Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Massey secures grant for primary sector research

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Massey University researchers have scooped the jackpot on the latest Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund grants to further research in the primary sector.
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Massey University researchers have scooped the jackpot on the latest Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund grants to further research in the primary sector.

Over $12 million has been granted to the university’s researchers to cover areas as diverse as biodegradable packaging, to technology for mapping subsurface features.

The lion’s share of the funding has gone to one major project that aims to develop compostable Smart BioPlastic food packaging for primary sector products. The project received $9.2m over five years.

Headed up by Professor Nigel French of Massey’s veterinary science department and AgResearch scientist Dr Eric Altermann, the project encompasses a number of disciplines and interests, including Scion, Oregon State University and Precisions Protein Delivery Solutions of the United States.

The project aims to capture the economic, environmental and health benefits that come from using a non-hydrocarbon-based packaging material from a variety of sources, including wood chips, chitosan obtained from shellfish shells and pomace sourced from pressed fruit and produce.

Altermann says the team hoped to enhance NZ’s exports by increasing the shelf life, while creating a new class of globally-relevant food packaging materials.

“This will reduce waste by creating a new high-value use for low-value secondary streams from primary industry,” Altermann said.

Three other projects have collectively been granted $3m, including work headed by Associate Professor Paul Dijkwel.

His work has discovered a trait in the legume medicago enables the plant to disrupt a nitrogen fixation inhibition process that takes place when fertiliser usually inhibits clover’s ability to fix nitrogen, reducing its natural legume benefit.

Transferring this trait to ordinary white clover would significantly reduce fertiliser use, given clover requires less fertiliser and could continue to fix nitrogen naturally while fertiliser is being applied.

Funding for a ground-penetrating radar that has application in archaeology, agriculture and civil engineering aims to develop a cost-effective tool capable of mapping subsurface features.

A third project aims to work alongside iwi to map and categorise over 12 million biota specimens collected in NZ and Antarctica for the past 250 years.

Of the 547 proposals received to the Endeavour Fund, only 69 received a grant.

Massey University Provost Professor Giselle Byrnes says the projects are testament to the excellence of Massey research teams and partnering with others was an excellent way to contribute the best of research skills.

The Endeavour Fund is designed to encourage researchers to rapidly develop and test promising research ideas that can deliver a high benefit to NZ, with input across a diverse range of science disciplines. The total funds allocated for 2021 were almost $250m.

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