New research centre announced as Massey Agriculture sets sights on future

College of Sciences Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Ray Geor, Head of the School of Agriculture and Environment Professor Peter Kemp, and Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas.

Massey University’s School of Agriculture and Environment has given stakeholder’s a glimpse into its future plans, including the announcement of a new research centre.

It began with a bus tour showcasing some of the University’s operations, including the new Apple Innovation Orchard, BioLumic’s work with ultra-violet light at the Plant Growth Unit, and the Dairy 4 Plantain Programme. It ended with speeches at the Sir Geoffrey Peren building, where the plans for the school were unveiled.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas spoke about the school’s past and how it aims to make further history. She said:

“We believe we are a significant university in the global scene, we intend to grow that, we intend to make a difference to New Zealand, we intend to make a difference working in partnership with our stakeholders, our businesses, our communities and our governments. We aim to help drive the primary sector to being something we can all be proud of now and in years to come.”

Among the announcements were commitments to refresh the agriculture, horticulture and animal science degrees, as well as brokering further community engagement across all that the school does.

College of Sciences Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Ray Geor announced the Massey Agritech Partnership, a new Massey research centre.

“We have a reputation for innovative agritech developments and we plan to build on these with our latest research centre, Massey Agritech Partnership,” Professor Geor said.

“The centre is about partnerships both within Massey and in working alongside industry. It brings together engineers, technologists, programmers and business analysts who generate ideas and work with businesses to find solutions.”

Professor Ian Yule leads the new centre and he is joined by post-harvest engineer Professor Andrew East, robotics expert Professor Johan Potgieter, and their respective teams.

Initial projects will be in the areas of sensing and imaging, rapid data processing and modeling and simulation. The centre will focus on harnessing data for real-time decision making to predict pasture growth, yield and quality at proposed harvest times and to direct products to appropriate markets.

Head of school, Professor Peter Kemp, spoke about Massey Agriculture and Massey Horticulture better working together to be more productive and to improve people’s well-being through innovation, but also through community engagement at all levels.

“Massey Agriculture has a long and proud history of excellence in advancing knowledge in the primary industries and developing leaders, but it’s like all organisations, you can’t rest on your laurels. You have to move forward, there’s plenty of new challenges and to respond to those you have to change.”

Massey believed innovation in how things are done would help create greater value and working together both within Massey and with its partners would make a difference.

Source: Massey University.


AI farm assistant and plant proteins go on show at field days

Massey University is showcasing a prototype of a virtual farm assistant at Central Districts Field Days this year and wants the public to put it through its paces.

Field Days crowds can also try some plant-based proteins that Massey is developing, with some meat patties that look and taste like meat, but are made from soy.

Yoghurt made from coconut milk and bread made from nut and cricket flour will be available, too.

The three-days field days – New Zealand’s largest regional agricultural event – kicked off at Manfeild Park, Feilding, today with over 550 exhibitors.

Artificially intelligent systems that can clean the house, manage heating for cheaper power and provide surveillance of the family home are developing every day.

Massey engineers have been developing a screen-based prototype to help on the farm that could be used from anywhere – the home, the ute, even on an overseas holiday.

Still in its early stages of development, the system involves users speaking to a computer-generated avatar, who answers farm-related questions and puts forward data-driven solutions based on the information it has.

The system is designed to tap into sensors on the farm that give real-time information to farm managers about what is happening. It can compare that to what has happened in the past, and recommend options for what to do next, based on the data available.

The questions can be wide-ranging – from the levels of milk solids in the cow shed vats, how that compares to the same time last year, what’s the pasture cover and where everyone is currently located on the farm.

Professor Johan Potgieter, of the Massey Agritech Partnership, is leading the project with Massey master’s student Hayden Wilson doing the development.

The development team wants to know from farmers what they would use it for and how it could help them. They are keen to have farmers involved with the development.

The system will be able to absorb historical data from the farm and be capable of linking with on-farm systems to analyse data to help farmers make better informed decisions, as well as helping with the day-to-day running of the farm.

The tool is not just designed to optimise productivity, but every aspect of farm life, for example in the identification of animal illness. These may include spore count data on certain paddocks to let farmers know which paddocks might be contributing to facial eczema. The system would automatically flag these paddocks and let the farmer know so they can efficiently manage the farm based on the information the system provides.

Source: Massey University.

Japanese students get a taste of New Zealand during Lincoln visit  


The visiting students listen to Landcare Research’s Scott Graham. 

Lincoln alumnus Yoshi Uchida, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Agriculture at Japan’s Hokkaido University, is back for his third trip with his students to give them a taste of Kiwi life that he had enjoyed himself.

He is spending two weeks on campus with eight students and hopes it will encourage them to try overseas study themselves when they get to postgraduate level.

All the visiting students are Agriculture undergraduates, and Yoshi wanted to show them the different types of research and practice in New Zealand.

This included visits to Landcare Research and Lincoln’s own research farm, Ashley Dene.

They also stay in Kiwi homes, so they would have to communicate in English and experience the culture.

The trip is part of a learning satellite programme from Hokkaido University and the students would practice their English in a real-life setting.

Yoshi started his Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Lincoln in 2002, with an Honours in Soil Science, and finished his PhD in 2010.

When he began teaching he realised that many Japanese students were eager to study in English, but they needed a lot of assistance to make their dream come true. Based on his experience, he thought Lincoln University could provide a perfect opportunity for them.

He wants the students to compare New Zealand life with life in Japan, in a variety of areas outside of education- comedy, public holidays and origin myths.

He wanted to integrate them with their Kiwi counterparts and had enlisted the help of some Lincoln students, for which he would offer some credits from his own University.

He said some of his students have never been out of Japan.

Yoshi said he had noticed a change in his students in previous trips, even after such a short visit.

Source: Lincoln University

Massey Agriculture climbs to 22nd position in world university rankings

Vice-chancellor Jan Thomas has cause to smile.

Massey University’s ranking has climbed five positions to be 22nd in the world in the agriculture and forestry subject area in this year’s edition of the QS World University Rankings.

Wageningen University in the Netherlands ranked first for agriculture and forestry, followed by the University of California (Davis) Cornell University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences  and the University of California (Berkeley).

Lincoln University slipped from 39th to 44th place.

But to put this in perspective, 330 universities were given rankings for agriculture and forestry.

Overall, this year’s rankings table features 980 institutions, 959 of which qualify for an overall rank. Forty-six institutions feature for the first time in the 2018 edition.

To arrive at this final table, 4,388 institutions were considered.

Massey confirmed its veterinary science world standing at 23rd place and two other Massey subject areas, arts and design and development studies, were ranked in the top 100.

A delighted Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jan Thomas, said Massey’s world-class reputation has been reinforced by these rankings.

“To be ranked in the top 100 universities in the world for any subject is a significant achievement; to have four subject areas ranked is outstanding,” Professor Thomas says.

“This confirms our pursuit of excellence in teaching excellence and world-class research outputs.”

Agriculture, biology, veterinary science and environmental sciences are among a total of 21 Massey subjects ranked.

Stuff reported that all eight New Zealand universities were ranked in the 2018 QS World University Rankings by subject, placing in the top 50 institutions for 32 subjects – compared with 28 in 2017.

QS World University Rankings, an annual publication of university rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds, is considered an official measure of university ranking.

New Zealand’s most-ranked universities were the University of Auckland and the University of Otago.

The rankings are based on academic reputation, research citations and impact, and employer reputation, gathering responses from more than 170,000 academics and 158,000 employers.



Agribusiness student helps show agricultural opportunities to young people

Young students have no idea how many opportunities can be found in the agricultural sector, says University of Waikato agribusiness and marketing student Celine Walters.

Determined to open students’ eyes to the many options, Celine organised the 2018 Rabobank Waikato Agri-Leadership programme.

Funded by Rabobank, the four-day programme exposed high school students to the opportunities and aimed at creating future leaders in the agri industry. Twenty-six high school students were involved, primarily from city and urban backgrounds in the Waikato region.

The students visited various top organisations in the agri sector, including Plant and Food, Gallagher and Fonterra. Guest speakers includied Agribusiness leader Traci Houpapa, Environmental Protection Agency chief scientist Jacqueline Rowarth and KPMG Global Head of Agribusiness Ian Proudfoot.

“The speakers really opened everyone’s eyes to the vast variety of perspectives New Zealanders have on where we should be heading in the future, to stay competitive in a changing business environment,” Celine says.

“For example, meat is now able to be produced in a lab, so the question of whether we should follow this path and produce alternative proteins, or stick with the production of pasture based protein needs to be determined.”

Celine, in her third year of a Bachelor of Management Studies (Honours), says students need to be shown the science, engineering, management, strategy and other opportunities available in agriculture and brought into the sector.

Source: Waikato University.


Wine and culture on the menu for Chinese university’s visit to Lincoln

wine visit
Lincoln University staff with the visitors from Northwest A&F University.

Nineteen students and two academic staff from the Horticulture and the Viticulture & Oenology programme of China’s Northwest A&F University were visiting Lincoln recently to learn about vino and vowels.

Their four-week trip had the principle aim for the students to learn English and experience New Zealand culture, and to understand and learn about wine production here.

They participated in a range of activities which included a field trip to visit vineyards and wineries in Waipara.

One of the visit organisers, Dr Bin Tian from Lincoln’s Department of Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences, said the visiting students and staff were impressed by the University’s interactive teaching and appreciated the efforts that staff put into the short course programme.

“Some of students have also expressed their great interest in applying for Master’s study at Lincoln University in the future.”

The visit and programme of activities is expected to initiate more collaborations in teaching and research between the two universities.

Source: Lincoln  University

Ground is broken on new ag-science development at Lincoln

The start of a joint $200 million development between Lincoln University and AgResearch demonstrates a strong commitment to agricultural research and teaching in Canterbury, Tertiary Education Minister Paul Goldsmith says.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held today for the five-building facility at Lincoln to house around 700 staff from Lincoln University, AgResearch and Dairy NZ.

“Students want to study in the best facilities and learn from the best. The environment around them makes a big difference both to their experience of studying, and to choosing to go there in the first place,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“This investment from the Government, Lincoln University and AgResearch allows both institutions to deliver that quality experience for not only students, but teachers, and researchers as well.

“With the closer linking of research and teaching and scientific disciplines, students can be immersed in the very best agricultural science.”

The new facility is a significant physical and financial undertaking, with a total floor area of 27,000 square metres, or nearly three hectares.

Both Lincoln University and AgResearch’s facilities were damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes and the Government was keen to see a new joint facility between the two to increase research collaboration.

“This is a stake in the ground for the future of agricultural research in New Zealand and will mean new ways of working and learning for everyone involved,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“Removing the barriers between university and industry researchers and introducing the best new facilities will be key for attracting the best staff and students for years to come.”

The Government is contributing $85 million to Lincoln University for the project, with the rest coming from AgResearch and Lincoln.

The new buildings will be a key part of the Lincoln Hub – a specialist land-based innovation cluster in partnership with Lincoln University, AgResearch, Plant and Food Research, Landcare Research and DairyNZ