July 2018 Newsletter
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Drilling the catch crop trial plots with a variety of oats, triticale, and Italian ryegrass at Craigmore Farming’s Te Awa farms in Te Pirita, Canterbury. 

Lincoln Agritech awarded two Sustainable Farming Fund grants

Lincoln Agritech has been awarded two Ministry of Primary Industries three-year Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) contracts to: 1) investigate the use of catch crops to reduce nitrate leaching; and 2) assess the feasibility of using optical sensors for nitrogen fertilised dairy pastures.

Catch crops for reduced nitrate leaching is a project that continues Dr Peter Carey’s PhD studies at Lincoln University where he studied the use of catch crops to mitigate nitrate leaching under winter forage grazing. In autumn and winter, non-lactating dairy cows are eating large quantities of feed over a relatively short period of time to build up body condition and depositing large volumes of urine onto bare soil at a time when there is minimal plant growth. The conversion of the nitrogen (N) present in urine to soil mineral forms, such as nitrate, can lead to large N leaching losses (80-120 kg N/ha) through field drainage. Sowing a crop immediately following winter forage grazing, however, can be problematic, but hardy cereals (such as oats) can still establish in these cool conditions and once the soil warms, can rapidly mop up some of this soil-N, reducing the amount available for leaching. A number of lysimeter and field trials have shown that sowing a catch crop can reduce nitrate leaching losses by as much as 40%, as well as improving N-use efficiency and farmers’ profitability. The aim of the project is to upscale this applied research into working winter crop rotations in Canterbury and Southland and adapt it to the various soil and climatic conditions.

The catch crops SFF programme is supported by industry and leading dairy farm companies including: Plant and Food Research, Craigmore Farms, Dairy Holdings, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Ravensdown, Agricom, Luisetti Seeds, DairyNZ, Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), South Island Dairy Development Centre (SIDDC), Irrigo Centre Ltd, and Lincoln University’s Centre for Soil and Environmental Research. Ultimately, success will be measured by establishing the practice of sowing winter catch crops as a normal part of winter forage management and demonstrating effective alternatives to farmers that lower nitrate leaching losses after winter forage grazing.

The second project, Optical sensors for N-fertilising dairy pastures, will assess using optical sensors for variable rate application (VRA) of N-fertilisers on dairy grazed pastures. New Zealand intensive dairy farming systems rely heavily on N-fertiliser to maintain pasture production. These fertilisers are often applied uniformly over the paddock - irrespective of the variability that might exist in the paddock. This results in poor use of N-fertilisers, with under or over application in some areas of the paddock, causing unfavourable economic and environment consequences, such as lost yield and nitrate leaching to the groundwater. 

Optical sensing technologies are commonly used for assessing biomass and N-status in arable crops; however, these technologies are not used for monitoring pastures. Previous Lincoln Agritech research has demonstrated that using optical sensors for pasture systems can reduce N-fertiliser amount by up to 30% and nitrate leaching by up to 13%, whilst maintaining the same  pasture yields. This project will assess and adapt current commercial sensor systems for VRA of N-fertiliser in pasture systems. 

This research programme is supported by Stratford Farms in Temuka, Irrigo Centre Ltd, MHV Water, North Otago Irrigation Company, Advanced GPS Ag, Topcon, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, DairyNZ, AgResearch, and Plant and Food Research.
From left to right: PAWS pest identification sensor pad detects and identifies animal species, such as an Australian brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and a small house mouse (Mus musculus).

Working towards a predator free future

Pest surveillance and reporting will become more efficient when a new monitoring tool hits the ground. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has signed a contract with Lincoln Agritech Ltd to develop an automated sensor known as the ‘PAWS™ pest identification sensor pad’ that will detect and identify pests reinvading islands and mainland sanctuaries where possums, stoats and rats have previously been eradicated.
Achieving New Zealand’s goal of being ‘Predator Free by 2050’ requires cost-effective and efficient predator control tools in order to scale up sustainable predator control activity across the country. The Government has allocated $2.8 million over four years to DOC to fund the research and development of new and innovative solutions. Recipients of this funding include Lincoln Agritech and their collaborators, Boffa Miskell Ltd and Red Fern Solutions Ltd. 
The automated PAWS™ device is able to identify pests such as mice, rats, mustelids and possums, and differentiate these from native species. The results are transmitted (via wifi, telemetry or other means) to a DOC office enabling managers to rapidly respond.
Andrew Baucke (DOC Operations Manager, Auckland) says, “The PAWS™ pest identification sensor pad will reduce our surveillance workload significantly and give us a far quicker response time for detecting reinvasion by pests. Traditionally, a lot of labour goes into regularly checking traps and tracking tunnels on islands to detect pest invasions and some of our pest-free islands are not visited as often as we would like. PAWS™ has the potential to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of surveillance and decrease our response times. That’s going to increase our confidence, save time and effort and has to be a great investment in island biosecurity.”
Dr Clive Marsh, Lincoln Agritech Principal Scientist continues, “The focus for 2018 will be on making sure we get the development fine-tuned before we build the prototypes. In early 2019, pen trials and small-scale field trials will be carried out, followed by two large-scale field trials in 2020. Our intention is for pre-production units to be tested by DOC in early 2021 before launching commercially.” 

Dr Helen Blackie at Boffa Miskell Ltd is leading the PAWS™ trials. Helen has been involved in the PAWS™ concept since its inception, having recognised the need for improved forms of animal surveillance and reporting. The PAWS™ unit represents a new generation of technologies for wildlife management, and allows people to monitor species in real-time in natural habitats.  Future enhancements of the technology are envisaged, such as building units with trapping functions that trigger the trap when specific species are detected. 
For conservation managers, having a variety of detection devices under development eliminates their reliance on only one approach. As the Predator Free strategy gains traction the automated pest detection features encapsulated by PAWS™ will be part of the solution to removing unwanted pest species from New Zealand.  
AI expertise at Lincoln Agritech
Lincoln Agritech is actively scaling and building its AI capabilities, particularly with applications in the agricultural sector. Our work in this space has been recognised and showcased in various media formats, including Callaghan Innovation’s latest white paper and in Shaun Ryan’s blog.

“Thinking Ahead: Innovation through Artificial Intelligence” is a white paper recently released  by Callaghan Innovation; it comments on how AI will change our agricultural, digital, energy and health sectors and discusses topics such as machine learning, natural language processing and deep learning. It also showcases New Zealand AI research projects from various sectors. Click here to download the white paper; and read about one of Lincoln Agritech’s AI research programmes on page 15. 

Shaun Ryan’s blog, “Thought Experiment” showcases New Zealand organisations that are actively using AI to create solutions for the future. Shaun has interviewed various organisations and written posts about them. You can read about these here or access his blog here to read more about Lincoln Agritech's AI capability.

AI Forum New Zealand states, “AI has the potential to increase New Zealand’s GDP by up to $54 billion by 2035” and mentions this sector is a relatively young ecosystem with more than 140 organisations already working with or investing in AI in New Zealand. 
CertusBio capital raise
Christchurch start-up company, CertusBio, develops novel lab-on-a-chip biosensor technologies to increase the resource and energy efficiency of large-scale industrial processes. CertusBio enables more efficient and sustainable processes by optimising the relationship between resource input and product output and by introducing energy saving technologies. CertusBio is also aiming to reduce the environmental impact of industrial processes helping processors meet legal requirements.

CertusBio has licensed two biosensor technologies from Lincoln Agritech and is developing them for the dairy processing and wastewater treatment industries. Milk-Guard is the first real-time interference-free biosensor monitoring device aimed at the dairy processing industry. The biosensor detects lactose and milk in dairy processing wastewater and puts control in the hands of process operators to dramatically reduce processing loses. Trials have been conducted at industrial processing plants where Milk-Guard has been able to identify early product loss events worth in excess of NZ$30,000 for a single event. 

CertusBio’s product development pipeline extends beyond the dairy processing industry. It is currently developing an additional biosensor technology, Aeration-Guard, aimed at continuous monitoring of wastewater treatment plant influent water to provide real-time specifications for optimal wastewater treatment leading to significant energy savings for plant owners and operators. Further lab-on-a-chip biosensor technologies for the food processing, oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are envisaged.

CertusBio is currently raising capital to take Milk-Guard to the market and achieve first sales of the technology. For more information or to discuss an investment in CertusBio, please contact Matthew Jones on:
(m) +64 21 963 161 
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Jin-Hua Li

Jin-Hua recently joined Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology Team as the Post-Doctoral Research Scientist. She is a molecular plant pathologist with a background of bio-control of plant fungal and bacterial diseases.

Jin-Hua is from the Gansu Province in China. After attaining her Masters in Agricultural Science from Gansu Agricultural University (GAU), Jin-Hua became a university teacher and was awarded her PhD degree in 2007. 

Jin-Hua then moved to Australia and worked at the University of Sydney and CSIRO (Adelaide). In 2012, she moved to New Zealand to work at the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University. 

At Lincoln Agritech, Jin-Hua will specifically focus on the government research programme, “Nitrogen-fixing pine trees and grasses” and will sample for and identify fungal-bacterial hybrid endophytes.

Jin-Hua is based in our Lincoln office. You can contact her on:
(p) 03 325 3747
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Shona Youngman

Shona recently joined Lincoln Agritech’s Finance Team as the Accounts Assistant, working 15 hours per week. Shona has worked for Lincoln University, Fulton Hogan and Landcare Research in numerous roles including payroll, accounting, sales, and human resources.

Shona is based in our Lincoln office. You can contact her on:
(p) 03 325 3792

Australasian Conference on Robotics and Automation (ACRA) 2018

Jointly organised by the Australian Robotics and Automation Association (ARAA) and the National Science Challenge Robotics Spearhead Project; Lincoln Agritech will be hosting ACRA 2018.

This conference will have a land-based focus and the programme contents include: R&D presentations on perception, vision, path planning, actuation, control, and machine learning; and presentations by the industry. A marketplace of ideas, it will discuss the latest results and new technologies connecting researchers and practitioners.

Event details:
4-6 December 2018
Lecture Room 2, Stewart Building, Lincoln University
Download the details and flyer here.

Purchase tickets here.

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Lincoln Agritech's Dean Williamson and Peter Barrowclough with Brett Hewett at the 10 Billion Mouths event in Tauranga.

Lincoln Agritech celebrates Techweek 2018

Techweek is a series of nationwide events and seminars that aims to bring together “New Zealand’s brightest technology and innovation talent to tackle global issues with local ingenuity”. Held during 19-27 May, Lincoln Agritech participated in several events throughout the week, including 10 Billion Mouths in Tauranga and Naturetech - creating a better tomorrow at Lincoln University.

Both events had a strong agricultural focus. The Tauranga event discussed how New Zealand's agricultural ecosystem is shifting its focus towards developing sustainable ways to feed the world and addressed topics such as how New Zealand is responding to the challenge of feeding a growing population in contrast to global trends; robotics and data in agriculture; and a future with alternative proteins. The Lincoln event discussed new technologies, raising money with investor angels, user adoption techniques, and the role of technology in New Zealand's agricultural future.  
Both events had prominent guest speakers including future foods strategist, Dr. Rosie Bosworth; Eric O' Brian (Fall Line Capital); Rod Slater (Beef and Lamb New Zealand); Frances Valintine (Tech Futures Lab); Steven Saunders (Plus Group); and George Kellerman (Yamaha Ventures). 

Feel like you missed out? 10 Billion Mouths, one of the top billing events of Techweek, was filmed and you can view their presentations here.

Snapshots from Fieldays 

During 13-16 June, Lincoln Agritech staff travelled north to attend the National Agricultural Fieldays in Hamilton. Exhibiting alongside Lincoln University, our company showcased several commercial technologies and research programmes, including our work on the Deep South National Science Challenge, the HydroMetrics optical nitrate sensor, PAWS™, and IRRICAD. The event was highly enjoyable; and the team got to meet famous NZ celebrities as well as network with clients and other research providers.
From top to bottom: AgResearch staff, Jim Crush and Kioumars Ghamkhar, meet with Lincoln Agritech staff, Jaco Fourie, Sophie Rebbeck and Chris Bateman. Peter Barrowclough (CEO) catches up with Te Radar. Brian Dingwall pictured with Lincoln Agritech staff members Dean Williamson and Peter Barrowclough.
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