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National Science Challenges are the new black

2 May 2013

National Science Challenges are the new black

Federated Farmers is delighted that New Zealand’s primary industries are well represented in New Zealand’s fiscally upsized National Science Challenges, announced yesterday by Prime Minister John Key and the Minister for Science and Innovation, the Hon Steven Joyce.

“This is significant because we hear talk of creating a technological future and the National Science Challenges are about inspiring this to happen,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“Significantly, the Government has increased its funding by $73.5 million taking the investment to $133.5 million. In an age of constrained spending this deserves praise for its foresight.

“When taken in conjunction with AgResearch’s major investment announcement earlier this week, the National Science Challenges are another tool to break down institutional barriers and foster scientific collaboration and endeavour.

“The most important challenge for our society is to transform the mind-set of students when it comes to scientific courses and careers. I count the primary industries among the sciences too.

“This challenge has been recognised by the panel. So if school students are mapping their future for a fulsome and rewarding career, here it is.

“It is also a space where companies and organisations need to step up.

“Speaking personally, this is what my brother John and I did earlier this year in launching the Woodhouse Scholars Programme for students in the biosciences. A programme we launched in the presence of the Governor-General, His Excellency, Lt Gen Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

“Companies involved with biotechnology and farming, like ours, must inspire excellence and enterprise among young people. We need to show younger New Zealanders what is possible to fire their imagination.

“To Federated Farmers, science and farming are the most creative areas we have because it is about the present and a boundless future.

“Of the ten National Science Challenges, the primary industries feature in the following:
High value nutrition – developing high value foods with validated health benefits. These unlock value-add and multiply returns manifold over products as raw commodities.
New Zealand’s biological heritage – protecting and managing our biodiversity, improving our biosecurity, and enhancing our resilience to harmful organisms. Vital as a shield against damage from invasive pests.
Our land and water – Research to enhance primary sector production and productivity while maintaining and improving our land and water quality for future generations. This is a major breakthrough for the primary industries as it is about resource use efficiency that will greatly aid in increasing production but off a smaller environmental footprint. We are proud of the fact that Federated Farmers was one of the key supporters for this challenge.
Life in a changing ocean – understanding how we can exploit our marine resources within environmental and biological constraints. We imagine that for our colleagues in fisheries and aquaculture this will be significant.
The deep south – understanding the role of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean in determining our climate and our future environment. Given the effect Antarctica and the Southern Ocean has upon our climate this is significant for the primary industries. The 2013 drought being an obvious example.
Science for technological innovation – enhancing the capacity of New Zealand to use physical and engineering sciences for economic growth. This is again pertinent to the primary industries as it will help us to maintain our growth in labour productivity. Elements such as robotics will be the next significant breakthrough with many applications in the primary industries.
Resilience to nature’s challenges – research into enhancing our resilience to natural disasters. This is something farmers are all-too aware of given New Zealand’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The more tools we have, which enable us to regain production or keep producing, will be important in ensuring economic and social stability.

“Given the Primary Industries also boast the collaborative Primary Growth Partnership as well as the Sustainable Farming Fund, there is a sense we are finally lining up our policy ducks to accomplish something remarkable,” Dr Rolleston concluded.


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