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

Funding is provided for research on a new use for wool – to make high-performance PPE masks

Lincoln Agritech, a research and development company owned by Lincoln University, has received $290,000 in government funding to create biodegradable wool-based PPE masks for the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The 18-month research programme is using patented technology from the Wool Research Organisation (WRONZ) to change the physical format of the fibre and improve its absorption and virus-neutralising properties, making the masks both highly effective and environmentally sustainable.

The resulting products will reduce dependence on overseas producers, particularly during high-demand pandemic events, as well as decreasing the environmental impact of PPE use.

Continue reading

High innovation honour for Lincoln Agritech at Canterbury business awards

Lincoln Agritech Ltd has been recognised for its cutting-edge innovations at the annual Canterbury Westpac Champion Business Awards.

The research and development company owned by Lincoln University won the Christchurch NZ Champion Innovation award, which honours businesses that have developed products, services or business model innovations to improve commercial performance, effectiveness or customer engagement.

Lincoln Agritech CEO Peter Barrowclough, expressing delight with the win, paid tribute to his organisation’s team of scientists and research engineers “who work hard to deliver leading-edge knowledge and technologies across the primary sector value chain.

One of Lincoln Agritech’s latest inventions is the HydroMetrics optical groundwater nitrate sensor. The sensor can be placed down wells to provide accurate real time nitrate monitoring in groundwater.

The HydroMetrics sensor, now commercialised and available for purchase, is priced at a third of the cost of international equivalents.

“This is disruptive technology which will help us monitor the environmental impact of NZ’s primary production systems,” Mr Barrowclough said.

“Our innovation stems from our unique combination of strategy, our people and culture, our collaborative  approach and our strong industry partnerships.,” he said.

“With just 55 staff we regularly punch above our weight when compared to NZ universities and Crown Research Institutes in the highly contested annual MBIE funding rounds.”

In the latest funding round, announced last week, the company was awarded $13 million for two five-year research programmes.

One programme aims to  further understand critical nitrate pathways into groundwater  and the other will assist medical professionals to diagnose bone and tissue damage using hand held non-contact novel technology.

Mr Barrowclough said Lincoln Agritech had experienced significant growth in revenue over the past five years.

Private sector research revenue has increased by almost 400% and revenue for Government-funded research has more than doubled. Repeat business for professional services was 90% in 2017.

Last year, Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Woodhead, won the prestigious Scott Medal for engineering science from the Royal Society Te Apārangi in recognition of the wide range of sensors he has developed for the agricultural and environmental sectors.

Lincoln Agritech is wholly owned by Lincoln University, with an independent board of directors.

Source:  Lincoln Agritech  

Lincoln Agritech researchers in team to use bacteria in revolutionary ways

A new Lincoln Agritech research programme will find revolutionary ways of using naturally-occurring bacteria and fungi to increase the availability of nitrogen to plants and improve plants’ tolerance to stress.

A second programme will work towards naturally removing “off” flavours in wine.

Lincoln Agritech is an independent multidisciplinary research and development company owned by Lincoln University.

Biotechnology Team Manager Dr Richard Weld, who is leading the research, says the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has awarded the programmes a combined $8.2m.

The first of the two projects will benefit the forestry and pastoral sectors by allowing pine trees and grasses to convert atmospheric nitrogen into plant-available mineral nitrogen in the same way that legumes such as clover do, and by improving the plants’ tolerance to stress.

Dr Weld says this can be achieved by optimising the natural microbial communities associated with the plants, thereby creating new symbioses between plants, bacteria and fungi.

“We will select bacteria that fix nitrogen and that enhance plant tolerance to stress,” says Dr Weld. “These bacteria will then be combined in symbiotic association with two fungi which naturally live within plants.

“After this, the fungal-bacterial hybrids can be introduced to pine trees and perennial ryegrass. The combination will make the plants more resistant to stress and more able take up nitrogen.”

Dr Weld says the five-year programme is world-leading – no other researchers have attempted a triple symbiosis between fungi, bacteria and these plants.

The research team from Lincoln Agritech, Lincoln University, Scion and AgResearch includes scientists who have been instrumental in developing fungal biocontrol endophytes.

The team will work with commercial companies which are already producing and licensing fungal endophytes. The new fungal-bacterial hybrids will be added to their product lines.

The second research programme involves using bacteria with two unique features – they are naturally magnetic and have an unusual sulphur metabolism that allows them to derive energy from hydrogen sulphide. This means they can be controlled using magnetic fields and used to remove hydrogen sulphide from wine, which can be responsible for “off” flavours.

Dr Weld says the research will use the wine industry as an exemplar, but the technology can benefit other industries where hydrogen sulphide is also an issue.

The programme involves researchers from Lincoln Agritech, Plant and Food Research, Aix-Marseille University, France and will take place over a two-year period.

Industry participants in the project include Agrimm Technologies Ltd, Agriseeds Ltd, ArborGen Inc, Grasslanz Technology Ltd, Indevin NZ, KonoNZ, Lake Taupo Forest Management Ltd, NZ Forestry Owners Association, NZ Wingrowers, PGG Wrightson Seeds, Rayonier Matariki, and Timberlands.

Research helps to curb unwanted pesticide spray drift

Lincoln Agritech’s Chemical Application, Research and Training group has conducted a six-year Government-funded research programme to find out more about pesticide spray drift movements and how to mitigate them.

The project, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, involved a range of tasks, including measuring pesticide drift on typical New Zealand crops, analysing the effectiveness of drift-reducing technologies and training people in how to use them.

Project Co-ordinator Dr Scott Post says the Lincoln Agritech group worked with a number of experts over the course of the project.

“We were lucky to co-ordinate such a high-quality research team,” he says.

“We worked with scientists from SCION to model spray drift, with specialists from Plant Protection Chemistry in Rotorua to research how sprayed droplets land on leaves, and with scientists from the University of Otago to find out how pesticide vapour can drift from the applied area.”

The team worked in various primary industries such as forestry, horticulture and arable, dealing with crops including kiwifruit, grapes, apples, potato and shelterbelts.

Part of the research involved complex experiments to measure pesticide drift on typical New Zealand crops under practical conditions.

The team worked to improve mathematical models on drift and measured the vapour drift of 200 different pesticides.

Dr Post said the research has advanced the team’s knowledge about pesticide drift in New Zealand conditions and helped to improve AGDISP (‘Agricultural Dispersal’), the internationally-recognised software for assessing drift risks in the agriculture and forestry sectors.

>“AGDISP is used by many pesticide regulators around the world,” he says. “The software helps to evaluate the potential drift in a large number of different spraying situations where no measurements are available.”

Lincoln Agritech crop protection scientist Rory Roten said when pesticides are used on farms and in forests, the wind can carry droplets of the sprays far away from the targeted area, potentially causing severe damage to neighbouring crops and harming the environment.

He said:

“Spray drift has wreaked havoc on wine grapes and kiwifruit in several New Zealand orchards recently, causing several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage.

“Agrichemicals can cause severe damage to natural ecosystems as well, especially when they land in surface waters, as most aquatic species are very sensitive to these chemicals.”

The project team continuously shared results and information with a group of relevant stakeholders.

“We interacted with producers, staff from councils and EPA, as well as spray contractors and manufacturers of sprayers and chemicals,” Dr Post says.

“This ensured that the project provided outcomes are in line with the requirements of the primary sectors and the environment.”

The team also analysed the effectiveness of the latest Drift Reduction Technologies (DRT), which refer to small changes or additions to pesticide sprayers.

“We found that these technologies could reduce drift by 33 to 59 percent,” says Dr Post. “Results like these encouraged us to start training people in the spraying business to use drift reduction approaches.”

Roten said it was important to work closely with organisations like GrowSafe, Zespri, Horticulture New Zealand and the Foundation for Arable Research, as well as aerial spray contractors in the agricultural aviation industry.

“This allowed us to reach many professionals and to educate them on the importance of working to reduce environmental impacts,” he says.

“Nevertheless, we do not think that our job is over now that the project has ended. Our engagement in this kind of outreach will continue.”

Dr Post said new technologies are needed to support the work of spraying professionals and  equip public authorities with tools that can help them to monitor drift.

The final part of the research programme accordingly involved a collaboration with specialists at the University of Auckland to develop electronic sensors that could detect and measure the amount of received drift on crops.