Lincoln Agritech to embark on four new research projects

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Sep, 2015

Lincoln Agritech has recently achieved Government funding for four important new science programmes that will help strengthen New Zealand’s reputation in several key research areas.

The projects involve aquifer management research, new science related to sensor technologies that determine the fat depth in live animals, developing a non-invasive sensor to measure dry matter in fruit and vegetables, and producing a new nitrogen fixing mulch film for horticultural applications. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has awarded $6.2 million in total funding to the projects over the next three years, including subcontracts to a significant number of collaborating organisations.

Lincoln Agritech CEO Peter Barrowclough says it is a noteworthy achievement for a small organisation.

“We are thrilled by the vote of confidence that this represents in the record of Lincoln Agritech for our science and research outcomes. “We are now anxious to get under way alongside partner organisations and subcontractors and to see outcomes from the science translate into benefits for New Zealand’s high-tech manufacturing sector, agricultural exports and importantly, the protection of the country’s invaluable natural groundwater and surface water assets.”

Mr Barrowclough says the programmes strengthen Lincoln Agritech’s strategy of delivering science and technologies to help our primary, environmental and manufacturing sectors realise greater value.

“The project topics are also key areas for us, given that we are owned by Lincoln University, the country’s only land-based tertiary institution.”

Lincoln Agritech’s Chief Scientist Ian Woodhead says the advanced, innovative research at the heart of these programmes will enhance New Zealand’s reputation in these “challenging yet exciting research fields”.

“Working alongside national and international collaborators, our science teams are beginning work in fields that promise substantial science and practical outcomes,” he says. Details of Lincoln Agritech’s successful proposals are outlined as follows:

Understanding The Groundwater Conduits Between Land And Receiving Waters - The Key To Effective Aquifer Management

This programme will provide a new understanding of how to define and achieve acceptable water quality so that water management committees, regional authorities and the Government can make informed decisions using robust data and processes.

The research will apply a Measure-Model-Manage framework to three case study areas, in Canterbury, the Waikato and Marlborough, and will model flows of nitrogen and phosphorus in terms of quantity and time. The research will be used to create three types of model, as well as methodologies and characteristics of catchment areas, which will allow the findings to be applied broadly across New Zealand.

This programme will benefit all New Zealanders: the public, iwi, Government and the agricultural and tourism sectors through:

  • improved long-term freshwater quality,
  • water quality that specifically meets the kaitiaki needs of Māori,
  • quicker and less expensive decision-making by regional councils in developing regional plans and granting resource consents,
  • maximised productive value from land balanced with sustainable freshwater for the community.

The work is being substantially co-funded by Environment Canterbury, Marlborough District Council, Waikato Regional Council and Dairy NZ. The research collaboration includes science staff from the cofunders and Landcare Research, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, ESR and Aqualinc Research.

Bessel Beam Sensors - New Generation Agritech Exports

Bessel beams offer a new approach to sensing. This programme will carry out research to develop a prototype for the “on-the-hoof” livestock body condition sensor. This will be a valuable stock management tool for production, livestock health and nutrition, and will be developed in collaboration with our industry partner.

Bessel beams are narrow, non-divergent beams of light, radio waves or sound, and a relatively new discovery. The research will extend knowledge of how Bessel beams behave, as well as how they can be used to provide high resolution measurements. The estimated market internationally for body condition sensors is $33m per year by 2025. More importantly, understanding Bessel beams will open up a wide range of potential future applications including measuring fruit and vegetable yield, the internal quality of trees and identifying buried objects. It will also place New Zealand at the forefront of this emerging field of knowledge and its application. This research is being undertaken in collaboration with the University of Waikato, and the University of Nice (France).

Evanescent Sensor For Improved Quality Control of Fruit, Vegetable And Pasture Crops

This programme will develop new techniques to image the fine-scale structure of moisture distribution within vegetables and fruit to give growers the ability to assess the quality and ripeness of their crop before committing to harvesting and for production line companies to improve sorting and grading of produce during processing.

A hand-held device can be used in the field to assess dry matter content of fruit and vegetables, a critical measure of quality, to aid in harvest date decisions and limiting fruit loss, growing conditions and the detection of internal defects. A similar version will also be available to scan across processing lines providing the same information. In this case, a larger version can be constructed to increase the operating distance up to 1 metre or more. This research is being undertaken in collaboration with the University of Nice (France).

Agricultural Plastic Mulch Film With Nitrogen-Fixing Capability

Lincoln Agritech is originating a completely novel approach to reduce farming’s reliance on mineral nitrogen fertilisation, and resultant nitrate leaching, by developing a spray-on mulch, functionalised with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and photocatalysts that, together, will convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrate and ammonium available for plant growth.

This new, biodegradable film will allow growers to maintain productivity, while meeting the increasingly stringent regulations being imposed globally to reduce nitrate leaching and pollution. The technology will provide a spray-on and biodegradable mulch with the additional benefit of in situ nitrogen fixation, while minimising the environmental impacts of applied nitrogen.

Lincoln Agritech Ltd, in collaboration with the Institut des Sciences Chimiques de Rennes at Rennes University (France), University of Canterbury, and Plant and Food Research (Lincoln), will undertake the research project in collaboration with chemists from an industry partner.

Company Info

  • Lincoln Agritech Ltd is an independent research and development organisation, wholly owned by Lincoln University, with an independent Board of Directors.
  • Lincoln Agritech Ltd employs over 40 staff, including scientists, research engineers and software developers and is based on campus at Canterbury’s Lincoln University and at the Ruakura Research Campus in Hamilton.

For further information, please contact Peter Barrowclough, CEO (peter.barrowclough@lincolnagritech.co.nz), Kevin Hurren, Group Manager Business Development & Marketing (kevin.hurren@lincolnagritech.co.nz), or Dr Ian Woodhead, Chief Scientist (ian.woodhead@lincolnagritech.co.nz) or request by phone at +64 3 325 3700.