Science Groups

We play a key role in delivering new knowledge and technologies which underpin New Zealand’s pastoral, agri-food and agri-technology value chains. Read more here about each of our scientific speciality areas.

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Animal Science

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Food & Bio-based Products

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Forage Science

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Farm Systems & Environment

Animal Science

What is the primary focus of the Animal Science Group? How does this impact AgResearch and the NZ economy?
The Animal Science Group conducts research into increasing profitability and sustainability of the New Zealand livestock industries. While our scientists regularly publish their findings in high-impact scientific journals, the output is designed to have a clear impact for our industry partners.

Describe a key project that your group is working on at the moment.
The Animal Science Group conducts research which aims to increase animal productivity while minimising inputs and harmful emissions. This includes the use of improved animal genetics, nutrition and non-chemical health options such as vaccines.

If you could describe the Animal Science Group what would you say?
The Animal Science Group is made up of seven science teams who study every aspect of livestock production. The science employees conduct high-quality research which is then extended to the farming industry through close collaboration with industry bodies and end-users.

How would you describe the Animal Science teams to prospective employees?
The Group comprises 125 permanent employees in seven science teams:

  • Animal Health
  • Genomics (including GenomNZ (a separate team), a certified gene-testing laboratory)
  • Nutrition & Physiology
  • Welfare & Behaviour
  • Reproduction
  • Rumen Microbiology

There is close collaboration between the teams and widely across AgResearch as well as with scientists nationally and internationally. Many of our scientists have high international profiles and are regularly invited to participate in joint research programs and conferences.

What career pathways are there within Animal Science?
Career pathways extend from Research Associate to Principal Scientist and include opportunities in project management, science management and employee management.

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Food & Bio-based Products

What is the primary focus of the Food and Bio-based Products Group? How does this impact AgResearch and the NZ Economy?
Our food and bio-based products research creates the knowledge and tools to develop high value foods, materials and ingredients from pastoral-based industries, tailored to market and consumer preferences for quality, performance, human health and well-being.

Our goal is to shift the balance of the New Zealand agricultural industry from a reliance on commodity products to an increasing proportion of added value products that directly meet consumer needs and capture value across the value chain.

Describe a key project that your group is working on at the moment.
One key area we are currently working on is to map and track molecular modification in milk (proteins and lipids) from the raw material on-farm through processing and food manufacture, to understand how to preserve natural health benefits in innovative dairy products for the consumer.

If you could describe the Food and Bio-based Products Group what would you say?
The Food & Bio-Based Products Group is a vibrant, dynamic community of scientists and technologists focused on science excellence balanced with the real-world impact of our research.

How would you describe the Food and Bio-based Products teams to prospective employees?
We have five integrated teams covering the areas of Dairy Foods, Meat Quality, High Value Co-Products, Functional Textiles, Food Nutrition and Health, and Food Safety, Assurance and Provenance. Key underpinning capabilities include advanced proteomics and metabolomics platforms.

What career pathways are there within Food and Bio-based Products?
The Food & Bio-Based Products Group is highly multi-disciplinary and comprises a broad range of technical and science roles, with a good opportunity to adapt and apply your skills across a range of exciting application areas.

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Forage Science

What is the primary focus of the Forage Science Group?
The Forage Science Group has the collective goal of increasing the resilience of pasture-based agriculture by improving the performance of forages within pastures. This is being achieved through the applications of genetics, investigation of management approaches, and the discovery of microbes for biocontrol of pasture pests.

Research activities are focused on delivery of impacts for the pastoral sector and fall into the following general areas:

  • Increasing genetic gain by integrating across genomics, genetics, phenomics and germplasm resources and focusing the forage improvement pipeline on pre-breeding/trait discovery, genomic selection and GM forages
  • Increasing our understanding of soil biological processes to develop new management practices and products to enhance pasture production and the nutrient and water use efficiency of forages
  • Investigating the biology of interactions between endophytes and their hosts to discover or to develop novel endophytic microbial species
  • Increasing our understanding of new and existing biosecurity threats (weeds, pests and diseases) to develop new or improved mitigation and management options and policy advice

Describe projects that your group is working on at the moment.
There are a wide range of research projects across the Forage Science Group. Some of the key deliverables from current research projects include:

  • Proof of concept that genomic selection increases the rate of genetic gain in ryegrass and white clover
  • Novel clover germplasm with improved phosphate-efficiency and drought tolerance from interspecific hybridisation
  • Automated phenotyping tools for estimating forage dry matter
  • Field validation, including animal performance, of a high energy trait in GM ryegrass
  • DNA-based toolbox developed to quantify soil biological function and assess soil health
  • New microbial products to increase efficiency of forage resource use
  • Expanded host range of Epichloё endophytes in the grass family

If you could describe the Forage Science Group what would you say?
Forage Science is a highly multidisciplinary group that brings together talented individuals to deliver research solutions in projects that often encompass employees from several teams and other disciplines. The science expertise across the Forage Science group includes plant breeding, genetics, genomics, molecular biology, plant science, ecology, microbiology, mycology, chemistry, toxicology, entomology, nematology, etc. Integrating research activities in cross-discipline projects provides effective synergies for rapid science advances.

How would you describe the Forage Science teams to prospective employees?
The Forage Science group currently comprises around 130 employees over six science teams:

  • The Forage Genetics Team are primarily involved in genetics and genomics of ryegrasses and white clovers with a key focus on establishing genomic selection in these species
  • The Plant Biotechnology Team are global leaders in developing high metabolisable energy (HME) forage using genetic modification to accumulate lipids
  • The Plant-Fungal Interactions Team have an international reputation for discovery of endophytes for forage production, especially Epichloë endophytes of grasses
  • The Soil Biology Team are involved in soil microbiome research, including the discovery of new microbes as bio-pesticides and improving the Rhizobium-clover symbiosis
  • The Plant Functional Biology Team host the Margot Forde Forage Germplasm Centre and are actively involved in pre-breeding, especially for phosphate efficiency and drought tolerance in clovers, as well as pasture ecology associated with climate change and weed ecology in pastures
  • The Biocontrol and Biosecurity Team investigate the efficiency of biocontrol agents against invertebrate pests in pastures, as well as assessment of biosecurity threats and exploring improved mitigation and management options for biosecurity

What career pathways are there within Forage Science?
Career pathways extend from laboratory and field technicians through to Research Associates, and from post-doctorate scientists through to Principal Scientist. Within these career paths there are opportunities to excel in science reputation, project management, science management and employee management.

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Farm Systems and Environment

What is the primary focus of the Farm Systems & Environment Group? How does this impact AgResearch and the NZ economy?
The Farm Systems & Environment Group is concerned with improving production systems through innovative research, and increased adoption and practice change, to create more profitable and sustainable farms and agribusiness. Collectively, our research provides the capacity to understand complex interconnected agricultural issues concerning the economy and the environment, of interest to both the industry and the public.

Describe a key project that your group is working on at the moment.
Phase 1 of the project “Next Generation Systems: opportunities to change the face of primary production”, which is in Theme 1 of the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, has recently been completed. The project, led by Dr Robyn Dynes, involves a team from AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Scion, Landcare Research and Lincoln University, and has two threads. Firstly, there is a focus on building relationships with farming businesses which are considering investment in transformational change or are at the leading edge of system optimisation. Secondly, the researchers have developed a multi-criteria decision making framework to evaluate next generation systems for primary production land use. Phase 2 of the programme, will see the research team working with the partners to provide science that supports their innovation and investment in new systems which increase value and the ability to farm within environmental limits.

If you could describe the Farm Systems & Environment Group what would you say?
This is a multidisciplinary Group comprised of component environmental scientists, social scientists, farm systems specialists and modellers. Together they have the ability to tackle a wide range of research challenges and to integrate specialist research in the context of the farm system and product value chain.  The Group’s research helps industry to enhance its competitive edge and maintain its “licence to operate” in an increasingly environmentally conscious world.

How would you describe the Farm Systems & Environment teams to prospective employees?
The Group comprises of around 85 employees over five science teams.  Our environmental science teams focus on reduced environmental footprint and mitigation options, and increased resilience and adaptation to climate change. Our social science team focuses on increasing adoption & practice change and informing policies & industry strategies. Our farm systems team combines component science to increase productivity and profitability while reducing environmental footprint, and the work of the Group is supported by our team of modellers with expertise in both farm systems and maths modelling.

What career pathways are there within Farm Systems & Environment?
Career pathways extend from Research Associate to Principal Scientist and include opportunities in project management, science management and employee management.

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