Scientists aiming to enhance the `human-ness’ of infant formula

AgResearch scientists say they believe they have identified a new way to make infant formula more like breast milk and better for babies, using ingredients that could enhance brain development and overall health.

They say research into this next-generation infant formula could create new opportunities for New Zealand’s primary industries in a global market worth tens of billions of dollars annually.

With funding over three years recently announced from the government’s 2021 Endeavour Fund, AgResearch scientists Simon Loveday and Caroline Thum, along with collaborators from Massey and Monash Universities, aim to enhance the “human-ness” of infant formula produced from New Zealand ingredients.

“We’ve recently discovered a new natural source of nutritional oil that is surprisingly similar to the fat in breast milk,” Dr Thum says.

“We will be combining this new nutritional oil with dairy phospholipids (a special kind of fat) in response to recent evidence that this component of milk enhances babies’ brain development. Fortunately, phospholipids are abundant in buttermilk, which is a by-product of butter production.”

“We’ll then test our next-generation formula ingredient in the laboratory using equipment that simulates the conditions inside a baby’s digestive system. This will tell us how well the new combination is digested, compared to conventional infant formula. We aim to show improved fat and calcium absorption, in addition to the positive effect of the phospholipids for brain development.” 

With the global markets for infant formula and baby foods expected to continue their strong growth, new products that provide a health advantage are in high demand.

Dr Loveday says the new funding will allow the researchers to explore a new high-value opportunity for New Zealand’s primary sector and contribute to New Zealand’s global reputation as a source of naturally healthy foods.

Source:  AgResearch

Government invests in scientific research to boost economy, address climate change and enhance wellbeing

Research, Science and Innovation Minister  Megan Woods has announced the recipients of this year’s Endeavour Fund to help tackle issues such as boosting economic performance, climate change, transport infrastructure and wellbeing.

Sixty-nine new scientific research projects were awarded over $244 million, through New Zealand’s largest contestable research fund.

This year the Government has invested over $13 million to help New Zealand transition to a low-carbon future.

Over $11 million is being invested in research to address climate change related risks, including the Scion led ‘Extreme wildfire: Our new reality – are we ready?’ and ‘Fish futures: preparing for novel freshwater ecosystems, led by Cawthron Institute.

“It’s also key that a te ao Māori worldview is integrated into our research. Manaaki Whenua’s ‘Te Weu o te Kaitiaki – Indigenous regeneration pathways’ project is a great example of this. It uses whakapapa frameworks to re-imagine biocultural solutions to restore ecological systems, reconnect people to place, and deliver sustainable economic growth for communities,” Megan Woods said. Continue reading

Agricultural nanotechnology project wins million dollar research grant

Applying nanotechnology to agriculture to increase productivity and reduce environmental impacts has secured a Lincoln University team a million dollar grant from MBIE’s Endeavour Fund.

Lincoln University Associate Professor Craig Bunt said his team would develop a groundbreaking nano-coating which could be applied to fertiliser to control its rate of release into soil, and to seeds to control their timing of germination.

“Controlling fertiliser rate of release is important because release that is too rapid can result in excessive nitrogen being lost into soil and waterways, causing significant pollution and other negative environmental impacts.

“When nitrogen is lost to the soil, waterways, or atmosphere, farmers must apply more fertiliser to achieve desired results, which increases farming costs.” Continue reading

Government funds research to help transition to low emission economy, grow R&D and tackle social issues

The Government is investing $241 million in leading research projects that will help find new ways to address long-term issues such as increasing our sources of renewable energy, growing knowledge-intensive industries, and tackling New Zealand’s social issues.

The money will come from the Endeavour Fund, which uses an open, contestable process to select excellent research proposals that will provide the highest potential impacts across a range of economic, environmental and societal objectives.

This year, 71 projects were awarded funding through the fund which is New Zealand’s largest contestable research fund. Continue reading

19 Endeavour Fund projects directly relate to agriculture and food production  

As an organisation that consistently calls for science and ground-truthed research to underpin policy and regulations, Federated Farmers says it has no problem with the government investing $249 million in the 2018 round of the Endeavour Fund.

“It’s a lot of money but it should be viewed as an investment in our future,” Feds science and innovation spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“The nation has some big challenges ahead, including improving resilience to climate change, protecting biodiversity and maintaining economic performance.”

The Endeavour Fund is New Zealand’s largest research and science contestable fund and the 69 multi-year projects approved should deliver real gains in knowledge and future opportunities, Hoggard says.

He notes that at least 19 of the projects directly relate to agriculture and food production.

In particular, Federated Farmers is pleased to see an $11.4m NIWA project to advance the carbon inventory locked up in forest, grassland and urban environments, and $7.7m to a Lincoln Agritech-led team which will seek better understanding of the pathways by which nitrogen travels from land to waterways. This is a project which the Feds have identified as a priority.

Massey University will get $11.2m for its project Milks Mean More: Unlocking the potential of New Zealand’s ruminant milks, and NIWA will use $8m to explore new technologies to double the effectiveness of on-farm diffuse pollution mitigation.

New Zealand farmers pride themselves on being world leaders in both production and sustainability, Hoggard says.

They need the best science and research data available to step up our game even more.

Source:  Federated Farmers

$249m for new research projects through the Endeavour Fund

The Government is investing $249 million in ambitious research projects that will improve the lives of New Zealanders and address some of the challenges facing the country, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced today.

The 69 new research projects were awarded funding through the 2018 round of the Endeavour Fund. This is New Zealand’s largest and most prestigious research and science contestable fund.

“The Endeavour Fund invests in excellent research that makes a vital contribution to New Zealand’s future economic performance, the sustainability and integrity of our environment, and the strength of our society,

“This year the Endeavour Fund is investing in improving our resilience to climate change, our transition to a low-emissions economy, monitoring of natural disasters, and protecting our biodiversity.”

Some of the successful proposals receiving funding include:

Beyond myrtle rust: Next-generation tools to ‘engineer’ forest ecosystem resilience to plant pathogens (Landcare, $13,000,000 over five years).

Advancing New Zealand’s carbon inventory: forest, grassland, and urban environments and ecoservices (NIWA, $11,455,000 over five years).

Impacts of microplastics on New Zealand’s bioheritage systems, environments and ecoservices (ESR, $12,536,205 over five years).

Addressing the need for magnetic memory to enable superconducting computing(Victoria University of Wellington, $5,971,120 over five years).

Titanium Foam Thermal Shielding, Returning Small Payloads from Space(University of Auckland, $999,714 over three years)

Proposals are assessed and approved for funding by the Science Board, an independent board responsible for making decisions to allocate funding appropriated for research, science, technology and related activities, Woods said.

The full list of successful projects is available HERE.

MBIE’s website provides more details HERE.

$58m for research supporting environmental, economic, social outcomes

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods today released the revised 2019-2021 Endeavour Fund Investment Plan, with new investment signals to support the Government’s aim of transitioning to a more sustainable economy.

The Endeavour Fund supports over $200m of research each year, investing in ambitious research ideas with the potential to transform our economy, environment and society. It will invest $58m of new annual funding between 2019 and 2021.

The Government’s vision for New Zealand puts the long-term well-being of people and the environment at the heart of what it does, Dr Woods said.

“That’s why the Endeavour Fund will now be guided by investment signals that reflect the Government’s priorities of growing R&D intensive industries, and transitioning to a low emissions economy. These new signals will initiate much needed research into both areas.

“Research, science and innovation will make a vital contribution towards improving kiwi’s lives by informing and improving how we respond to the social, economic and environmental challenges we face.”

The new investment plan also introduces a new approach to supporting higher-risk, transformational Research Programmes proposals. This is to encourage research proposals in emerging areas where impact initially can be harder to assess, such as technologies, and goods and services which are new to New Zealand, or new to the world, Dr Woods said.

Other key settings of the Endeavour Fund remain unchanged.

The Science Board will continue to make funding decisions, and excellence and impact will continue to be key assessment criteria.

The Fund will continue to support research with a broad range of economic, environmental and social impacts beyond the new investment signals.

The Investment Plan is a guide for researchers and scientists to apply for funding, and will cover the next three rounds from 2019 to 2021.

More information on the 2019-2021 Endeavour Fund Investment Plan can be found can be found HERE  on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website.

Minister announces opening of 2018 Partnerships investment round

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced the opening of the 2018 Partnerships investment round, which will provide up to $26 million over seven years to support high-quality, industry-led research.

Partnerships support research organisations and research users, particularly industries, in working together to establish long-term research programmes.

Achieving the Government’s goals, such as raising total investment in R&D to 2 per cent of GDP in 10 years and transitioning to a net zero emissions economy by 2050, will require changes to the research, science and innovation system, Dr Woods said.

This includes developing a new overarching strategy to guide Government investment in science and innovation.

“Our recently announced R&D tax incentive is an initial piece of this strategy and will play a crucial role in lifting total R&D investment and transforming New Zealand’s economy to be inclusive, productive and sustainable,” Dr Woods said.

“These changes could affect the funding landscape surrounding Partnerships. We will be better placed to consider how to invest effectively in research to support Government priorities once the scale and nature of the changes to the system become clear. As such, the Government is not currently committing to any further Partnerships investment rounds beyond 2018.

“The Government invests across a range of sectors and funds in science and innovation, and this decision is about ensuring New Zealand’s publicly funded research aligns with this Government’s priorities.

The decision not to commit to further Partnership investment rounds is not a research funding cut, Dr Woods said.

She will be taking advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to ensure the funding will be invested effectively in the future.

Applications to the 2018 round are eligible for up to seven years of funding. Existing Partnerships contracts will not be affected.

“There is still a range of alternative funding sources for would-be future applicants to apply to, such as the Endeavour Fund and the upcoming R&D tax incentive, Dr Woods said.

“In the meantime, I encourage a diverse range of businesses and industries to apply for the 2018 round.”

The website can be visited HERE for more information and to apply for the 2018 Partnerships round.,

Aapplications are due by noon on 24 July.

Source: Minister of Research, Science and Innovation

Food exports of the future boost brainpower, flavour and texture

AgResearch scientists are leading new research which they say could revolutionise New Zealand foods – with new ways of boosting flavour and texture, and products designed to make our brains perform better.

Supported by industry and research partners, AgResearch programmes have recently been awarded more than $21 million by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund.

“The future for New Zealand food exports to the world is premium quality and adding as much value as possible to our products,” says AgResearch Science Group Leader Dr Jolon Dyer.

“This cutting edge research will look at how we can help deliver premium foods by taking the eating experience, and the health benefits of the food, to new levels.”

The first of two AgResearch-led programmes, supported by commercial partner Fonterra, and with research partners, the Riddet Institute, the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland, Flinders University (Australia), University College Cork (Ireland), and Illinois University (USA), is called Smarter Lives: New opportunities for dairy products across the lifespan, and focuses on how foods can influence brain performance via the `gut-brain axis’.

“Our gut influences just about everything we do and its connection to the brain is essential to leading healthier lives. People are looking for products that help brain development in children and provide better brain performance through adulthood,” says programme leader Dr Nicole Roy.

“One way is through eating foods that boost brain performance. There is mounting evidence to suggest that frequent consumption of dairy products or probiotics may do just that, but we don’t yet know how. The key is in the two-way communication between the gut and the brain.”

“We’ll be using cutting-edge techniques to understand how dairy ingredients and probiotics can work together to send signals from the gut to optimise brain development and performance. We’ll also be developing prototype foods that combine ingredients in a way that promotes those benefits.”

The second programme, Accelerated evolution: a step-change in food fermentation led by AgResearch, with research partners the Riddet Institute, Callaghan Innovation, Teagasc (Ireland), University of Bologna and Kyoto University, looks at how fermentation – one of the oldest and most economical methods of producing and preserving food – can make products stand out from the crowd, with fewer additives.

Common fermented foods include cheese, yoghurt and sauerkraut.

“We’ll be looking at the process of fermentation, and how we accelerate the process using different scientific methods to create new and desirable flavours and textures for products such as dairy, meat and seafood,” says programme leader Dr Li Day.

“We’ll also determine how these new fermented foods can be identified uniquely with New Zealand, and experienced and enjoyed by consumers internationally.”

Endeavour Fund to invest $248 million in 68 research projects

Funding of $248 mijllion over the next five years has been awarded for 68 new science research projects through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2017 Endeavour Fund.

The fund is intended for transformative initiatives with a strong potential to improve a range of outcomes for New Zealand.

As part of the 2017 fund round, up to $15 million a year in total will be invested in 41 projects under the ‘Smart Ideas’ initiative over the next three years.

Up to $43 million a year in total will be invested in 27 ‘Research Programmes’ over the next five years.

Successful funding proposals include improving NZ Pinot noir production (New Zealand Winegrowers) and  exploring new technologies to improve weather forecasting (MetOcean Solutions Limited).

A quick tally by AgScience suggests AgResearchy secured $24,999,999 of funding, Landcare Research $9,749,999, Lincoln Agritech $12,213,045, Massey University $$9,854,328 and Plant and Food $150,000.

The successful proposals were selected by the Science Board, an independent statutory Board, following a review by independent experts. The new research contracts will begin on October 1.

More information on the successful  proposals can be found HERE.