Science New Zealand Awards honour Plant & Food Research scientists

A team that has developed a ground-breaking wildfish harvesting system, a leading environmental scientist and an emerging plant geneticist from Plant & Food Research were among the 21 scientists and research teams recognised at Science New Zealand 2018 National Awards at Parliament in Wellington.

Dr Brent Clothier has been presented with the Plant & Food Research Lifetime Achievement Award. As a world-leading soil and water scientist with 44 years of research experience, Dr Clothier has enhanced our understanding of the natural capital that the environment provides to grow our crops and to make informed land use decisions.

His work on water footprinting, soil science and climate change has prepared our primary production systems for tomorrow’s challenges. Dr Clothier has developed new theories for water and chemicals moving through soil, along with inventing new devices that enabled the parameterisation of these models. His development of a new technology to directly measure water use by trees and vines has helped improve water management in water-short regions globally.

Dr Nick Albert has received the Plant & Food Research Early Career Research Award. The fundamental science knowledge from his plant genetic research is making a significant impact on developing fruit cultivars with novel colours and enhanced content of health-promoting phytochemicals, increasing the appeal of fruits in domestic and overseas markets. His work focuses on identifying the genes responsible for regulating where, when and the amount of phytochemicals plants produce. He has demonstrated that a class of gene acts to inhibit the production of anthocyanin pigments, a type of flavonoid with antioxidant effects, and suggested that these genes are important targets for marker development in breeding programmes.

The Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) Team is the recipient of the Plant & Food Research Team Award. The team has created and developed a world-leading technology that is changing the way New Zealand fishes – the Modular Harvesting System (MHS). It answers the need for a more environmentally-sustainable way of fishing that maximises quality and limits impact to non-target catch.

The development of the system put the needs of the fish at the centre of the design process, using the team’s deep understanding of fish physiology and behaviour to allow fish to be landed alive. This allows non-target catch to potentially be returned to the sea, and delivers fish that are less stressed and fatigued in better condition for export.

Through the PSH Primary Growth Partnership, a collaboration was formed between Plant & Food Research, three seafood companies (Moana, Sanford and Sealord) and the Ministry for Primary Industries to commercialise the MHS. The MHS has since received landmark approvals from Fisheries New Zealand for use in some inshore and deepwater fisheries with species that account for 57% of the country’s $650 million finish exports.

Science New Zealand represents the country’s seven Crown Research Institutes. The annual awards recognise research excellence at each CRI.

Source:  Plant & Food Research

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