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NZ’s innovations that have made an impact

Some of New Zealand’s smartest minds and innovations are going to be recognised and showcased in an annual awards event to be held in August.

The awards are designed to celebrate impact from science through successful research commercialisation within New Zealand’s universities, Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations.

A recent report describes some of the finalists in the said event.

Making buildings quake-safe

Auckland scientists have designed a system that allows a building to withstand a large earthquake and its aftershocks, without any repairs needed afterward.

Traditional seismic systems often require costly repairs and maintenance or even complete replacement following a seismic event – in some cases leaving the structure at risk for aftershocks whilst awaiting maintenance.

Tectonus, on the other hand, is built for lasting protection.

It can fit into any structure, whether new or already existing. It acts like a spring as it absorbs the earthquake forces, with the added advantage of self-centring.

After each earthquake or aftershock, the system will both self-centre itself as well as the structure following the shaking.

As reported, it was basically designed to dissipate the force of an earthquake and limit the damage to the building, and to self-centre the building following a seismic event, allowing for rapid re-occupancy post-event.

It’s been tested in full-scale demonstrations, and has already been fitted in the new Nelson Airport Terminal, with more installations here and overseas to follow.

Earthquakes pose a great threat to social and economic welfare, costing society at every event.

For the shaky isles of New Zealand, this technology is a crucial step in reducing the need and associated costs for post-quake repairs for socially critical buildings.

The system was pioneered by Professors from University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology, with backing from commercial arms.

Robot expert recognised

One of New Zealand’s foremost experts in robotics, Professor Bruce MacDonald of the University of Auckland, is nominated for his work here and overseas.

An early enduring fascination with science fiction as a child led him to dedicate his life to building robots that will help people.

Some of his works include robotics, sensors and automation. He was responsible for founding the University’s Centre for Automation and Robotic Engineering Science.

Through the Centre, he had reportedly led and launched substantial AgriTech research programmes with industry partners and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

An example of which is the he Autonomous Multipurpose Mobile Platform. This is a robot capable of picking and pollinating kiwifruit and flowers.

He and his team are currently collaborating to develop assistive robotics technology in the aged-care sector with colleagues in the health sciences and end-user partners.

They have overseen the use of helper bots in rest homes, where they can measure the heart rates, blood pressures and temperatures of residents.

Fruit tech makes the grade

Ensuring that fresh produce looks and tastes good is the key to the horticulture industry maintaining a supply of premium produce.

Efficient sorting of fruit allows marketers of fruit and vegetables to grade produce effectively and efficiently, guaranteeing that consumers will not be disappointed by the quality of their food.

A company responsible for technology in the produce industry have revolutionised the sorting of fruit and vegetables.

This enables the fresh produce industries to meet customer expectation for consistent blemish-free produce.

The Spectrim system is an optical and visual sorting platform.

Meanwhile, Inspectra uses near-infrared light to determine the internal characteristics of produce to enable efficient, automatic grading.

It could pick up defects in 10 to 15 fruit per second as it moves along the grader.

Both innovations have allowed marketers to reduce manual handling of fruit and vegetables, while increasing the volume of produce graded as premium.

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