Research to breed low-methane livestock and Plant & Food scientists are recognised    

The work of AgResearch scientists to successfully breed low methane emitting sheep, as a tool to combat climate change, has been recognised with the Supreme Award at this year’s Science New Zealand Awards.

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

Outstanding research by three Plant & Food Research scientists and teams – an accomplished fruit crop scientist, a consortium working on myrtle rust disease and an emerging researcher looking at foods that support human health – were recognised, too.

Dr Jill Stanley received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to plant physiology and crop science over four decades. During her career, Dr Stanley has worked on a range of crops in varied locations, including the UK and Spain, collaborated with numerous researchers and growers and now leads a team of 40 people.

Her summerfruit research has focussed on improving practical outcomes for growers by enhancing productivity and fruit quality. Dr Stanley’s work has helped growers use resources more efficiently to lift returns and has delivered quality fruit for consumers. Continue reading

Plant & Food scores successes at KiwiNet commercialisation awards

David Hughes, Chief Executive of Plant & Food Research, has been named the inaugural KiwiNet Commercialisation Icon.

Also recognised at the annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards were Commercialisation Manager Darja Pavlovic-Nelson, winner of the Commercialisation Professional category, and the development of biocontrol product Aureo®Gold, winner of the Commercial Impact category.

The marine collagen product ActivLayr was also a finalist in the Commercial Impact category.

David, who was Group GM Commercial before being appointed CEO in 2018, was recognised for his dedication to finding new ways to commercialise science. In his role as GGM Commercial, he inspired the culture change required to increase commercialisation of research and championed new business models that provided security and growth for the organisation. Continue reading

Researchers, scholars and innovators are honoured (scientists are recognised, too)

The word “scientist” is curiously missing from the introductory paragraph in a news release from the Royal Society Te Apārangi.  Instead, the society reports that

“… contributions of innovators, kairangahau Māori, researchers and scholars throughout Aotearoa New Zealand are having their achievements and national and international impact recognised.”

Elsewhere in the press release, the word “scientist” can be found once, in reference to the award made to soil scientist Professor Rich McDowell.

The headline says:  2021 Research Honours Aotearoa Celebrates Achievements By Researchers, Scholars And Innovators

For the 2021 Research Honours Aotearoa, the society has announced the winners of 18 medals and awards and the Health Research Council of New Zealand has announced three award winners.

Winners will receive their awards at regional ceremonies in early 2022.

Among them are –

Professor Rich McDowell, from AgResearch and Our Land and Water, National Science Challenge.  He  received the Hutton Medal for outstanding contributions to the knowledge of nutrient flows in soils and water, and informing farm management and environmental policy.

Rich, a soil scientist, is best known firstly for showing how contaminants move across land and into water, and secondly how to manage land to mitigate losses. He has used this knowledge to inform policy and has made an immense contribution to the strategies available in New Zealand and overseas for mitigation of nutrient losses to water.

The Pickering Medal has been awarded to Professor Keith Cameron  and Professor Hong Di from Lincoln University for inventing new technology to treat dairy farm effluent to recycle water and reduce phosphate and E coli leaching into water.

ClearTech® is a fully-automatic treatment system that uses a coagulant to produce ‘clarified water’ and ‘treated effluent’. It reduces the volume of effluent that needs to be irrigated or stored; clarifies and recycles more than 50% of the water that can be used to wash the farmyard; and reduces the risk of contamination of rivers, lakes and groundwater, reducing phosphate and E coli leaching by over 90%.

Marsden Fund supports innovative research in Aotearoa

The Marsden Fund has allocated $82.345 million (excluding GST) to 120 research projects. The grants support research in the humanities, science, social sciences, mātauranga, mathematics, and engineering for three years

This year, one large interdisciplinary project received the prestigious Marsden Fund Council Award worth $3 million (excluding GST). The project will investigate ways to decipher gravitational waves – ripples in space-time caused by accelerating massive objects.

The extensive collaborative team led by Professor Renate Meyer from the University of Auckland will be bringing together expertise in mathematics, computational science, fundamental physics, and novel statistical methodologies from across New Zealand to make core contributions to gravitational wave science and facilitate participation in the international LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) mission. Continue reading

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Ron Beatson wins the Morton Coutts Award

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Ron Beatson was awarded the prestigious Morton Coutts Trophy at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand 2021 New Zealand Beer Awards in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the New Zealand hops industry.

Dr Beatson has led the research and development of hop breeding and genetics for 38 years at Plant & Food Research. Based at the Motueka Research Centre, he recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as a Plant & Food Research scientist.

Over the past three decades, New Zealand-grown hops have built a strong reputation for novelty and high quality with the brewing industry globally. Dr Beatson has been instrumental in the research, development and release of 16 specialty hop cultivars imparting unique flavours to beer, varieties including Motueka, Riwaka, Nelson Sauvin and the recently released Nectaron® – named in part for its creator – which have placed New Zealand hops on the world stage.

Dr Kieran Elborough, Group GM Technology Development of Plant & Food Research says, Dr Beatson is a leading expert in hops research. Continue reading

Soil scientist Dr Trish Fraser is recognised as a Woman of Influence

Plant & Food Research soil scientist Dr Trish Fraser has received the 2020 Women of Influence Award (Rural Category) in recognition of her three decades of dedication and contributions to the rural sector and rural community.

The judges praised her collaborative approach and her rare skill of communicating science to farmers.

Dr Fraser says the award is a great honour and thanks Plant & Food Research, industry collaborators and many farmers for their support.

“I never think of myself as a trailblazer, but in retrospect what I’ve done out of passion and interest did make an impact on the communities that I serve,” she says.

“When I first started as a soil scientist almost 30 years ago, the rural community was extremely dominated by men. I knew I must prove myself through the quality of my work. I attended many field days to communicate my findings and educate farmers on how to improve soil health. Gradually they’ve come around, and they now value and respect me for the work I’ve done.” Continue reading

Lincoln gene laboratory trio win Primary Industries science award

The work of three members of Lincoln University’s Gene-Marker Laboratory to help breed healthier, more resilient, and superior livestock, has been recognised in the Primary Industries Awards.

The lab’s director, Professor Jon Hickford, principal researcher, Dr Huitong Zhou, and lab manager, Freeman Fang, were given the Science and Research Award.

Professor Hickford is the Immediate Past President of the NZIAHS.

The judges said they were impressed with the holistic approach of the Lincoln University team, who brought a highly professional genetic approach to the business of farming.

“Their genetic program was impressive as was their relationship with farmers. This guaranteed a practical result from a highly specialised scientific process.” Continue reading

2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes are awarded

The 2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes have been announced in Wellington, recognising the impact of science on New Zealanders’ lives, celebrating the achievements of current scientists and encouraging scientists of the future.

The 2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize, the premier award for science that is transformational in its impact, has been awarded to Te Pūnaha Matatini for its COVID-19 response.

Te Pūnaha Matatini, hosted at University of Auckland, is a multidisciplinary Centre of Research Excellence, set up to apply complexity science to ‘critical issues of our time’.

Centre Director Professor Shaun Hendy MNZM FRSNZ, University of Auckland, quickly saw in early 2020 that there was a gap in providing the New Zealand Government with the data science it needed to make informed decisions about responding to the pandemic. He quickly assembled a team who have worked tirelessly to fill this need.

The team’s response has been multifaceted. Throughout the pandemic, they have developed a series of new mathematical models and ran a multitude of different scenarios to inform the unique situation that New Zealand found itself in. They have done modelling work and analysis on a wide number of areas including hospital capability, contagion rates and likely disease spread, virus genomic tracing, contact tracing and vaccination.

Continue reading

Future orchards recognised in Primary Industry Awards

Plant & Food Research  has won two Primary Industry Awards, recognising innovations in orchard design and sustainable fishing systems.

The Future Orchard Planting Systems (FOPS) science team received the Primary Industry Science and Research Award in recognition of their work in creating a new growing system that increases the productivity potential of New Zealand’s apple, pear and summerfruit orchards.

“The FOPS design, led by Dr Stuart Tustin, was based on our understanding of plant physiology and developmental biology,” says Dr Jill Stanley, Science Group Leader at Plant & Food Research.

“Theoretically we knew it was possible to increase the light captured by the canopy and that this would greatly increase productivity”. Continue reading

Soil scientist Dr Trish Fraser is recognised as a Woman of Influence

Plant & Food Research soil scientist Dr Trish Fraser has received the 2020 Women of Influence Award (Rural Category) in recognition of her three decades of dedication and contributions to the rural sector and rural community. The judges praised her collaborative approach and her rare skill of communicating science to farmers.

Another scientist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, was named the supreme winner of the 2020 Stuff-Westpac Women of Influence Awards.

The associate professor, a microbiologist at Auckland University, was chosen from a wealth of inspirational women who are excelling on the local and international stage, at the eighth annual awards at Auckland’s Aotea Centre.

She also was presented with the science and health innovation award. Continue reading