in their herds.

Sahiwal, a popular high-merit dairy breed in Central America, South America, Asia and Africa, sires small, fast-growing calves that typically have good temperaments, ease of calving, heat and drought tolerance, and parasite resistance. Gyr, a common dairy breed in Brazil, displays similar traits to the Sahiwal.

CRV Ambreed genetic strategist Phil Beatson said while tropical breeds tend to have lower milk production than the temperate dairy breeds like Friesian and Jersey, their key strength is heat and parasite tolerance.

He explained that when crossed to the temperate breeds, the crossbred cattle have higher milk production than the straight tropical cattle. As the proportion of tropical make-up decreases, it is expected that milk production will increase. For example, 25 per cent tropical cows will have higher production than 50 per cent tropical cows.

Results show that in Northland, 34 per cent Sahiwal, 66 percent Friesian cows in a once-a-day system produced up to 1kg of milk solids per day for the first 100 days of lactation. 20 per cent Sahiwal cows produced up to 1.3kg milk solids in the same system, said Mr Beatson.

Funding announced for major new potato research project

Potatoes New Zealand Inc. has won funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries for a major research project aimed at improving crop yield.

The $260,000 three-year project, which will be financed through the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) and managed by the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), will investigate the impact of different potato crop rotations on soil borne diseases and soil quality.

Potatoes NZ chief executive Champak Mehta said the project aimed to develop and implement strategies to increase potato yields by 12 per cent, in line with the organisation’s industry target.

“This is a very important project and we are delighted to have obtained SFF funding,” said Mr Mehta. “Increase in yield will ensure the economic viability of the potato industry in New Zealand.

The country’s 170-plus potato growers will benefit directly and there will be further benefits to the wider community through the environmental advantages of sustainable cropping systems and secure rural land use.”

FAR chief executive Nick Pyke said the project was developed following extensive discussions with growers about the key problems they face with potato crops.

“That regularly comes back to trying to minimise soil-borne diseases and maximise soil quality which often relates to having the right crop rotations in place and understanding what crops, such as wheat, barley, forage brassica or grass will contribute in the way of benefits to a subsequent potato crop.

“This research is about understanding which crops are best suited to potato rotation through minimising soil borne disease and maximising soil quality.”

The project will begin in July and be carried out in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu/Whanganui and Canterbury with input from organisations including FAR and Plant & Food Research. Detailed research will be carried out on small plots at two locations, most likely Auckland and Lincoln. Further monitoring and trials will be carried out on farms practising potato crop rotations.

Cawthron Institute joins FoodHQ

The country’s largest independent science organisation, Cawthron Institute, has become the newest member of FoodHQ.

FoodHQ is New Zealand’s international gateway for collaborative food research – generating value for the global food industry through innovation across the food value chain. Other members are AgResearch, AsureQuality, ESR, Fonterra, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, the Riddet Institute and BCC.

Cawthron Institute chief executive, Professor Charles Eason, says the organisation is pleased to be joining FoodHQ.

“We believe it’s essential that seafood is represented alongside Agrifoods in this collaboration. We see FoodHQ as a great opportunity to help add value to New Zealand’s food export economy,” says Professor Eason.

Cawthron Institute brings internationally-recognised experience and scientific expertise in aquaculture and seafood safety to the collaboration.

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Genetics and facial eczema

Dairy farmers are being reminded to breed herds that will be more tolerant to facial eczema challenges and have greater resilience to facial eczema long-term.

CRV Ambreed’s genetic development strategist Phil Beatson says research and development completed over the past four years by CRV Ambreed and AgResearch resulted in the ability to identify facial eczema tolerant bulls.

Sires now entering CRV Ambreed’s progeny test programme are challenged for facial eczema tolerance, and targeted genetics are available to help farmers beat facial eczema long-term.

Beatson says CRV Ambreed’s genetics for dairy cattle will typically breed off-spring that are 25% less reactive to a facial eczema challenge, compared to the average bull.

“It isn’t an overnight fix though. A dose of facial eczema tolerant genetics this season will help minimise the loss of milk production in the progeny in years to come,” Mr Beatson said.

“Farmers need to consider the genetic option to combat facial eczema, and they need to get on the bus now and stay on that bus.”

Cattle in many parts of the North Island and upper South Island were hit by facial eczema this year. Higher humidity increased the number of toxic spores in pastures and resulted in a spike in the number of facial eczema cases.

Leading NZ food scientist elected a Fellow of US Institute of Food Technologists

The Riddet Institute’s co-director, Distinguished Professor Harjinder Singh, has been elected a Fellow of the United States Institute of Food Technologists.

The institute is the largest union of food scientists in the world. Since 1939, it has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a global forum where members from more than 95 countries can share, learn, and transform scientific knowledge into innovative solutions throughout the food system for the benefit of people around the world.

The institute focuses on food security, food safety, sustainability and food education.

Professor Singh says it is an honour to have been elected a fellow.

“It is a further demonstration of the international profile and impact of food science and technology research and education programmes of the Riddet Institute and Massey University.”

Singh is also the Head of the School of Food and Nutrition at Massey University’s College of Health.

He received his PhD from University College Cork, Ireland and has been with Massey University since 1989. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and received numerous awards including the Marschall Rhodia International Dairy Science Award (USA), William C. Haines Dairy Science Award (USA), JC Andrews Award, and Shorland Medal (New Zealand). In 2012, he was co-recipient of the prestigious Prime Minister’s Science Prize.

He says Fellows are expected to take a leadership role within IFT and participate in think-tanks and task forces. He will travel to Chicago in July to accept the honour.

The Riddet Institute, a Government-funded Centre of Research Excellence, is a partnership between Massey University (as host institution), the University of Otago, the University of Auckland, AgResearch and Plant & Food Research. It aims to strengthen connections between the food industry and research partners to enhance New Zealand’s reputation for excellence in food and sciences.

New dairy goat research under way at Ruakura

The industry aim of increasing the supply of dairy goat milk produced in New Zealand has taken another step forward with the opening of AgResearch’s new dedicated dairy goat research facility at Ruakura in the Waikato.

“The dairy goat industry is a great example of where science has made a difference right across the value chain, from on-farm to off-farm and work which has supported Dairy Goat Cooperative (DGC) in establishing and growing their business,” says AgResearch Partnership & Portfolios Director Dr Greg Murison.

“DGC has an excellent track record of developing and marketing high-quality exports based on a strong R&D component,” he said.

AgResearch has three programmes of dairy goat research under way, two funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and the third by the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Sustainable Farming Fund, with significant cash and in kind co-funding from DGC.

The latest project is focused on growing the supply of dairy goat milk through improved forage supply systems and superior animal welfare practices.

The first trial in the new facility looks at bedding preferences, with the aim of determining what the goats’ favoured surfaces are.

DGC Chairman Campbell Storey says the AgResearch work is crucial to the industry’s growth.

“There has been an industry shift where now goats are mainly farmed indoors. There is a greater focus on animal welfare, milk quality and in producing milk fit for purpose with the correct profile to produce what we believe is the best dairy goat infant formula in the world.

“To be making such a claim we need to continually invest in research and development, and working with a world-renowned agricultural research organisation, with a dedicated dairy goat research facility, who will be committed to research goat farming-related issued is an exciting opportunity.”

The facilities can cater for 48 goats and will be used for a range of trials, including bedding preferences for kids, forage preferences and environment enrichment work.

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