Scientists teaching robots to more accurately detect dairy disease

Lincoln University computer scientists have been involved in modelling a way to better control and manage a disease which costs New Zealand dairy farmers $280 million a year.

Professor Sandhya Samarasinghe and Professor Don Kulasiri are co-authors of a study*, conducted with data from a commercial robotic dairy farm, which designed and built a computational model to help efficient and accurate detection of mastitis in dairy cattle herds.

The robot milkers use sensors to detect the disease. Continue reading

The a2 Milk Company and Lincoln University partner to support sustainable dairy farming

The a2 Milk Company is partnering with Lincoln University to launch an initiative to support sustainable dairy farming projects in New Zealand.

The Farm Sustainability Fund, launched today, is a collaboration between The a2 Milk Company and Lincoln University, New Zealand’s only specialist land-based university. The a2 Milk Company will provide up to $500,000 to the Fund in the first year to enable fund grants for farm projects that demonstrate an integrated approach to a sustainable future and enable a positive and meaningful impact across the community and environment.

The Fund is open to New Zealand farms that supply milk under contract with Mataura Valley Milk Limited or Synlait Milk Limited for use in the manufacture of products for The a2 Milk Company.

Applications for this year’s awards will be open from 23 May and close on 4 July 2022. Continue reading

MOU signed with Lincoln University for potato research partnership

The board of Potatoes NZ Inc. (PNZ) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Lincoln University to launch a research partnership which includes a Centre of Excellence for Potato Research and Extension, based in Canterbury.

Lincoln University Associate Professor of Plant Science, Clive Kaiser, will be the establishment Director for the Centre of Excellence for Potato Research and Extension, and he says the new Centre will be extension-led and grower-centric.

He said he believes it will be a game changer for the potato industry. Continue reading

Livestock research scholarship is funded by founder of ANZCO Foods

A new Lincoln doctoral scholarship aims to help meet the need for alternative pastoral livestock production systems that will foster the environment, soil, livestock, and human health.

The Sir Graeme Harrison Pastoral Livestock Production PhD Scholarship is supported by a former Lincoln University council member and founder of ANZCO Foods, an organisation that produces beef and lamb products.

Sir Graeme has interests in the productivity, profitability, ethics and sustainability of livestock production systems.

The scholarship is offered through the Lincoln University Pastoral Livestock Production Lab, and under the premise that consumers and producers of animal products are increasingly aware of the intricate connections between the health of the land, animals and humans, as well as of our collective responsibilities to sustain and enhance the environment rssfor future generations.

Subsequently, land users, policymakers and wider society are calling for alternative approaches to pastoral systems. These include functionally diversified adaptive and integrative food pastoral systems that simultaneously operate across multiple scales, from landscapes and foodscapes to healthscapes.

The scholarship would help meet the need for integrative research and education enabling us to move from the status quo livestock systems to new ones that counteract negative connotations of animal products and propose ethical and sustainable foodscapes, with animal products promoting integral health.

The scholarship covers tuition fees and includes a $28,000 stipend per annum. The closing date for applications is 1 April.

Learn more here.

Source:  Lincoln University

Plant & Food Research and Lincoln University part of game-changing gene discovery

Scientists from Plant & Food Research and Lincoln University have contributed knowledge integral to the discovery of a new gene described as a game-changer for global agriculture.

The gene allows natural reproduction by cloning in plants, allowing highly desirable traits to be carried through to the next generation rather than lost when the plants reproduce through pollination.

The New Zealand scientists have been working with scientists in the Netherlands (at research company KeyGene and Wageningen University & Research or WUR) and Japan (at breeding company Takii) to identify ways to produce plant seeds that are genetically identical to the parent plant.

The research was recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics.

The newly discovered gene, named PAR, controls parthenogenesis, a process whereby plant egg cells spontaneously grow into embryos without fertilisation. Normally, the PAR gene is triggered by fertilisation, but in plants that reproduce by apomixis – a type of reproduction which does not require fertilisation – the PAR gene switches on spontaneously, so the egg cells are triggered to start dividing into a new embryo. Continue reading

Professor Bruce McKenzie returns to teaching role at Lincoln University in 2022

Professor Bruce McKenzie is spending his last days in the job as Acting Vice-Chancellor of Lincoln University before he returns to a teaching role at the University in the New Year.

As a Professor of Agronomy, he will re-join his former faculty to teach plant science to a new cohort of Lincoln University students, and is excited to start the new phase of his career.  He says:

“Teaching is one of my great passions, and I’m really looking forward to taking up the mantle again, as well as easing myself back into doing some research.

“It has been an honour to serve as Acting Vice-Chancellor, and I’m very grateful for being given the opportunity.

“I’m stepping aside at the right time. The University is in a good space, and we’ve been financially stable for an extended period.

“Our Lincoln University Strategy 2019-2028 remains the key driver for our growth, financial sustainability and ultimate realisation of becoming a globally-ranked, top-five land-based university.

“We have also created a vibrant and inspiring campus for our students through the launch of our campus development programme, and have successfully completed a number of our key projects – on time and on budget.” Continue reading

New partnership to beef up NZ’s food safety capabilities

Food safety researcher Associate Professor Stephen On will bring  his considerable expertise to an exciting new partnership between the New Zealand Food Safety and Science Research Centre and Lincoln University.

The centre, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, was established in 2016 following the Botulism scare and aims to co-ordinate research to protect public health and enhance the country’s reputation as a safe food producer.

Dr On, who heads the university’s Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences department, has been appointed to the organisation’s Science Leadership Team, which he says will evaluate needs and priorities for New Zealand food safety.

“A key role of the NZFSSRC is to investigate food safety issues of interest to the industry. Projects range from future-focused, cross-sector risk assessments to evaluating new decontamination methods and everything in between.

“I look forward to working with my NZFSSRC colleagues in this new partnership, and indeed with other Lincoln University scientists, who have much to offer.”

Dr On’s research has encompassed diagnostics, molecular epidemiology, comparative genomics, virulence studies and emerging pathogens.

His current research includes using laser light scatter patterns to identify pathogens, identifying Arcobacter and genomics of foodborne Vibrio and Yersinia species.

He previously spent 10 years at ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and Research), latterly as Chief Scientist for Food and Water. He has also worked as a researcher in leading organisations in Denmark and the UK. His research has also been recognised with awards from the UK Society of Applied Microbiology and the NZ Microbiological Society.

Dr On says the partnership is an exciting development in New Zealand’s food safety journey and he describes the centre as an important consolidation of expertise.

Source:  Lincoln  University

Gene therapy developed by Lincoln scientists receives US FDA approval for in-human clinical trial

A Lincoln research team has received US FDA approval for in-human clinical trials of their gene therapy for the treatment of CLN5 Batten disease, a fatal neurodegenerative childhood disease.

The CLN5 form of Batten disease appears early in a child’s life and causes brain degeneration manifesting in devastating symptoms including vision loss, seizures, dementia, abnormal movements and inability to communicate. Sufferers typically die in their teens.

Until now there has been no cure and no hope of treatment, but the Lincoln-developed gene therapy is a potentially transformative treatment for the CLN5 patient community.

Over the past decade, Professor David Palmer and Doctors Nadia Mitchell and Samantha Murray have been developing their gene therapy in sheep with a naturally-occurring form of the disease. Continue reading

Lincoln University summer scholarship applications close soon

The $6000 scholarships are an opportunity for students to experience working in a research environment, to get a feel for what’s involved in postgraduate research, and to gain valuable research skills.

Many of the students who have previously been awarded summer scholarships have gone on to complete postgraduate degrees and establish successful careers.

Projects begin after the end of the semester two, and run for 12 working weeks.

Academic achievement, study background, research and work experience, and intentions for further study will all be taken into consideration.

Applications close 31 August  – information is available here.

Source:  Lincoln University

Lincoln gene laboratory trio win Primary Industries science award

The work of three members of Lincoln University’s Gene-Marker Laboratory to help breed healthier, more resilient, and superior livestock, has been recognised in the Primary Industries Awards.

The lab’s director, Professor Jon Hickford, principal researcher, Dr Huitong Zhou, and lab manager, Freeman Fang, were given the Science and Research Award.

Professor Hickford is the Immediate Past President of the NZIAHS.

The judges said they were impressed with the holistic approach of the Lincoln University team, who brought a highly professional genetic approach to the business of farming.

“Their genetic program was impressive as was their relationship with farmers. This guaranteed a practical result from a highly specialised scientific process.” Continue reading