IRANZ members successful in 2021 Endeavour investment round

PlantTech Smart Idea

A PlantTech Smart Idea programme will develop a rapid, non-invasive, and robust monitoring system to reveal signs of plant stress within kiwifruit orchards. Image: PlantTech Research Institute.

The Government's Endeavour Fund plays a unique role in the science system through an open, contestable process with a focus on both research excellence and a broad range of impacts. The programme is highly competitive with only around 13% of submitted proposals successful. However, for proposals led by or involving IRANZ members the success rate for Endeavour Fund investment doubles.

A number of research proposals involving IRANZ members have been successful in the 2021 Endeavour investment round.

The Cawthron Institute will lead two major research programmes to advance open ocean aquaculture and transform freshwater fish management. The first Cawthron-led programme, Ngā Punga o Te Moana: Anchoring our Open Ocean Aquaculture Future, aims to deliver the knowledge and technology Aotearoa New Zealand needs to accelerate and scale-up its shellfish and seaweed open ocean aquaculture transformation. The programme will address social, environmental, and te ao Māori perspectives to ensure the widest social and environmental benefits to Aotearoa New Zealand from open ocean aquaculture. The second Cawthron-led research programme called Fish futures: Preparing for novel freshwater ecosystems is a five-year project that will address the increasing stress on Aotearoa New Zealand’s freshwater fish from pressures such as human activity, climate change, pollution, and threats from other species.

Lincoln Agritech will lead a collaboration to revolutionise the global fibre industry. The programme will involve a completely new, and environmentally low impact, approach to extracting cellulose from plants grown in Aotearoa New Zealand, such as harakeke, totara, and Pinus radiata to produce regenerated cellulose fibres for textile use. The cellulose will be used to produce regenerated fibres for textile use. The research will develop an environmentally superior alternative to current synthetic and cellulose fibres, well established as being of high environmental cost. There is also the potential that the research will develop a new industry exporting regenerated cellulose fibres derived from dedicated plantations and diverting current streams of lower value or waste cellulose material. The programme will foster developing high-end textiles made by New Zealand designers. The new industry will support regional economies which will produce and process the bioresource and manufacture the fibres. Lincoln Agritech is also subcontracted in to two other five-year Research Programmes with the University of Canterbury: A new electromagnetic imaging method for advanced food process optimisation, and Enabling unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to use tools in complex dynamic environments.

The PlantTech Research Institute will be leading an international research programme to develop science aimed at improving the yield and efficiency of cropping systems. The PlantTech Smart Idea will develop a 3D model of radiative transport to enable high-yield photosynthetically-efficient crop systems. The result will be a rapid, non-invasive, and robust monitoring system to reveal signs of plant stress within kiwifruit orchards. Monitoring will use an airborne hyperspectral imaging device to detect sun-induced fluorescence emitted by the vegetative canopy. The project will support increased horticultural production and resilience, with reduced environmental impact. In addition, PlantTech is a partner in the Scion-led collaborative Research Programme - Seeing the forest for the trees. PlantTech brings expertise in the analysis of hyperspectral imagery for the extraction of information on plant health and performance.

The New Zealand Institute of Minerals to Materials is involved in the governance of a successful University of Canterbury Smart Idea for the production of technology-critical, strategic metals using molten oxide electrolysis. Developing a new, carbon-free route to obtaining critical metals, such as tantalum and neodymium, will, with further innovation, be a means to achieving Aotearoa New Zealand’s low carbon goals; securing access to these metals has also been identified as essential for achieving equitable transition to low carbon goals by the International Energy Agency. Rare earth ores have been identified on the West Coast of the South Island, with work in progress by NZIMMR to quantify the chemistry, quality, and distribution of these potential deposits. In addition, NZMIRR researchers are also supporting another Smart Idea programme at the University of Canterbury to develop a redox flow battery. This research sits alongside active, closer-to-market activities that are led by NZIMMR.

Rounding up this September's success, the Xerra Earth Observation Institute is involved as a subcontractor on a University of Waikato Smart Idea - An ecosystem modelling platform to assist New Zealand lake management. The project will ensure that aquatic models are available for all Aotearoa New Zealand lakes by building an open-source platform for process-based aquatic models, using geospatial and observational input data. The research will enable better management of lakes by providing councils and iwi the tools needed to simulate pathways to aspirational water quality targets.

Date posted: 15 September 2021

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