Government targets innovation-led growth to turbo-charge business potential

Hundreds of New Zealand companies are set to benefit from the launch of two new grants aimed at fuelling firms that want to innovate, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said today.

The $250 million investment over the next four years was a sign of her commitment to some of New Zealand’s brightest businesses, and to turning great ideas into building a higher-value, more sustainable economy, Dr Woods said.

“I want to turbo-charge all the tremendous potential I see in our business ecosystem, by introducing grants to help out with the high costs and steep learning curves associated with R&D, and to provide an on-ramp to our existing R&D Tax Incentive. Continue reading

R & D opportunities open as Govt helps fast-track organic medicinal cannabis industry

The Government has partnered with the country’s largest and only organic certified medicinal cannabis grower to accelerate the growth of the industry.

This support could enable it to become as successful as our wine industry in the near future, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

His announcement highlighted three points, including the research and development opportunities:

      • Government supports the industry to follow in the footsteps of the $2bn wine industry;
      • It will provide an economic boost for regional economies amid an export boom;
      • It will provide jobs in research and development, cultivation, business development, construction and facilities management.

“Now is the perfect time to grow this high-value industry, as international demand for medicinal cannabis takes off while New Zealand is amid an export boom,”  Damien O’Connor said.

“The $32.2 million joint project will further support the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19, providing jobs and growth in our regional economies.” Continue reading

Almonds – a new high-value nut for researchers to crack

The Ministry for Primary Industries is making no secret of its supporting a nutty idea.  It is investing $67,000 in a Plant and Food Research feasibility study to determine if almonds can be grown sustainably in Hawke’s Bay.

The project has backing from central and local government, alongside Picot Productions Limited, producers of the Pic’s brand nut spreads.

“We’re already supporting peanut growing trials in Northland – now it’s almonds’ turn,” says Steve Penno, Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) director of investment programmes. 

“The first step is to see whether we can successfully produce almonds with a low carbon footprint at scale and for a competitive price in New Zealand.”

MPI’s $67,000 investment in the $100,000 project is being made through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund

Plant and Food Research business manager Declan Graham said the goal is to provide diversification opportunities for local dry stock farmers rather than trying to replicate the large-scale almond monocrop system of California. Continue reading

Successful funding bids set to identify kiwifruit plant stress and optimise forestry yield

Scientists from Tauranga’s PlantTech Research Institute are celebrating their involvement in two successful funding bids to the Ministry for Business, Innovation & Employment’s (MBIE) Endeavour Fund, New Zealand’s largest contestable research fund.

In this year’s round of funding, 69 new scientific research projects were awarded more than $244 million.

Tauranga headquartered PlantTech Research Institute is leading a two-year international project, that will use airborne remote sensors to discover what is causing plant stress in kiwifruit orchards, thanks to a successful bid for $1 million.

Another MBIE-funded project, led by Scion, Seeing the forest for the treestransforming tree phenotyping for future forests, involves using PlantTech’s capability in hyperspectral imagery analysis to support research that will identify the best genotype to plant in different environments for commercial production and indigenous uses. Continue reading

New water-saving technology has big impact on world stage

Lincoln Agritech has signed a licensing agreement with an Israeli company, Autonomous Pivot, for a cutting-edge new water-saving technology.

Developed by a team of scientists at the Lincoln University-owned research and development company, the technology allows farmers to see actual soil moisture in any part of a field in real time and save water without the loss of yield associated with traditional irrigation practices.

Trials have shown water savings of 25%.

“Traditional soil moisture sensors have to be buried in one position in a field, but our non-invasive, ground-penetrating radar measures soil moisture from a centre pivot irrigator,” said Lincoln Agritech CEO Peter Barrowclough. Continue reading

Voting on levy (and on research) is about to get under way in B+LNZ’s referendum

Voting packs for the 2021 sheepmeat and beef levy referendum will arrive in farmers’ mail boxes from Tuesday 1 June.

Beef +Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) is funded and directed by farmers via the levies, which are  paid on all sheep, beef and dairy cattle processed in New Zealand.

Under the Commodity Levies Act 1990, B+LNZ must ask sheepmeat and beef producers (including dairy farmers through their cull cows) if they want to continue funding activities and programmes for a six-year period.

The rates of sheepmeat and beef levies for the levy years commencing 1 October 2019 and 1 October 2020 were 70 cents per head for sheepmeat and $5.20 per head for beef.

B+LNZ’s chairman, Andrew Morrison, says voting runs until 9 July.  He strongly encourages farmers to have their say about the future of their levy-funded organisation.

Ag scientists have good reason to keep an eye on what is happening.

Research, market access and market promotion are among the activities funded by the levy. Continue reading

Good news for horticulture: govt is ploughing $8m into research to develop leaf protein concentrate

Damien  O’Connor, the  minister  who earlier this year distinguished himself   by  telling  the Australian  government to  show  more “respect” in its  dealings  with  China, has  at  last won a  battle in  Cabinet. He  got  his  colleagues,  some of  whom are always reluctant to do  anything to help the country’s primary industries and  farmers, to  agree  to  support a new programme to lead New Zealand’s plant protein sector development.

The government is partnering with Lincoln-based  Leaft Foods on a $20m research and development programme that could put NZ on the map as a leading leaf protein concentrate producer.

Through its Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund, the Ministry for Primary Industries is contributing $8m to the five-year programme to develop technology that extracts edible protein from NZ grown green leafy crops.

Leaft Foods’ technology will be used to produce high-quality protein in the form of gels or powders that can be used in a range of foods in the fast-growing global market for plant proteins.

The plant-based protein start-up will also produce an animal feed that is optimised for ruminant nutrition and has the potential to lower nitrogen losses and emissions on-farm: a  vital  step in  the  battle  against  global warming. O’Connor  says a growing number of global food manufacturers and consumers are demanding that their proteins come from a sustainable source. Continue reading

R&D is rising but Dr Woods pushes for greater acceleration

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has welcomed news that total R&D spending across New Zealand grew by $758 million to $3.9 billion, or 1.37 percent of GDP.

The Research and Development Survey 2018, released by Statistics New Zealand, shows business expenditure on R&D drove the growth, increasing by more than half a billion dollars over the past two years.

  • total research and development (R&D) expenditure increased 24 percent from 2016, to $3.9 billion
  • R&D expenditure by businesses reached over $2.1 billion, accounting for 55 percent of total R&D expenditure
  • R&D expenditure by service industries increased $534 million (64 percent) from 2016
  • R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP was 1.37 percent.

Continue reading

Great science and good food makes million-dollar business

A New Zealand start-up making apple, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir flour has received a $NZ1.2 million injection from the home of gastronomy, France.

Greenspot Technologies Ltd creates nutrient-rich alternative flours from fermented fruit and vegetable pulp that would otherwise go to waste. The product range, which is zero-waste, also includes beetroot, orange, carrot and parsnip flours. They are made using a fermentation process developed in the research labs of the University of Auckland.

Associate Professor Silas Villas-Boas and doctoral candidate Ninna Granucci, both from the University’s Biological School of Science, are now heading to France to grow their fermentation business.

They say the seed funding boost will allow the company to expand its team, test various fermentation technologies to inform the design of a dedicated manufacturing plant, and develop new food formulations.

Long-term plans are to have manufacturing plants in different parts of the world, including New Zealand.

The pair of academics turns entrepreneurs say they have good relationships with fruit and vegetable producers and food manufacturers here and New Zealand regulations result in the products coming out being very high quality.

Their careers pivoted after involvement with the University’s ‘Velocity Entrepreneurial Challenge’ which helps people test, prepare and grow smart ideas for commercial, social or environmental benefit. This year’s Challenge winners will be announced on 18 October.

In 2015, they entered ‘Velocity $100K Challenge’ with a business idea based on the results of Ninna’s research. She was looking into the actions of specific micro-organisms in the fermentation process to convert fruit and vegetable pulp into nutritious protein for human consumption.

They recognised how this might be applied to one of the biggest problems facing the modern world – food shortage versus food waste.

Rather than look for new foods, such as insects, or put money into developing meat alternatives they decided to focus on reducing wastage of good food. One-third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted every year, and 40 percent of that is fruits and vegetables.

The scientists placed second in the competition.

By early 2017, the pair opened a small pilot plant in East Tamaki, Auckland, to prove they could increase quantities from the lab and produce a consistent product.

By the end of the year the company was seeking significant investment to scale up.

Greenspot’s experience testifies to the value of applied research, says Associate Professor Villas-Boas.

When technology is brought back to society, jobs are created, income for the country increased and – in this case – negative impacts on the environment reduced.

Source: University of Auckland

New programme to brew unique hops and craft beer from New Zealand

A new joint craft beer and hop breeding programme launched today aims to develop unique super-premium hops for exceptional craft brewers and uniquely New Zealand craft beer for top-tier markets.

Hāpi Research Ltd has partnered with the Ministry for Primary Industries to deliver Hāpi – Brewing Success, a $13.25 million, seven-year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme.

Hāpi Research Ltd is a joint venture between Garage Project, a leading Wellington craft brewer, and Freestyle Farms, a leading Nelson hop farm. While the programme was initiated by Garage Project and Freestyle Farms, it will grow as more like-minded businesses and research partners join the industrywide efforts.

“Our programme will pursue research to enhance and differentiate super-premium hop and craft beer markets and boost the growth of both industries,” says Freestyle Farms director David Dunbar.  “By collaborating across industries we’ll accelerate development of unique Kiwi hops, promote uniquely New Zealand craft beer, and open up new areas to hop growing.”

Hop growing will be supported by research on new precision agriculture practices and processing methods, and licensing for the hops will be limited to New Zealand growers.

Tom Greally, chief executive officer for Garage Project, says the programme intends to support entry into new markets for New Zealand craft brewers and enable new grower and brewer business models.

“We want to create a sustainable point of difference for New Zealand grown hops and craft beer,” says Mr Greally.  “Through the programme, we want to understand the unique chemical compounds of our hops that produce New Zealand flavours, and how to best accentuate them in finished beer.”

Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell says the aim is to develop the resources and tools for domestic and export success along the lines of the wine industry’s achievements – elevating New Zealand craft beer to a sustainable global brand that commands premium pricing across all markets.

The ministry’s director-general, Martyn Dunne, says the Hāpi – Brewing Success PGP programme will create a cross-industry research and development programme that’s commercially viable, sustainable in the long-term, with strong commercialisation pathways driven by the market.

“The collaborative efforts will strongly support development of high-value, premium products from regional businesses.”

The programme would help growers and brewers to explore new possibilities for our hop growing and craft beer industries.

Hāpi Research Ltd is contributing $7.95 million (60%) and the ministry is contributing $5.3 million (40%) over the term of the Primary Growth Partnership programme.

If successful, the programme expects hop revenue to grow to $132 million a year by 2027, which is $89 million higher than the revenue forecasted without the programme.  In addition, the programme expects craft beer revenue to grow to $98.5 million a year by 2027, which is $82 million higher than the revenue forecast without the programme.

The growth in both hop and craft beer would be driven by exports.

The co-investors expect 835 new jobs to be created across the hop growing and craft brewing industries if the economic goals are achieved.  A key aspect of the programme is that the intellectual property and expertise it develops will be retained in New Zealand.

The programme has five inter-related projects:

  • Project 1: Hop Breeding.  This project is a mixture of classical breeding methods combined with new molecular techniques to improve the speed and efficiency of the programme.  The primary goal is to commercialise 3 new premium varietals and support the release of 3 royalty-free varietals.
  • Project 2: Precision Farming and Hop Processing.  Research on optimal growing, harvesting and processing strategies to deliver unique flavours and aromas from the field to the glass.  This workstream will also explore the impacts of regional terroir on flavour and aromas.
  • Project 3: Hop Varietal Market Development. Creation of new licensing models for premium hop varietals with new and existing growers, combined with developing quality standards for hop processing to deliver quality and consistency into markets that supports premium pricing.
  • Project 4: Uniquely New Zealand Craft Beer. This project aims to create a unique, category-defining New Zealand craft beer by understanding and maximizing the unique New Zealand flavours achievable through New Zealand grown hops.
  • Project 5: Combined Hop and Craft Beer Industry Growth.  Creating opportunities to enhance and connect the New Zealand industry participants to markets.  Market development efforts including events connecting New Zealand craft brewers to international distributors and New Zealand growers to international craft brewers.

Hāpi – Brewing Success was one of nine business cases for new PGP programmes in the pipeline prior to the announcement of the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures Programme.

Find out more about  Hāpi – Brewing Success HERE,

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries