June 2019 newsletter
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Some of the Lincoln Agritech staff at Fieldays, Hamilton.

Research findings published in leading science journal

Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology Group was awarded in 2017 a two-year Smart Ideas contract from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Endeavour Fund to investigate using magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) to remove contaminants from manufacturing processes.

MTB synthesise internal magnetic nanoparticles that allow them to orientate in response to the Earth’s magnetic field and the MTB employ this capability to navigate. The magnetotactic response also offers biotechnologists a unique system that can be exploited to control the bacteria.

Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology Team Leader, Dr Richard Weld, and his French collaborators at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at Aix Marseille University have discovered a novel symbiosis between MTB and a marine Protista. This work has been published in the prestigious Nature Microbiology journal.

These findings have prompted wider interest and the findings has featured in Science and appeared in the prestigious French national newspaper, Le Monde.

Congratulations to Richard and the team. We at Lincoln Agritech are very proud of this substantial science achievement.
Dr Richard Weld (far left), Lincoln Agritech's Biotechnology Team Manager, pictured with some of the biotechnology research staff and interns.
Magnetotactic bacteria aligning to external magnetic fields

WNT Ventures and Lincoln Agritech partner to reveal what's below the surface

WNT Ventures and Lincoln Agritech are pleased to announce their partnership to commercialise a range of advanced sensor technologies. A new company, TDRI Limited, has been created to commercialise the patented technology, which has been licensed from Lincoln Agritech.

Lincoln Agritech has developed a range of remote and portable sensing technologies based on microwaves and  the use of time domain reflectometry imaging (TDRi). TDRi can be used to precisely identify characteristics such as moisture patches within a medium (e.g. soil), allowing an unprecedented level of insight into sub-surface structures that is simply not possible using traditional invasive ground sensors.

The potential for the technology extends to a range of applications from the agriculture and food sectors to construction, security, optics, and beyond. However, the company will focus initially on developing the technology for non-invasive mobile sensing devices for the road construction sector.

WNT Ventures Investment Manager, Jon Sandbrook, commented that “This technology offers a huge advantage over existing products in the market. It allows accurate and continuous analysis of subsurface components and overcomes the drawbacks of cumbersome and costly single-point detection methods.” He continues that “customers will have the ability to analyse subsurface patterns non-invasively and in real time, dramatically improving their ability to deliver high quality and consistent road surfaces.”

The seed investment and ongoing support from Tauranga-based WNT Ventures will see the optimisation of the technology and development of commercial sensing products, as well as supporting scaling and, ultimately, entry into global markets. The company will continue to partner with Lincoln Agritech for future development of the technology.

As a technology incubator, WNT Ventures will also facilitate support for the company through Callaghan Innovation’s Technology Incubator Programme – an initiative aimed at supporting the commercialisation of complex products and technologies which are often derived out of research and development.

Lincoln Agritech Chief Scientist and co-inventor of the technology, Dr Ian Woodhead, commented “It’s great to be able to partner with WNT Ventures to bring this technology to the market. The research shows that there’s a real technical benefit to the TDRi technology, and we’re excited to have an experienced player like WNT alongside us to bring that benefit to the commercial world.”

Carl Jones, WNT Ventures CEO, said “We are excited to have the TDRi technology join our portfolio and we look forward to working alongside Lincoln Agritech on this, and other opportunities as our relationship continues to strengthen.”

About WNT Ventures
Tauranga-based WNT Ventures is a technology incubator and investor, with two funds targeting pre-revenue, technology-centric start-up companies with global potential. WNT’s portfolio of investments includes the likes of Nyriad, Avertana, Mastaplex, and Mint Innovation and the recently acquired SoundSwitch. Visit
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Bruce Gemmell

Bruce Gemmell recently joined Lincoln Agritech as a Director. He is currently the Chancellor of Lincoln University. Bruce has been a member of the Lincoln University Council since 2013 and became Pro-Chancellor in 2018. He has also been a member of the University of Canterbury Council.

A chartered accountant and former senior partner at international accounting firm EY, he now works as a professional director holding positions with Planz Consultant Limited, Orion New Zealand Limited, the Highlanders rugby franchise, Miramar Consolidated, and the CSO Foundation Trust. In addition to his directorships, he is also a board advisor to Fortress Information Systems, Ticket Direct and Dash Tickets.
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Kirsty Macdonald

Kirsty has joined Lincoln Agritech as our HR Manager; supporting and developing its greatest asset, its people.

She has a Bachelor in Business Management, majoring in employment relations. Kirsty has extensive human resource management experience in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. She has worked in a wide range of sectors, including the aviation, financial and legal services, marketing, transportation, and dairy industries.

You can contact Kirsty on: 
(p): +64 3 325 3746
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Kapila Pahalawatta

Kapila Kithsiri Pahalawatta joined Lincoln Agritech as a Research and Development Engineer on a fixed term contract. He has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Colombo (Sri Lanka) and a Masters in Forestry Science and a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Canterbury.

He specialises in:
  • Deep learning
  • Data science
  • Algorithm engineering
  • Machine vision

Kapila is contributing to the MBIE-funded Grape Yield Analyser research programme and is designing a new tool for the New Zealand winegrowing industry.

You can contact Kapila on: 

Bluelab wins 'Excellence in Innovation' at the Bay of Plenty Export Awards

Lincoln Agritech was commissioned by Bluelab, a Tauranga based manufacturing company that develops and manufactures equipment for the global hydroponics industry, to assist in design and prototyping of a handheld meter to speed up critical root zone measurements for growers.

The handheld meter was specifically designed for use in the hydroponics and horticultural industries and measures moisture levels, electrical conductivity (which correlates to nutrient levels) and temperature. Lincoln Agritech provided technical know-how, electronic design, and underlying software concepts so the meter could work in various solid or liquid phase growth mediums; for example, potting mixes and nutrient solutions.

Bluelab further developed the prototype technology to commercialisation stage, adding Bluetooth connectivity, designing the sensor aesthetics and ergonomics, measurement data models, and accompanying mobile phone app.

A New Zealand based kiwifruit nursery, beta trialled the device and increased grade-A plant output by 10% in one season after being able to ‘drive the plants better’ with the root zone measurements. 

Launched as PulseTM, this 3-in-1 meter measures moisture, conductivity and temperature. Available internationally from November 2018, this sensor provides fast, accurate root zone measurements, sending data directly to mobile phones, thus enabling the precise management of crop health. 

Bluelab was also announced as a 2019 NZ Hi-Tech Awards Finalist in two categories including the 'Most Innovative Hi-Tech Hardware Product' and 'Most Innovative Hi-Tech Agritech Solution'.
Critical Pathways Programme

Critical Pathways Programme on YouTube

In our March newsletter, we featured the Critical Pathways research programme. This five-year programme is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) aims to elucidate the relatively shallow and short pathways operating at the sub-catchment scale, and to represent them in water flow and contaminant transfer models.

Click on the above video to view the research team in action. 
Lincoln Agritech researchers, Dr Ian Woodhead, Dr Adrian Tan and Dr Ian Platt pictured with Autonomous Pivot researchers, Yossi Haran and Yair Sharf.

Lincoln Agritech signs MOU with Israeli company for future commercialisation

Lincoln Agritech and Israeli company, Autonomous Pivot Limited, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on developing a remote soil moisture sensor for the irrigation market.

This sensor will be mounted onto centre pivot irrigators and is being developed to reduce water required to irrigate crops and reduce nutrient leaching caused by over irrigation. This technology will be economically and environmentally beneficial as it will reduce farmer fertiliser costs and minimise groundwater contamination. 

The remote sensor measures the soil moisture ahead of the wetting path of the irrigator and provides a real-time data to inform the irrigation depth.

This collaboration will focus on further developing, testing and commercialising the moisture sensor technology from design work through to field trials.

Pivot Automation has now built and deployed ten prototype smarter irrigation units on pivot irrigators. Pivot Automation is currently assessing the technology in extensive field trials in the USA in this current growing season. Successful outcomes of this trial will see further testing undertaken including trials in NZ prior to commercialisation in 2020. 

This technology was developed as part of a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funded research programme and has received KiwiNet Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund (PSAF) funding.
The Smarter Irrigation unit being tested in USA.
Event - Collaborate or Go it Alone - an Innovator’s Dilemma

Innovators often face a very real dilemma – do they keep on developing their innovative product/ process alone with little cash, but retaining ownership and control – or do they seek investment of expertise and money, but dilute their ownership and control of the product/process?

Licensing Executives Society of Australia and New Zealand (LESANZ Inc.) welcomes you to attend its event in Christchurch where we will hear from Doug Hill, the Managing Director of Springfree Trampoline, and hear how they progressed from an idea developed at the University of Canterbury to an internationally successful product. 

All those involved in the innovation space should attend – innovators, investors and advisors!

Event details:
12 pm, Wednesday 3 July 2019
Fitzgerald Room, The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited, Lincoln

Lunch and refreshments provided.
Onsite parking available.
RSVP here.
We want you! Precision Ag Scientist needed
We seek an enthusiastic scientist interested in leading-edge precision/digital agriculture research focusing on crops as well as farm integration. The role will support the development and application of sensors and information-based management systems from an agronomic perspective (plant production) and for automation of agricultural production, including robotics. You will work at the forefront of precision/digital agricultural R&D. This is a senior role within the team and will support the Group Manager for Precision Agriculture with the strategic direction and management of the Group, with a potential future opportunity to lead the Group.

For further information, including the full position description, please visit our website

Applications close 5pm, 30th June 2019.

Click here to apply.

Out and about

Over the past few months, Lincoln Agritech has been busy networking; here are some snap shots from industry events that we have been present at.
From top left to right: Dr Blair Miller and Peter Barrowclough introduces the HydroMetrics Optical Nitrate Sensor to Hon. Damien O'Connor, Minister of Agriculture at Fieldays in Hamilton.

Melissa Wong with the HydroMetrics Optical Nitrate Sensor at South Island Agricultural Field Days in Kirwee.

MP Simon Bridges learns more about Lincoln Agritech's precision agriculture research programmes from Dr Armin Werner and Chavi Ekanayake at South Island Fieldays in Kirwee.

Sophie Rebbeck, Dr Joanne Hay and Dean Williamson attend the 2019 Licensing Executives Society of Australia and New Zealand (LESANZ) Conference in Brisbane.
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