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. Continue reading

2020 RHT Bates Scholarship awarded for meat quality measurement research

Abi Thampi, a PhD student in the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland, has been awarded the 2020 RHT Bates Scholarship.

Abi has been awarded the scholarship for his research to develop classification models to measure the quality of meat non-invasively in real time and to detect different types of cancer cells in skin.

The field of non-destructive evaluation and testing comprises many different techniques and approaches. One of these techniques, optical coherence tomography (OCT), enables a fast, purely optical, non-invasive, contact-less and high-resolution imaging of subsurface features at a level of only a few microns. It could be described as a light-based version of ultrasound imaging.

His research aim is to develop classification models for Polarisation Sensitive Optical Coherence Tomography (PS-OCT) that can determine the quality of meat by being able to measure key quality parameters of muscle fibres, such as the percentage of intramuscular fat.

He also seeks to develop predictive models to detect three different types of basal cell carcinoma cancer in skin at its early stages.

The RHT Bates Scholarship was established by Royal Society Te Apārangi in memory of Professor Richard Bates FRSNZ to support interdisciplinary research.

Source:  Royal Society Te Apārangi

Lincoln professor is honoured for science communication

Professor Steve Wratten, a Principal Investigator at the Bio-Protection Research Centre and Professor of Ecology at Lincoln University, has won the John Taylor Award for leadership in horticulture.

The award from the Canterbury Horticultural Society was given for his ability to communicate complex ideas to the non-scientific community.

“In doing so, people have become empowered to make a difference at a local level, which in time becomes regional, national and international,” his citation reads.

“His research and dissemination of knowledge to horticulturists and gardeners has and will continue to enable people to follow his lead and improve our production systems.”

Professor Wratten, a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, specialises in biological control of pests. He advocates using companion planting to provide SNAP (Shelter, Nectar, Alternative food, and Pollen) for the natural enemies of insect pests.

He used this method to develop the Greening Waipara programme, which uses native plants to control pests and increase biodiversity in North Canterbury vineyards.

Accepting the award, Professor Wratten said university researchers had to produce both outputs, such as scientific publications, and outcomes, which were about making a difference – in this case to gardeners and professional horticulturalists.

Source:  Bio-Protection Research Centre

PM’s top science prize goes to DNA crime scene software

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods today congratulated the winners of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes.

She joined some of New Zealand’s top scientists to celebrate the 10th year of these awards.

“Our Chief Science Advisor’s Meth Report has recently shown the important role that science plays in informing our policy decisions, and the crucial role that accurate science communication plays,” she said.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods congratulated the award winners and their families, supporters, colleagues and friends who have played a part in their success. Continue reading

Damien O’Connor pays tribute to 2018 Biosecurity Awards winners

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has paid tribute to the winners of the 2018 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

He described them as the people and organisations who go above and beyond to protect the country from pests and diseases “to ensure our unique way of life is sustained for future generations”.

The New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award winner was Environment Southland for its Fiordland Marine Pathway Management Plan.

The Minister’s Biosecurity Award was won by Greg Corbett, Biosecurity Manager at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Mr O’Connor said:

“Greg has shown leadership from the grassroots up for over 35 years, protecting New Zealand’s farms, forests and waterways from animal pests since 1983.”

The winners are:

  • New Zealand Biosecurity Community Award – Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Industry Award – Kiwifruit Vine Health
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Science Award – Scion: New Zealand Forest Research Institute
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Emerging Leader Award – Dr Amanda Black
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Māori Award – Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi Trust
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Local and Central Government Award – Environment Southland
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Innovation Award – Jacson3 Limited
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award – Environment Southland
  • Minister’s Biosecurity Award – Greg Corbett

Further detail is at

Source:  Minister of Biosecurity

Plant & Food Research scientists recognised at Science New Zealand Awards

A leading materials scientist, an emerging kiwifruit scientist and a team that develops genetic markers to enable breeders to select elite seedlings, all from Plant & Food Research, were honoured at the Science New Zealand 2018 National Awards at Parliament in Wellington.

Dr Nigel Larsen, Principal Scientist, was presented with the Plant & Food Research Lifetime Achievement Award for his 35 years of contribution to the knowledge of food science and materials science in New Zealand and overseas.

In addition to co-founding the Biopolymer Network, a company that converts sustainable natural resources to biopolymers and biocomposite products, he has played significant leadership roles in numerous large multi-year, multi-agency research projects in food science.

Dr Larsen has led significant government-funded initiatives in collaboration with the New Zealand cereal industry to enhance the quality of the cereal-based consumer products that the industry produces. Most recently, he has been leading a multi-faceted strategy to lower the levels of proteins in foods made from New Zealand wheats that trigger coeliac disease. This involves projects across breeding, farming, milling and baking.

Dr Sarah Pilkington, scientist, received the Plant & Food Research Early Career Researcher Award for her impact on the kiwifruit industry. As an early-career researcher, she has already led a project that can save the industry millions of dollars in land and science resources a year.

Male kiwifruit vines are pollinisers that are non-fruiting. Her work allowing unproductive male vines to be eliminated from the breeding programme at an early stage using a universal molecular marker is highly valuable.

The Mapping & Markers Team*, formed in 1992, received the Plant & Food Research Team Award. The team’s work has cemented New Zealand’s position as the international leader in the development and application of molecular and genomic technologies to assist fruit breeders develop new varieties efficiently and in a targeted fashion.

Their DNA marker technologies help breeders select genetically elite individuals that carry “must have characteristics” desired by consumers and growers from populations of thousands of seedlings. These range from enhanced sustainability, improved resistance to pests and diseases, to fruit colour, flavour and texture, as well as female plants in kiwifruit and hops.

Current crops include apple, pear, hops, kiwifruit, raspberry, blueberry, summerfruit and, most recently, mānuka. Two of the original team members still contribute to team’s research today.

* Members of Mapping & Markers Team are Dr Sue Gardiner, Heather Bassett, Bev Breslin, Dr David Chagné, Dr Emily Buck, Deepa Bowatte, Dr Claudia Wiedow, Dr Chris Kirk, Dr Mareike Knaebel, Dr Jibran Tahir, Dr Elena Lopez-Girona, Dr Elena Hilario and the many past members who have contributed since 1992.

Science New Zealand represents the country’s seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) including Plant & Food Research. The annual awards recognise research excellence at each CRI.

Source: Plant & Food Research

High innovation honour for Lincoln Agritech at Canterbury business awards

Lincoln Agritech Ltd has been recognised for its cutting-edge innovations at the annual Canterbury Westpac Champion Business Awards.

The research and development company owned by Lincoln University won the Christchurch NZ Champion Innovation award, which honours businesses that have developed products, services or business model innovations to improve commercial performance, effectiveness or customer engagement.

Lincoln Agritech CEO Peter Barrowclough, expressing delight with the win, paid tribute to his organisation’s team of scientists and research engineers “who work hard to deliver leading-edge knowledge and technologies across the primary sector value chain.

One of Lincoln Agritech’s latest inventions is the HydroMetrics optical groundwater nitrate sensor. The sensor can be placed down wells to provide accurate real time nitrate monitoring in groundwater.

The HydroMetrics sensor, now commercialised and available for purchase, is priced at a third of the cost of international equivalents.

“This is disruptive technology which will help us monitor the environmental impact of NZ’s primary production systems,” Mr Barrowclough said.

“Our innovation stems from our unique combination of strategy, our people and culture, our collaborative  approach and our strong industry partnerships.,” he said.

“With just 55 staff we regularly punch above our weight when compared to NZ universities and Crown Research Institutes in the highly contested annual MBIE funding rounds.”

In the latest funding round, announced last week, the company was awarded $13 million for two five-year research programmes.

One programme aims to  further understand critical nitrate pathways into groundwater  and the other will assist medical professionals to diagnose bone and tissue damage using hand held non-contact novel technology.

Mr Barrowclough said Lincoln Agritech had experienced significant growth in revenue over the past five years.

Private sector research revenue has increased by almost 400% and revenue for Government-funded research has more than doubled. Repeat business for professional services was 90% in 2017.

Last year, Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Woodhead, won the prestigious Scott Medal for engineering science from the Royal Society Te Apārangi in recognition of the wide range of sensors he has developed for the agricultural and environmental sectors.

Lincoln Agritech is wholly owned by Lincoln University, with an independent board of directors.

Source:  Lincoln Agritech  

Commission for Agricultural Meteorology gives award for exceptional service to Dr Salinger



The Award for Exceptional Service has been given to Dr Jim Salinger for outstanding contributions and exceptional service to the Commission for Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“Very few people receive this award so I am very honoured,” Jim told AgScience.

The commission’s role is to provide guidance in the field of agricultural meteorology by studying and reviewing available science and technology; to propose international standards for methods and procedures; to provide a forum for the examination and resolution of relevant scientific and technical issues; to promote training and the transfer of knowledge and methodologies, including the results of research, between WMO members; and to promote international cooperation.

Jim has been a member of the commission and New Zealand’s principal delegate from 1986 – 2010, and has been a member since, totalling 32 years.

During that period he chaired several CAgM working groups and expert teams, was its vice president for eight years, and was its ninth president from 2006 – 2010.  Subsequently he has chaired a task team.

“So as well as guiding the policy and work plan of CAgM for member states, I have produced many publications,” Jim said.

The most significant ones are listed below.

His next task is to provide an update of Climate Variability, Agriculture and Forestry.


Technical Note No. 196, 1994: Climate Variability, Agriculture and Forestry. Report of the CAgM-IX Working Group on the Study of Climate Effects on Agriculture including Forests and of the Effects of Agriculture and Forest on Climate, WMO-No. 802, 152 pp.

Technical Note No. 199, 1997: Climate Variability, Agriculture and Forestry: An Update, Salinger, M.J., Desjardins, R., Jones, M.B., Sivakumar, M.V.K., Strommen, N.D., Veerasamy, S. and Lianhai, W., WMO-No. 841, 51 pp.

Technical Note No. 200, 2000: Climate Variability, Agriculture and Forestry: Towards Sustainability, Salinger, M.J., Desjardins, R.L., Janzen, H., Karing, P,H., Veerasamy, S. and Zipoli, G., WMO-No. 928, 41 pp.

Salinger, M.J., Sivakumar, M.V.K. and Motha, R. (eds). Increasing Climate Variability and Change: Reducing the vulnerability of agriculture and forestry. Springer, Dordrecht, 362 pp. 2005.

Salinger, M.J. (ed). Climate and Oceanic Fisheries. July 2013. Special issue of Climatic Change.

Science category included in 2018 NZ Biosecurity Awards

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has announced the opening of nominations for New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, to celebrate the people who help to keep New Zealand’s flora, fauna and vital primary sectors.

His remarks can be viewed and heard HERE. 

The awards were launched last year with six categories.  Three new categories have been added this year – Emerging Leader, Innovation and Science awards.

Entrants might be innovators, scientists, communities, or leaders – anyone who has taken an active interest in the continuous improvement of New Zealand’s biosecurity system, Mr O’Connor said.

“The awards are a way to thank and shine a light on people and organisations who are protecting Aotearoa – in our communities, businesses, science organisations, iwi and hapū, and central and local government.

“Biosecurity is our number one challenge because it is critical to our economic base and way of life. Recent reports show that only 2 per cent of Kiwis feel a biosecurity breach would affect their lives – I think this level of awareness is changing and there’s a growing understanding that every New Zealander has personal responsibility for ensuring we maintain a resilient and strong biosecurity system.”

Finalists will be announced on Friday 12 October and winners named on Monday 12 November at an awards dinner in Auckland.

Entries are open until 31 August.

The award categories are:

  • New Zealand Biosecurity Community Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Industry Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Science Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Emerging Leader Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Māori Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Local and Central Government Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Innovation Award
  • Minister’s Biosecurity Award

You can find out more HERE.

Source:  Minister of Biosecurity