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New Zealand agricultural biotech sector on show

New Zealand agricultural biotechnology sector on show

New Zealand and Australia are at the crest of a wave – turning our agricultural successes into biotechnology dollars, according to Andrew Kelly, a venture capitalist, and participant in the New Zealand delegation attending the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) in Melbourne from 6 to 9 August.

“There are a phenomenal range of young companies developing new foods and medicines, and improving farming,” says Kelly who manages BioPacific Ventures, a $100 million venture capital fund specialising in agricultural biotechnology.

"The challenge for New Zealand is to bring these clever ideas to global markets. And that's why it's the right time for our region to host ABIC," Kelly says. "We can create opportunities to bring new products to market both through our traditional agricultural customers around the world and also through innovative new players emerging in the global food product markets."

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is leading a delegation of more 20 companies at the conference. Around 500 delegates from agricultural biotechnology organisations around the world will attend ABIC.

NZTE biotechnology sector director Chris Boalch says the conference is an important opportunity to showcase the region’s strengths.

“New Zealand has one of the world’s fastest growing biotechnology sectors, and together our country and Australia account for 5th largest biotech hub in the world. There is already strong industry and research collaboration between our two countries, creating a regional critical mass that gives our companies better access to global market opportunities.

Some highlights from the New Zealand delegation to ABIC include:

- From cricket bats to biofuels and plastics – BioJoule is developing willow trees as a source of ethanol and feedstuffs for manufacturing. They say the fast-growing trees can be grown on marginal land.

- Cellsense - a unique milk quality monitor developed by Sensortec Ltd, that checks each cow’s milk while it’s being milked.

- Wool proteins to repair bones: Wellington-based Keratec is working with an Australian company, Australian Biotechnologies, to commercialise its patented bone graft technology using Functionalised Keratin, a structural protein extracted from wool. Among the applications for the technology are bone graft and fixation devices, wound dressings, adhesives, bioplastics and fibres.

- Grasses ain’t grasses – New Zealanders know how to grow grass. Now they and their Australian colleagues are growing a wide range of custom grasses – some are easier to digest and result in less farts (and therefore less methane) from sheep and cattle; some are engineered to reduce allergies, some taste so bad that they could scare birds away from airports.

- Omega 3 from kiwifruit: Vital Foods is producing an Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acid dietary supplement from kiwifruit seeds. The company also sells a digestion remedy based on an enzyme complex extracted from kiwifruit pulp.

- Fuel-efficient cows: a $1 million trans-Tasman investment in research for more milk and less methane is helping the Livestock Improvement Corporation create genetic tests to identify cows able to produce more milk with less (grass) fuel.

Other NZ organisations at ABIC include: Abacus Bio Ltd; Agmax Industries Ltd; Agriquality; Ag Research Ltd; BioPacific Ventures; Crop and Food Research Ltd; Encoate Ltd; Genesis Research Ltd; GroChem Ltd; Hill Laboratories Ltd; HortResearch Ltd; ICP Bio Ltd; Keratec Ltd; Livestock Improvement Corporation; NZ Bio Inc; Ovita Ltd; PGG Wrightson Ltd; PhytaGro Ltd; Scion Ltd; Sensortec; Staron; Vialactia - Pastoral Genomics; Waikatolink.


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