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New Zealand’s New Research Centre to Drive Agritech

It’s a notable alliance of the best expertise academe can offer with a globally-trusted name in research. A new partnership between Massey University and NZ Product Accelerator is expected to lead the way in technology and innovation, supporting companies and research.

Specifically, the university’s AgriFood Digital Lab is partnering with NZ Product Accelerator to form a new centre in Palmerston North. The collaboration should move the needle in technological advances to benefit the private sector and New Zealand as a whole. The new research centre shall be led by Professor Johan Potgieter at Massey University.

We see this hub as a natural extension of the [lab’s] capability and an opportunity for Massey to lead the way in areas such as sensing and automation, for which Johan is so well known. 

– Professor Andrew East, Director, Massey’s AgriFood Digital Lab

To date, Massey’s agriculture programme is the highest-ranked in New Zealand; its veterinary school is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and recognised by Canada, Australia and Great Britain. In short, its standard of academic excellence is well above par.

For its part, NZ Product Accelerator is a government-funded programme that uses New Zealand’s own brand of business for helping companies accelerate product development. In essence, it’s an incubator programme made up of top experts in technology to equip startups and businesses in their drive to achieve success.

Both institutions have been working hand in hand in research for some time now. Since, the Product Accelerator was formed in 2013 with $12.8 million funding under the Ministry for Building, Innovation and Employment’s enabling technology platform, it has worked with Massey University in various programmes.

Massey’s AgriFood Digital Lab is an industry-focused research centre, with work that includes horticulture, precision agriculture, robotics, advanced materials, sports analytics and biotechnology. Its focus is to develop agritech solutions to solve industry challenges.

Indeed, common interest in advanced technologies unite the new research group. That includes:

  • Electronics
  • Robotics
  • Information technology
  • Computer science
  • Data science
  • 3D printing
  • Coding
  • Industrial design

Such developments are welcomed by industry experts. For example, the lab’s director, Professor Andrew East, was delighted the university was partnering with the Product Accelerator.

For his part, Potgieter, the research centre leader who is a robotics professor at the university, said they had created a centre for some of the most outstanding innovations (e.g., robotics and 3D printing) supporting the new Product Accelerator agritech hub.

The aggressive focus on Research and Development (R&D) should trickle down to the industry. The new research hub, located within “The Engine” on the AgResearch campus in Palmerston North, will support companies and research to accelerate commercial opportunities into local and international markets.

The sentiment has been echoed by Associate Professor Mark Jones, Product Accelerator Co-director. He detailed that they are maximising on a pull-science model of assisting New Zealand companies with technology solutions. To do this, they are tapping into the collective capability in their network and across the New Zealand R&D community.

No doubt, NZ Product Accelerator is cutting-edge. Via this new research centre, it should be able to provide the “missing science” in the field of agriculture technology. It had done so before in new product development, problem-solving, and embedding technology innovation for countless New Zealand companies.

Collaboration has always been central to New Zealand’s approach to technology and innovation. Its road map to digital transformation leaves such a collaborative imprint. As reported on OpenGov Asia, Wellington is letting all stakeholders participate in its technology road map creation.

It must be the secret sauce to Aoteroa’s digital success. Its FinTech industry, for instance, is enjoying a great ride growing in size like never before.

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