It has been a defining year for Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) and for AgResearch in particular. Inherently, it has been a year of change for the organisation and the science sector in New Zealand. For AgResearch, the focus has very much been on building a sustainable business that will better serve the pastoral sector. With the implementation of the CRI Taskforce recommendations, decisions affecting the wider AgResearch environment are proving significant.
Coming as it did, off a sub-optimal performance the previous year, AgResearch sought to find new and better ways of achieving solutions for the pastoral sector. Still work in progress, we are determined to do better in the coming financial year. Although the proposed merger with Lincoln University did not proceed, it has led to a raft of partnership initiatives that are producing results. These include dairy research, bio-protection, nitrous oxide research and postgraduate supervision.
Refocusing the business to meet current and future needs regrettably led to a number of redundancies, decisions that are never easy among such close knit and dedicated groups. These changes were exacerbated by the disappointing rejection of the wool levy by farmers and consequently further reduction in research income. The uncertainty created for individual staff during this period lasted longer than anyone would have wished.
AgResearch has welcomed and is embracing with enthusiasm the reforms emanating from the very timely review of CRIs. We take the challenges seriously, and are committed to ensuring that this Institute plays its full role in successfully implementing the required changes. AgResearch fully supports the call for better collaboration and linkages across science providers. Realistically, village-New Zealand has a relatively modest income, and I'm confident that the collaborative formula that has proved its value for many of New Zealand's sporting endeavours will do so in the fields of science, technology and extension. AgResearch's current collaborative efforts encompass the:
- Hopkirk Research Institute (animal health)
- Riddet Institute (scientific research into foods and human nutrition)
- Liggins Institute (animal and human epigenetics)
- Bio-Protection Research Centre (plant protection)
- Massey and Lincoln Universities (several initiatives including Adjunct Professors)
- Centre for Reproduction and Genomics (with the University of Otago)
- National Centre for Biosecurity and Infectious Diseases
- The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre
AgResearch has been a key part of the Pastoral 21 programme which includes Fonterra, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand (formerly Meat & Wool New Zealand) specifically in the environment and forage areas. AgResearch remains committed to Ovita (with Beef + Lamb New Zealand) and to many Consortia, including Pastoral Genomics, Pastoral Greenhouse Gas, Meat Biologics and Johne's Disease Research each with multiple membership.
One of the many highlights of the past year has been AgResearch's continuing investment and commitment to working with the dairy industry through the establishment of the Tokanui Dairy Research Farm. Tokanui has enhanced our dairy research capability and helped broaden and deepen our industry relationships, especially with Fonterra and DairyNZ.
The vision, vibrancy and real achievements of the Institute are in the laboratories and on our farms and campuses around the country where staff work. A small sample of this work features in this report. The scope of course is much wider, and on behalf of the Board I want to thank all our staff for their tremendous efforts over the past year. I especially want to thank Dr Andrew West, who resigned on 30 June after six fully committed years as AgResearch Chief Executive. We wish Andy and Janine all the best in the future. On 15 September, the new Chief Executive, Dr Tom Richardson, comes on board.
Finally, I would like to thank my fellow Directors for their contributions and unwavering commitment to AgResearch. This has been a demanding year, and each has played a significant part.