Plant & Food Research to welcome its 300th summer student

Plant & Food Research will welcome its 300th summer student this week.

The Plant & Food Research Summer Studentship Programme began in the summer of 2008/2009 immediately after the Crown Research Institute was established. This year, 28 students will take part in the programme, bringing the total number of studentships to 328 over the ten-year period.

The Summer Studentship Programme creates a career experience for high calibre students studying science or related business subjects at undergraduate level. The students spend three months over the summer working on a specific project at one of Plant & Food Research’s 14 sites around the country.

The experience allows the students to build a better understanding of how real-world science is undertaken and provides them with insights into how a research organisations and industry work together.

This year’s students will study topics as diverse as intellectual property management, fish reproduction, fruit quality, plant physiology, pest and disease control, and machine learning.

“The summer student programme is a great experience for students wanting to understand more about research and the primary industries,” says Dr Richard Newcomb.

“Some of our past students have continued their science career with Plant & Food Research, or moved into roles with our industry partners. We welcome this year’s intake of students, and look forward to seeing what they achieve.”

Students from the University of Auckland, University of Otago, Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Waikato, University of Canterbury and Unitec are undertaking studentships over the summer period, at Plant & Food Research’s Mt Albert, Ruakura, Hawke’s Bay, Palmerston North, Nelson, Lincoln and Clyde Research Centres.

Source:  Plant & Food Research


Shared science MOU to benefit the Waikato region

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Waikato Regional Council have signed a memorandum of understanding, creating a platform for a planned and collaborative approach to research.

Manaaki Whenua chief executive Richard Gordon says it’s important for Crown Research Institutes to recognise the excellent applied science carried out by regional councils, and the collaboration of knowledge will help deliver the greatest benefits for the region, as well as for New Zealand.

“We already enjoy a close and positive working relationship on some projects with Waikato Regional Council, and this MOU covers all bases, including sharing regional environmental data and tools,” Mr Gordon said

Shared research interests include:

– biodiversity and biosecurity research, policy and practices

– wetland management and restoration

– impacts of climate change

– land use intensification and mitigations such as carbon sequestration

 – economic and environmental modelling.

Waikato Regional Council chief executive Vaughan Payne says collaborative work is already under way on a soil mapping programme to better understand land management impacts on water quality.

Among other things, this piece of work will assist in the creation and implementation of farm environment plans.

A combined project to better understand the Waikato’s unique peat soils, to enable better management and protection, is also about to start.

Source: Waikato Regional Council

AgResearch staff are advised of changes to Māori agribusiness team

AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson has advised staff of changes being made “to add impetus to our commitment to embed Te Ao Māori within AgResearch”.

Dr Richardson said:

To enhance our commitment to Te Ao Maori and Vision Mātauranga we are adding resource to both our Māori research capability and making some changes to our sector team in order to expand connections with the expanding Māori agribusiness sector.

Chris Koroheke, appointed Kaiurungi – Māori Strategy and EngagementManager, will spend more time supporting Dr Richardson and AgResearch teams as they develop strategic partnerships across Maoridom and turn relationships into new programmes of work.

He will be supported by a recently established cross-organisation internal working group, Te Kahui Whatu Tikanga, who will work across the organisation to enhance AgResearch’s ability to engage with Māori.

Ariana Hemara-Wahanui, appointed Sector Manager – Māori Agribusiness,  will lead AgResearch’s Māori Agribusiness Sector strategy by developing and maintaining strategic relationships with a portfolio of Māori agribusiness partners to identify commercial opportunities and linking partners with appropriate AgResearch (and collaborators) science capability.

A new science role, the Kairangahau Māori (Senior Māori Research Scientist), will report to the most appropriate Science Team Leader depending on the science discipline of the successful candidate.

The key purpose of the Kairangahau Māori role is to lead and provide thought leadership to direct AgResearch’s research portfolio toward Māori-centred and kaupapa Māori research. The role will develop the Māori agribusiness research priority areas and provide strategic research direction.

Dr Richardson says:

Collectively, these changes will enable AgResearch to step up our understanding, integration and delivery of Vision Mātauranga.

The Māori Agribusiness Sector team will be formally named Matai Ahuwhenua (translated as the art of cultivating food).

New leadership team for Plant & Food Research is named

Plant & Food Research has announced a refreshed senior management team following the promotion of David Hughes to CEO and the resignations of two senior leaders after lengthy terms of service.

The senior team has been increased by one to seven with the creation of two science leadership roles, replacing the Chief Operating Officer role.  One will head Science Services; the other will be responsible for Technology Development.

The appointments are:

• Philippa Stevens to Group General Manager Science Services

• Dr Kieran Elborough to Group General Manager Technology Development

• Dr Gavin Ross to Group General Manager Marketing & Innovation

• Quentin Smith to Group General Manager Finance, Infrastructure and Information

CEO David Hughes said:

“In Philippa, Kieran and Gavin we have three highly experienced and capable leaders stepping up from within the organisation to join our senior team at an exciting time of renewal.

“Quentin joins Plant & Food Research on 20 August. He brings a breadth of financial, commercial and property development experience and is looking forward to joining an organisation committed to contributing to the success of New Zealand’s plant and food sectors.

“I look forward to working with them to build a cohesive and successful senior team, and also develop the contribution by our wider management team. Results matter – we all want to see our world class science positively impacting New Zealand – but equally important is getting results in the right way.

“Our refreshed senior team will model an authentic, open and supportive culture, which is essential across our organisation if we are to successfully deliver world-class science and a business strategy shift over the next few years.”

As Group General Manager Science Services, Ms Stevens’ leadership will ensure the fee for service part of the organisation produces high quality science and generates the financial resources needed to achieve our goals.  With a Bachelor of Science (Zoology) and a Master of Science, Ms Stevens has been employed at Plant & Food Research and its predecessors since 1989; from 2009 as the General Manager Science for Bioprotection, responsible for approximately 150 researchers, and for three years prior to this as the Group Leader for Bioprotection. Reporting to Ms Stevens will be the General Managers Science of the Bioprotection and Sustainable Production portfolios.

As Group General Manager Technology Development, Dr Elborough will lead the growth of our technology development activities and the profitable growth of royalty revenues. With a BSc Honours and a PhD, Dr Elborough has been General Manager of New Cultivar Innovation since 2012. Before that he was the GM of Science, Food Innovation (2009-2012) and Business Development Manager Functional Foods (2006-2009) and, earlier, worked at ViaLactia Biosciences Limited for six years as Chief Scientist Forage & Rumen. Reporting to Dr Elborough will be the GMs of the Food Innovation, Seafood Technologies and New Cultivar Innovation portfolios.

As Group General Manager Marketing & Innovation, Dr Ross will champion excellence in customer relationships, create new business models and enhance our brand. Dr Ross has a BSc (Hons) 1st Class and a PhD and joined our predecessor organisation in 1988 as a scientist. His career developed into general management and business development with the organisation before he left for two years to join Agrigenesis Bioscience. His current role is General Manager, Business Development, a role he has held since 2010; prior to that he was employed at Davis in California as Vice President, Business Development from 2005-2010.

As Group General Manager Finance, Infrastructure & Information, Mr Smith will lead the management of infrastructure and information to achieve our goals. Mr Smith began his career with professional services firm, PwC, where he became an Associate. From there, he became a Financial Consultant with McDonalds Restaurants New Zealand and went on to head up the Finance and Development portfolios for the business. He was responsible for the management of the company’s $400 million property holdings across New Zealand and had financial oversight for 166 restaurants.

Craig Jensen, General Manager Human Resources, and Dr Richard Newcomb, Chief Scientist, will remain on the Senior Management Team.

Source:  Plant and Food Research

New appointments to Crown Research Institute boards

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced eight new appointments to the boards of five Crown Research Institutes (CRIs).

The percentage of women on these boards has increased from 35.4% to 44.7%.

The new board members are:

  • Rukumoana Schaafhausen as a Director of AgResearch (with Dr Paul Reynolds temporarily acting as the Chair)
  • Kate Thomson as a Director of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR)
  • Felicity Evans as a Director of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)
  • Barry Harris as Chair, and Mary-Anne Macleod and Dr Tracey Batten as Directors, of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
  • Dr Parmjot Bains and Wendy Venter as Directors of the NZ Institute for Plant & Food Research.

New member bios


Deputy Chair, Dr Paul Reynolds will act as Chair until the appointment process for a new Chair is completed.

Mrs Rukumoana Schaafhausen has been appointed as a Director. She is Chair of Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Incorporated and a previous Director of Genesis Energy.

Institute of Environmental Science and Research  

Ms Kate Thomson has been appointed as a Director. She is the Chief Financial Officer of the Australian Road Research Board and a previous Chief Financial Officer of NIWA.

Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences  

Ms Felicity Evans has been appointed as a Director. She is General Manager, Human Resources, at the ANZ Bank, and serves on the Board of Global Women and is a past trustee of the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research  

Mr Barry Harris has been appointed as the Chair. He is the Chair of the Waikato Institute of Technology and OSPRI,  a director of DairyNZ and a previous Deputy Chair of AgResearch.

Ms Mary-Anne Macleod and Dr Tracey Batten have been appointed as Directors.  Ms Macleod is the outgoing Chief Executive of Bay of Plenty Regional Council and was a senior manager at the Ministry for the Environment.  Dr Batten is a professional director who currently serves on the Boards of Medibank in Australia and Abano Health Care in New Zealand.

New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research

Dr Parmjot Bains and Ms Wendy Venter have been appointed as Directors.  Dr Bains is the Senior Director of Global Access for Pfizer Inc and a previous Advisor and Senior Fellow of The George Institute of Global Health.  Ms Venter is a previous Assistant Auditor-General and partner of EY.

Maori company teams up with Crown to breed unique berries for global markets

A joint venture company has been established to breed and develop new unique berry varieties to be marketed exclusively by a Māori-owned firm, Miro Limited Partnership (Miro).

Government-owned Plant & Food Research and Miro signed a 50:50 joint venture agreement today at an event hosted by Ngati Haua at the iwi’s Rukumoana Marae in Morrinsville.

The agreement provides the new company with access to Plant & Food Research berry genetics for the development of proprietary new varieties. The joint venture partners will create a breeding programme for new high-value berry varieties.

Miro will grow, market and sell the berries in New Zealand and globally with support from BerryCo NZ Limited.

The joint venture is a milestone in horticultural entrepreneur Steve Saunders’ vision for Miro, to create a step-change in both the New Zealand berry industry and the regional Māori economy for current and future generations.

Miro chair Rukumoana Schaafhausen said Miro is owned by over 20 Māori trusts, iwi and entities from the top of the north to the top of the South Island, from the East Coast to Taranaki.

“We came together because we wanted jobs for our people, higher returns on our land, and to own IP and a global business that would secure a future for our mokopuna. We’re so excited about the opportunities ahead of us and we would love for more Māori landowners to join in.

“In simple terms, Miro is aiming to build a business every bit as successful as Zespri. It represents a high-value, market-led, vertically integrated berry export business. There’s no reason why berries can’t be the next billion dollar New Zealand horticulture industry, and we’re proud to partner with Plant & Food Research to create that future.”

Plant & Food Research chief executive David Hughes says the joint venture is aligned with the science company’s mandate to use research innovation to add value to fruit, vegetable, crop and food products and their industries.

“In Miro we have a partner with global ambitions matched by scale and capability in New Zealand,” said David Hughes.

He expects the deal to open up fresh innovation challenges for the Crown research institute’s scientists and described it as a welcome addition to its diverse range of commercial activity.

Source: Plant & Food Research.

New partnership to drive innovation in perennial fruits

Agtech solutions company Autogrow and Plant & Food Research have signed a Memorandum of Understanding confirming their intention to collaborate in the development of protocols to maximise yield and enable continuous production of perennial fruits.

The agreement was signed in Auckland by Autogrow chief executive Darryn Keiller and Dr Kieran Elborough, General Manager Science – New Cultivar Innovation for Plant & Food Research.

“We are incredibly excited to be working with Plant & Food Research and see collaborations like this as fundamental to furthering our industry, ultimately benefiting both growers and consumers,” said Mr Keiller.

“Plant & Food Research are responsible for some of the best cultivars to come on to the global market and their science expertise combined with our knowledge of controlled environment agriculture will take perennial fruits to the next level.”

Autogrow’s Director of Plant Science and Agronomy, Dr Tharindu Weeraratne, will head Autogrow’s team as part of the arrangement.

Speaking at the signing, Dr Elborough said working with a global company like Autogrow had the potential for Plant & Food Research to match new breeding strategies with future growing systems that deal with numerous horticultural challenges such as climate change, sustainable food production and reducing land availability.

Source: Plant & Food Research.