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Unique industry collaboration drives establishment of new high-tech research institute in the Bay
31 July 2017
Unique industry collaboration drives establishment of new high-tech research institute in the Bay
By now you’ll probably have heard that the government recently approved our proposal for a new regional research institute to be based in the Western Bay sub-region. This is an absolute game changer for the Bay of Plenty and, now that the project has been publicly approved, we can talk a little more on what it’s all about.
Firstly, some of the basics: the regional research institute has been tentatively named Plantech; the funding is worth $8.4 million; and we hope to have initial appointments made by the end of 2017.  The reason we applied for funding for this project is two-fold. Firstly, food sources for the world will drastically change over the next few decades and it’s really important that we ensure that one of our key primary industries is able to adapt to take advantage of this.
Also, we need to improve the ability for small / medium sized local innovators to gain access to world-class research and expertise so that they can accelerate their businesses.  Plantech will take a consortium approach – we’ve put the proposal together with a core group of eight local companies alongside Priority One and the University of Waikato.  The consortium approach is really important  to us. We want to ensure that the research and science activity undertaken will be closely aligned with what the industry wants, which will make it more likely to be adopted and put into use quickly. Our consortium partners are  Bluelab, Cucumber, GPS-It, Eurofins, Plus Group Horticulture, Trimax Mowing Systems, Waka Digital and Zespri International. We expect to add further partners over the course of time.
In terms of what Plantech will actually do, we expect the main areas of research to be around:
  • The collection of data in horticultural systems and how this can be easily used;
  • Use of autonomous devices in growing systems; and
  • Point of use decision support – equipping people in the field with the right information.
So now the real work starts. We need to put together the company, hire a board and staff, and set ourselves up for a long future.
It’s been a long road to gaining approval for this project, which has been led by Shane Stuart, joint innovation manager for Priority One and University of Waikato. I would like to acknowledge Shane’s hard work, dedication and technical understanding in bringing this together. Also, it’s been hugely heartening to see such great input from our member companies throughout the process – we’ve certainly started the way we want to finish.
This is a big step towards what will be a shift of the region to be more of a knowledge-led economy in the future, with Plantech forming an integral part of one of our innovation pillars in the region. Importantly, it will also provide us with global opportunities through exports of our technologies and services, as well as opportunities for strategic alliances.
We’ll be sure to keep you updated with developments in the future.
Nigel Tutt
Chief Executive
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