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October 2018 Newsletter
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Left to right: Dr Roland Stenger (Environmental Principal Scientist) and Dr Blair Miller (Environmental Group Manager). Bottom photo: Lincoln Agritech researchers with Fraunhofer Institute researchers; from left to right: Dr Mario Baum, Dr Frank Rosher, Dr Ian Platt, Dr Maik Wiemer, and Dr Ian Woodhead.

Lincoln Agritech granted $13m for MBIE research programmes


Lincoln Agritech Ltd scientists have been awarded two new MBIE-funded programmes through the highly contested Endeavour Investment Fund. 

One aims to reduce the pollution of New Zealand’s freshwater resources and the other will assist medical professionals to diagnose bone and tissue damage. 

Drs Roland Stenger and Blair Miller, along with Lincoln Agritech’s Environmental Research Team, are leading a $7.8m programme to improve freshwater management. 

They will deliver methods and tools for characterising and quantifying nitrate transfer pathways at a sub-catchment level. By defensibly establishing the link between land use and its effects on freshwater quality at the sub-catchment scale, they will enable more effective and spatially targeted land use and management, mitigations and policy.    

“To better manage freshwater pollution, we need to find out more about how nitrogen travels from land to waterways at a sub-catchment level,” says Dr Miller. 

“We have to understand how quickly nitrogen travels and how much of it is naturally removed by microorganisms as it moves from the soil through the groundwater into a surface waterway. 

“Only catchment scale resolution is possible at the moment, but it’s at the sub-catchment scale that the best management and mitigation options are available to prevent nitrogen from getting into our waterways”.

“We’ll also be looking at matching land use to existing natural removal capacity or installing mitigations where they have the greatest effect,” says Dr Miller. 

Understanding nitrogen pathways is a high priority for Federated Farmers, and the organisation has endorsed the programme. 

The programme aims to help farmers, iwi, industry and councils to achieve community-mandated water quality goals, with all councils requiring a water quality management policy by 2025. 

Lincoln Agritech will be working alongside New Zealand regional councils, research organisations, industry and iwi partners to ensure the programme’s success. Collaborators include Aqualinc Research, Lincoln University, GNS Science, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research Institute, AgFirst and IK and Associates Ltd and the programme is supported with co-funding from Waikato Regional Council and DairyNZ.  

Professor Ian Woodhead,  Dr Ian Platt and Lincoln Agritech’s electromagnetics scientists are leading a $6m programme to develop a hand-held, non-contact medical scanner that images bone and tissue with a sub-millimetre resolution.
 
Professor Woodhead says the scanner’s simplicity, cost-effectiveness and portability will differentiate it from currently available imaging equipment and be used in ambulances and medical facilities. 

Royal NZ College of General Practitioners Chair Dr Kēri Rātima adds that it is also expected to provide “real value to rural communities, including Māori, and to others struggling to access services”. 

Scientists will develop the scanner by harnessing their understanding of the unique focusing properties and imaging potential of evanescent waves, which are components of microwaves. 

“We are working on making scanner lenses that provide high image resolution using very low power microwave signals, that can safely penetrate the body,” says Professor Woodhead. 

“We are also developing methods to reconstruct the scanner’s two-dimensional images into three-dimensional representations of scanned bone or tissue.”

While the programme will focus on rapid medical diagnosis of sub-surface trauma, the scanners may be adapted to a wider range of uses in the future, including veterinary scanning and the scanning of built structures to increase the economic value of New Zealand’s manufacturing sector.

Lincoln Agritech will be collaborating with Universities of Waikato, Auckland, and Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France); with linkages to Auckland, Christchurch and Nice (France) hospitals and to healthcare for remote communities.
Peter Barrowclough, Lincoln Agritech CEO, receives the Champion Innovation Award from Richard Sandford, ChristchurchNZ General Manager of Innovation and Business Growth. 

High honour for Lincoln Agritech


Lincoln Agritech Ltd was recognised for its cutting-edge innovations at the annual Canterbury Westpac Champion Business Awards on 19 September. 

Lincoln Agritech won the ChristchurchNZ Champion Innovation award, which honours businesses that have developed products, services or business model innovations that improve commercial performance, effectiveness or customer engagement. 

Lincoln Agritech CEO, Peter Barrowclough, was delighted with the win and paid tribute to the company’s talented team of scientists and research engineers who work hard to deliver leading-edge knowledge and technologies across the primary sector value chain. 

“Our company is flexible and dynamic, and combines the experience and expertise of our scientists and engineers with practical industry insight allowing us to offer new knowledge and solve complex, real-world problems,” he said. 

Lincoln Agritech’s research has improved the commercial performance of many New Zealand businesses, as well as growing its own activities. 

One of its latest inventions is the HydroMetricsTM optical groundwater nitrate sensor. The sensor can be placed down wells to provide accurate real-time nitrate monitoring in groundwater. The HydroMetricsTM sensor, now commercialised and available for purchase, is priced at a third of the cost of international equivalents. “This is disruptive technology that will help us monitor the environmental impact of NZ’s primary production systems”.   

“Our innovation successes stem from our unique combination of strategy, people and culture, collaborative approach and strong industry partnerships,” said Mr Barrowclough. 

“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.  

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 staff celebrate their win at the Westpac Champion Business Awards.
Bioinoculant consultancy for Malaysian forestry industries



Dr Robert Hill recently joined Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology Team. He has expertise in developing biocontrol methods for the forestry and plantation industry and has been consulting on forest bioinoculant usage in Malaysia for the past ten years. His work has predominately focused on the Planted Forest Zone in Sarawak, Borneo where he has developed biocontrol solutions for GP Pusaka Sdn Bnd to be used in their nursery at Samarakan. 

Dr Hill’s approach has been to isolate beneficial Trichoderma fungi from the roots of healthy plants and then trial them for growth promotion and disease control. To facilitate this, Dr Hill designed an onsite Biological Discovery Unit (BDU) at Samarakan and then mentored staff by teaching them relevant scientific methodologies and techniques, including the isolation, production, trialling and practical application of Trichoderma. This teaching model is currently being reproduced at the Minginui Nursery in NZ as part of a Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation-funded programme, ‘Nitrogen-fixing Pines and Grasses’ led by Lincoln Agritech.

Dr Hill’s approach to biocontrol has been so successful that in 2010 GP Pusaka invoked a change in its Standard Operating Procedure to completely eliminate fungicide applications and switch to full inoculation of all Acacia mangium seedlings with selected Trichoderma strains. Productivity has increased significantly in the nursery and in plantation areas and the Trichoderma bioinoculant has successfully reduced crop losses from disease and promoted growth. This methodology has since been transferred to other plantation species such as Eucalyptus pellita and E. deglupta. 

Dr Hill’s colleague, Lincoln Agritech Scientist, Dr Johanna Steyaert, has recently returned from a consultancy visit to GP Pusaka in Borneo. While there, she monitored and evaluated the use of Trichoderma within the plantations. 

Biotechnology Team Leader, Dr Richard Weld, is optimistic about the project’s progress and hopes to engage in more projects like this one in the near future.

The Biotechnology Team is actively engaged in collecting, testing and commercialising naturally occurring micro-organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, for application in the agriculture and forestry industry. Current research includes the biological control of plant diseases such as powdery mildew; micro-organisms and enzymes for biosensors; and plant growth promotion and plant protection through using Trichoderma fungi.
Groundwater science in Aotearoa

Forty percent of people in New Zealand rely on groundwater for drinking, yet that water is vulnerable to contamination.

While our rivers and the state of their health are regarded as taonga, little attention is given to the groundwater that sustains the flows in most of our rivers and streams.

"We only remember the water is there when something goes wrong. The health of our surface waters can be directly linked to the quality of groundwater resources. Yet our groundwater resources, like some of our rivers, are under stress. The pollution is widespread and difficult to treat," says Murray Close, Principal Scientist at ESR.

To address these issues, groundwater researchers from Lincoln Agritech, ESR, GNS Science and Aqualinc are working together to understand how land-use impacts our water quality.

To read more about the group's research projects, click here to download the latest newsletter.

Australasian Conference on Robotics and Automation (ACRA) 2018


Lincoln Agritech will be hosting ACRA 2018, a conference that is being jointly organised by the Australian Robotics and Automation Association (ARAA) and the National Science Challenge Robotics Spearhead Project.

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

Event details:
4-6 December 2018
Lecture Room 2, Stewart Building
Lincoln University

For more details, click here; and purchase conference tickets here.

Keep an eye out for us!


In December, Lincoln Agritech will be sponsoring the NZ Hydrological Society Conference and the NZ Soils Science Conference. 

We will have a stand at the NZ Hydrological Society Conference, so if you're there, come and say hello.
Lincoln Agritech welcomes Robert Hill



Dr Robert Hill is a world-renowned biocontrol research scientist with a particular interest in using Trichoderma fungi for forest bioprotection.

Robert joined Lincoln Agritech Ltd in May 2018, following ten years at the Bio-Protection Research Centre (BPRC) at Lincoln University and five years at BioDiscovery NZ Ltd. He is particularly skilled at developing novel biocontrol alternatives to pesticides with a special emphasis on root endophytic Trichoderma isolates that enhance plant vigour and reduce disease incidence.

From May 1985, Robert worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Technology Division, which evolved into the Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand (now Plant and Food Research). From 1992 to 1999 he was Science Manager for the Natural Products and Natural Systems groups and Portfolio Manager for forestry. Robert has played a key role in the successful commercialisation of several biological control agents.

Originally from England, Robert's career has included placements in the UK, Brazil and USA before he moved to New Zealand; subsequently he has completed international consultancies in the Sudan, Chile, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Distinctions:
  • Forest Owners Association 2016 Science Awards (winner): Innovation that Enhances Sector Value
  • KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards 2016 (finalist): Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur
  • Bayer 2010 Innovators Award (winner): Agriculture and Environment
Research Interests:
  • Biocontrol
  • Trichoderma fungi
  • Forest bioprotection
Robert Hill is based in our Lincoln office. You can contact him on:
(p) 03 325 3700
(e) robert.hill@lincolnagritech.co.nz
Lincoln Agritech participates in ChristchurchNZ's Job Ready Programme
 


Lincoln Agritech has been working with ChristchurchNZ by participating in the Job Ready Programme. This programme is aimed at international graduates in Canterbury who are wanting to find employment in New Zealand.

The first part of the programme is a series of workshops designed to train students in job seeking skills and teach them about kiwi work culture. Students are then matched with businesses that have projects requiring an international perspective.

Zheng (James) Wang originally came to Lincoln Agritech through the ChristchurchNZ Job Ready Programme. Zheng is now a full time employee working as the China Business Development Manager in the Business Development Team.

Learn more about Zheng’s ChristchurchNZ journey here.
ChristchurchNZ's Job Ready Programme featuring Lincoln Agritech.

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Land Use and Water Quality (LuWQ) Conference


The International Interdisciplinary Conference on Land Use and Water Quality – Agriculture and the Environment (LuWQ2019) is aimed at scientists, land and water managers and policy makers involved in water quality improvement.

This year the conference will be held in Denmark and will discuss and present cutting edge science, management and policy to minimise effects of agriculture and how land use changes affect the quality of groundwater and surface waters. 

Lincoln Agritech staff member, Dr Roland Stenger, Principal Environmental Scientist, is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee.

If you wish to know more information about this conference, click here, or email Dr Roland Stenger at roland.stenger@lincolnagritech.co.nz

Event details: 
3-6 June 2019
Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
www.luwq2019.dk

Abstract submission is now open - closes on 15 October 2018.

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