December 2017 Newsletter
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CEO's Christmas message

As 2017 draws to a close, I would like to extend best wishes to you for the holiday season and to acknowledge our achievements this year. I would like to thank the staff for their dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm throughout the year. They are a great team and this edition of the newsletter highlights a number of their successes. 

For those of you who work closely with us, you will know that Lincoln Agritech has enjoyed a dynamic year. Highlights include: 
  • Lincoln Agritech being awarded Government funding for three science programmes:
    • The “Nitrogen fixing grasses and trees” Research Programme. This was ranked as the top 2017 research proposal submitted in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Endeavour contestable funding round. This five-year programme was awarded a grant totalling $7.2m.
    • The “Magnetotactic bacteria for contaminant removal” Research Programme, submitted to MBIE’s Endeavour Smart Idea contestable round, received a total of $1m funding for two years.
    • The “Karetao Hangarau-a-Mahi: Adaptive learning robots to complement the human workforce” research programme, funded by Callaghan Innovation’s National Science Challenge – Science for Technological Innovation (SfTI) - received a grant totalling $2m for two years.
  • Professor Ian Woodhead, Chief Scientist, was honoured by the Royal Society Te Apārangi and received the prestigious Scott Medal for his pioneering work in engineering research and science excellence.
  • Dr Armin Werner, Group Manager of Precision Agriculture, successfully chaired the International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture. Held in Hamilton, this conference attracted over 500 attendees from all over the world.
  • IRRICAD, Lincoln Agritech’s irrigation design software released IRRICAD Link, a plug-in for industry-standard CAD platforms AutoCAD and BricsCAD.
  • Lincoln Agritech signed an IRRICAD Chinese territory distribution agreement with Israeli firm, Netafim, the global leader in smart drip and micro-irrigation solutions.
  • HydroMetrics, Lincoln Agritech’s optical groundwater nitrate sensor is generating international interest and has commenced sales. Following positive field trials in the Canterbury region, a live demonstration of the technology was showcased to the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing. 
  • Certus Bio, a start-up company commercialising Lincoln Agritech technology is close to producing a commercial prototype and is validating its technology with a leading dairy processing company.
On behalf of Lincoln Agritech, I would like to thank our clients and stakeholders for their support and wish you all a joyous Christmas and safe holiday. We look forward to working with you again in 2018.

Peter Barrowclough
Lincoln Agritech Biotechnology Group (Left to Right): Dr Richard Weld, Dr Johanna Steyaert, International Intern Camille Vagner, Nicholas Glithero, PhD Student Thomas Flinois and Simon Lee

New 'triple symbiosis' research promises N-fixing pine trees & grasses 

A new Lincoln Agritech Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funded programme will research revolutionary ways of using naturally-occurring bacteria and fungi to produce nitrogen fixing trees and grasses, and to produce stress tolerant plants. A second programme will research new methods for naturally removing off-flavours in wine. Together the programmes have been awarded $8.2m.

Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology Team Manager, Dr Richard Weld, who leads both programmes, says “this is a notable achievement for a small organisation.” 

The first of the two programmes will benefit the forestry and pastoral sectors by allowing pine trees and grasses to fix nitrogen (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 (fungal endophytes), creating fungal-bacterial hybrid endophytes.

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

Dr Weld says the five-year programme is world-leading, as no other researchers have previously 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. If successful, the new fungal-bacterial hybrids will be added to their product lines.

The second Research Programme will use bacteria that have two unique features: they are naturally magnetic and they have an unusual sulphur metabolism that allows them to derive energy from hydrogen sulphide. Thus, they can be controlled using magnetic fields and used to remove hydrogen sulphide from wine. 

“Hydrogen sulphide can be responsible for off-flavours in wine,” says Dr Weld.  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 two-year programme includes researchers from Lincoln Agritech, Plant and Food Research, and Aix-Marseille University, France. 

Lincoln Agritech’s CEO Peter Barrowclough says that “The recent MBIE success is a great opportunity to build on our existing biotechnology expertise, to collaborate with research partners and industry, and improve outcomes for the primary sector. Our job is to do the over-the-horizon science to keep our primary industries competitive. We are very grateful to MBIE for supporting these research programmes, and we are looking forward to helping the forestry, pastoral and wine sectors keep their competitive edge on the world stage.  

Industry participants include: Agrimm Technologies Ltd, Agriseeds Ltd, ArborGen NZ, Grasslanz Technology Ltd, Indevin NZ, KonoNZ, Lake Taupo Forest Management Ltd, NZ Forestry Owners Association, NZ Wingrowers, PGG Wrightson Seeds, Rayonier Matariki, and Timberlands. 
High honour for pioneering scientist
Professor Ian Woodhead, Chief Scientist and Technology Group Manager, receives the Royal Society Scott Medal.

Professor Ian Woodhead, Chief Scientist and Group Manager of Lincoln Agritech’s Technology Group, was honoured by the New Zealand Royal Society Te Apārangi at its 150th year Research Honours event held in October. He received the Scott Medal, an engineering science and technology award, for his pioneering work in electronic engineering.

Presented annually, the Research Honours celebrate the outstanding achievements and excellence of New Zealand researchers.

During his illustrious, almost 40-year career, Ian has created  globally-marketed sensors, including devices to evaluate the performance of electric fences and an electronic soil moisture sensor, Aquaflex, sold by Streat Instruments, which has paved the way for more efficient irrigation systems, allowing farmers to use water more sustainably.

He also invented a new technique to measure water distribution within materials, such as the moisture profile in soil and water distribution in timber.

Working with Lincoln Agritech researchers, Ian has led the development of a low cost optical nitrate sensor, the “HydroMetrics – Nitrate GW50” to measure nitrate concentrations in groundwater. The new technology aims to help New Zealand’s agricultural industries manage the trade-off between increasing productivity and sustainability.

The Royal Society Te Apārangi medal selection committee deemed the nitrate sensor to be a good example of Ian applying “his wide grasp of physics, mathematics, engineering and electronics to solve technological problems for New Zealand’s agricultural sector”.

Ian holds a PhD in applied physics and has been an advisor and assessor for MBIE Science and an assessor for the French National Research Agency. He leads the Agricultural and Environment Technologies portfolio of the National Science Challenge: Science for Technological Innovation.

In 2014, he was made a Lincoln University Adjunct Professor in recognition of his contribution to agritechnology and instrumentation.

On accepting the medal, Ian said he was honoured to receive the recognition from the Royal Society Te Apārangi. “I also wish to share the recognition with colleagues at Lincoln Agritech Ltd who have contributed to the research in microwaves and dielectric properties of materials, and development of derived products to benefit New Zealand industry and agriculture.”

Lincoln Agritech CEO, Peter Barrowclough, said he was pleased to see Ian recognised by his peers from across the scientific community for his career and outstanding advancement of the engineering sciences.

“The best small science company in NZ, Lincoln Agritech, is producing world class science and world class researchers who are being recognised on the national stage,” he added.

Garth Carnaby, a past President of the Royal Society, said Professor Woodhead had carried out his research in an applied research environment that has required enormous versatility and creativity, which has been sustained over many years.

“His research has been characterised by his ability to cut through complex problems to identify the underlying science.”

For further information, read here.
Lincoln Agritech supports emerging Māori researcher
Lincoln Agritech's hydrogeologist Jens Rekker with Kathryn Gale.

Kathryn Gale, an emerging researcher, is currently collaborating with Lincoln Agritech on a government funded Vision Mātauranga research programme entitled, “Otago Rūnanga responses to changing mahinga kai and regional water policy conditions”. This joint research programme aims  to investigate and identify the effects of land use on water quality and traditional food gathering. The research focuses on freshwater species such as tuna (eels), inanga (whitebait) and kōwhitiwhiti (watercress). Kathryn talks to us about her research discoveries, passions and how this research programme has shaped her as a person. 

[Lincoln Agritech]: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Ko Urukaraka me Maungaharuru ngā maunga
Ko Ohinemataroa me Mohaka ngā awa
Ko Tūhoe me Ngāti Pahauwera ngā iwi
Ko Ngāhina me Waipapa-a-Iwi ngā marae
Ko Kathryn Gale tōku ingoa
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

I have whakapapa links to the North Island, but I grew up in Mosgiel near Dunedin. I studied Environmental Management at the University of Otago and graduated with my Masters in 2015.

I now work at Aukaha* (formerly known as Kāi Tahu Ki Otago Ltd), a consultancy that serves the interests of four Ngāi Tahu Rūnanga in Otago. The consultancy works for Manawhenua in public health and resource management; part of our work includes providing guidance to Otago Regional Council and district councils on resource consents and land use changes.

What is your role in the Vision Mātauranga project? 
Lincoln Agritech has been working with Aukaha to participate in science-informed processes and resource management decisions relating to land use, water quality and effect on mahinga kai values. I am the placement researcher for this project, carrying out the research with guidance from cultural and science mentors. Our research focuses on four key study catchments in Otago and assesses how land use changes affect water quality and mahinga kai species. Mahinga kai is a crucial part of Ngāi Tahu culture and identity and a total of 12 mahinga kai species are being investigated. This programme differs from existing environmental monitoring schemes as it explores water quality from a Māori perspective and focuses on mahinga kai. My aim is to add information where there are knowledge gaps in the existing information.

What sort of discoveries have you made so far? Do you think this information would benefit others?
Personally, I have made many discoveries and have learned a lot about mahinga kai in particular. When I began I knew very little about the species we are examining and I have now developed a passion for them – my friends and whānau can’t get me to be quiet once I start talking about native fish! I have also learned a lot about the management of these species and freshwater management in Otago, which has meant that within my work I can better engage in processes related to water quality and mahinga kai. 

My most exciting discovery has been finding a tiny kākahi (freshwater mussel) shell in one of the study catchments. Very little is known about juvenile kākahi habitat preferences, so I am hoping our research will be able to add to that body of knowledge. As a result of the find, a kākahi expert from NIWA will visit Dunedin to talk to representatives from local Rūnanga about how we can monitor our local populations.

Has this project shaped you in any way?
This project has definitely shaped me. Having mentors to support me has given me greater confidence in myself as a researcher. I am hugely grateful to Jens Rekker from Lincoln Agritech for his support on the technical aspects of the research, and to Dr Gail Tipa for her guidance on the cultural aspects. 

I have also really enjoyed having decision-making powers! This has been the first major project where I have to make decisions about how things are going to be done. This is also where mentoring has been valuable – Jens and Gail have provided great advice but allowed me to make decisions about the research for myself, which has increased my confidence. 

What sort of advice would you give to other young researchers working in your industry?
If an opportunity for mentorship comes up, take it! If you are an emerging researcher, network at conferences and introduce yourself to others – and don’t be afraid to ask questions. In my experience people are happy to answer them and have a conversation with you about your research. I think networking is especially important for Māori researchers as we are often in the minority at conferences; I believe it is important that we support each other. I am the only scientist within my organisation, so it has been really helpful to connect with other Māori working in freshwater science and management.

If you would like to learn more about this project, you can listen to Kathryn's radio interview, here.

Website -
Email –

*In October 2017, Kāi Tahu Ki Otago Ltd celebrated their 20th anniversary. This was marked by an organisational rebrand to Aukaha. “Aukaha” is derived from kia kaha, au kaha – to unite and bind together.
Artificial Intelligence to help wine profits flow

Dr Jaco Fourie, Lincoln Agritech's Optics and Image Processing Team Leader.

Artificial Intelligence has been making waves in many different industries and is already affecting all of our lives. 

Now the New Zealand wine sector is getting in on the act, with Lincoln Agritech developing a computerised system to make early-season predictions on the grape yield a vineyard is likely to harvest. 

“Grape growers and wineries spend a lot of money trying to figure out the grape yield they may harvest in their vineyards each year,” says Lincoln Agritech Optics and Image Processing Team Leader, Dr Jaco Fourie. 

“This currently involves hiring a large number of workers to manually sample grape bunches.”

Lincoln Agritech is working to create a system that includes electronic sensors to accurately count grape bunches. 

“The sensors will capture and analyse grape bunches within individual rows and assess the number, sizes and distribution of grape bunches,” says Dr Fourie.

“This data will then be fed into computer algorithms, designed by the University of Canterbury, to predict grape yield at harvest time.

"Every year, new data will be added to the system leading to continuous improvements in model accuracy, and the system’s predictive power will improve over time as more data is gathered under different conditions,” says University of Canterbury Associate Professor of Statistics, Elena Moltchanova.

Dr Fourie says profitable wine production depends on early knowledge of the grape yield that is likely to be harvested each season.   

“Estimating the yield as soon as possible allows marketers to know how much wine will ultimately be produced.” 

The main focus of grape varieties for the study is Sauvignon Blanc, after which the team will identify how much further technology development will be required to target Pinot Noir varieties.

The project is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and NZ Winegrowers. Collaborating partners include Plant and Food Research, Lincoln University, the University of Canterbury, CSIRO (Adelaide), NZ Winegrowers and local winegrowers in the Marlborough region.

To read more about this project and related media releases, click here.
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Rebekah Fuller

Ko Rangikawarawara te maunga
Ko Waihoehoe te awa
Ko Hokianga Pou Karakia te Moana
Ko Ngāpuhi te iwi
Ko Te Ihutai te hapu
Ko Tauteihiihi te marae
Ko Rebekah Fuller tōku ingoa

Rebekah Fuller’s passion is exploring the interface between Mātauranga Māori and science. For her Masters degree, Rebekah studied the Māori use of fungi and the completed a PhD in ethnobotany at the University of Hawai’i looking into the Polynesian use of fungi. She has since worked as a research fellow and post-doctoral fellow researching fungal genetics, resistance to fungal diseases by traditional cultivars of kumara (Ipomea batatas) and the health benefits of mara kai (food gardens) on marae.

Rebekah is excited about her role in the Biotechnology Group and is looking forward to working with her colleagues on Lincoln Agritech’s new research programmes. Core to her role is the Vision Mātauranga Māori component of both the ‘Bacterial-fungal hybrid endophytes for nitrogen-fixation and stress-tolerance in pine and ryegrass’ and the ‘Magnetotactic bacteria for contaminant removal’ projects. This includes meaningful engagement with iwi, hāpu, and marae to shape approaches to sampling as well as formulating intellectual property agreements. The science programmes will develop research of benefit to Māori, while acknowledging Māori ways of knowing. Rebekah hopes to provide an opportunity for community researchers to drive research, enable two-way knowledge transfer, while providing learning opportunities for Māori students. 

Rebekah is based in Auckland and you can contact her on :
(p) 021 303 337
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Peter Carey

Dr Peter Carey is a Field Agriculture Research Specialist. He has extensive experience in both commercial and academic sectors. 

Prior to joining Lincoln Agritech; Peter was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Lincoln University’s Centre for Soil and Environmental Research and was a Director at Land Research Services Ltd, a company that he founded to provide contract field research for public-good and commercial clients.

Peter recently gained his PhD degree in agricultural soil science from Lincoln University. His study focussed on using catch crops in winter forage grazing to reduce nitrate leaching.

As a practicing researcher for over 20 years, Peter has authored and co-authored over thirty journal and conference papers. These have been published nationally and internationally.

Peter has interests in yield formation, agronomy of pastures and forage crops. At Lincoln Agritech, he will be contributing to several projects, including the government funded Grape Yield Analyser research programme and a variety of commercially funded projects.

Peter is located at Lincoln Agritech’s Lincoln office. You can contact him on:
(p) 03 325 3717
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Vicki Clutterbuck

Vicki recently joined Lincoln Agritech as the Receptionist and Administrator for the Finance Team. She has extensive experience in customer services, administration and finance with roles spanning the banking, tertiary and agricultural sectors.

Vicki is passionate about education and has completed numerous courses at the New Zealand Institute of Management, Ara Institute of Canterbury, and Lincoln University.

Vicki may be a familiar face to some in Lincoln having spent several years studying at Lincoln University and working within the Lincoln Hospitality Group. She is delighted to be back on campus and is looking forward to working with a diverse group of people.

Vicki is located at Lincoln Agritech’s Lincoln office. You can contact her on:
(p) 03 325 3700

The International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture

The International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture was held in Hamilton from 16-18 October 2017. The event was popular with over 500 attendees including researchers, practitioners and commercial operators from various disciplines. 

The conference combined three separate events: the 7th Asian-Australasian Conference on Precision Agriculture (7ACPA); the 1st Asian-Australasian Conference on Precision Pasture and Livestock Farming (1ACPLF); and Digital Farmer and Grower 2017 (DF&G2017).

The event showcased more than 25 internationally renowned keynote speakers, 120 oral presentations, five panel discussions, two workshops, one masterclass, 25 exhibitors, four field trips and more than 60 posters.

Lincoln Agritech had a strong presence throughout the conference with some staff convening sessions and workshops. Dr Armin Werner was the Conference Chair and led several workshops; scientists Dr Abbodolas Jafari and Dr Jaco Fourie chaired some speaker series and delivered oral presentations. In addition to coordinating and delivering presentations, Lincoln Agritech was a bronze sponsor for the event and had an exhibition booth.

In the exhibition area, Lincoln Agritech’s HydroMetrics Nitrate GW50 sensor was on display. The sensor attracted a lot of attention and was a hot topic of discussion among researchers and commercial operators, alike.  
Lincoln Agritech Gallery
CEO Peter Barrowclough welcomes Hon. Dr Megan Woods, the new Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, to the Lincoln campus. (Photo taken prior to the elections at the Independent Research Association's NZ annual general meeting held at Lincoln Agritech's office).
Left to right: Peter Barrowclough, CEO, meets Dr Weining Zhao, Deputy Director of International Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, China. Dr Ian Woodhead is awarded the Royal Society's Scott Medal where he celebrates with colleagues at the New Zealand Research Honours event.
Left to right: Stephan Titze, Head of the APAC Division and the China Chairman of Netafim signs the IRRICAD Chinese territory distribution agreement with Peter Barrowclough, Lincoln Agritech CEO. Lincoln Agritech staff with Mike Langley from Callaghan Innovation at the International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture in Hamilton.
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