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.

Prime Minister of Vietnam visits Plant & Food Research

His Excellency Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, visited Plant & Food Research’s Mt Albert Research Centre today as part of a Head of State visit to New Zealand.

During the visit, the Prime Minister was witness to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Provincial Peoples Committee of Dak Nong province in Vietnam, the New Zealand Government (through G2G Partnerships), Vietnamese company SAM Agritech and Plant & Food Research to investigate ways to support the development of the avocado industry in Dak Nong.

Source: Plant & Food Research

Work to begin in Manawatū on cutting-edge food research facility

A new food research facility has reached an important milestone, with a contractor appointed and the construction process to start this week.

The $45 million AgResearch and Massey University Food Science Facility, on the university’s Manawatū campus, will accommodate about 140 staff and students from the two organisations as well as from the Government-funded centre of research excellence, the Riddet Institute.

It will feature laboratories and shared spaces focused around education and research into meat and dairy in a three-storey, 5000 square metre building that will be New Zealand’s largest agri-food innovation centre.

The facility will also be a key component of FoodHQ – a partnership to grow New Zealand’s reputation in food and beverage innovation that includes AgResearch and Massey University among its network of science and innovation partners (more at

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson says work to prepare the site for building is due to begin after Waitangi Day.

The plan is to have the building completed by October 2019.

“The occupants will include AgResearch staff already based in Palmerston North, and others working in the food sciences who will be relocating to the city,” Dr Richardson says.

“This new joint facility concept – similar to what AgResearch is doing with Lincoln University near Christchurch – is going to accelerate innovation by having world-class talent working together under one roof. In the case of food research, it means the opportunity for new generation products that offer exciting new textures and flavours, and improve peoples’ health and nutrition.”

Massey Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says the facility is another exciting development for the university and its Manawatū campus, and integral to Massey’s collaborations with research institutions and other organisations and businesses involved in growing New Zealand’s food exports and reputation for quality and innovation.

New one-year appointments to three CRI Boards announced

Five appointments have been made to three of the Government’s seven Crown Research Institutes.

The appointments are to the Boards of The Institute of Environmental Science Research (ESR), The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS Science), and the New Zealand Forest Research Institute (Scion).

Professor Cris Print from Auckland University and Dr Andy Shenk, Chief Executive of Auckland Uniservices, the commercial arm of Auckland University have been appointed to the ESR Board. Professor Print is a specialist in human genomics and bioinformatics and Dr Shenk has extensive experience in the commercialisation of science and research.

Northland-based professional director Paul White has been appointed to the GNS Board. He sits on the Top Energy Board and several iwi-based trusts.

Greg Mann, General Manager of Arbogen Australasia, has been appointed to the Scion Board alongside previous Plant & Food Board Member Stana Pezic, who has extensive Chief Financial Officer experience.

All of the appointments are a for a term of one year.