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AgriQuality to Invest $7 Million in Automation

Monday 4 April 2005

AgriQuality to Invest $7 Million in Australasian Laboratory Automation

AgriQuality announced today that it would invest $7 million in the automation of its Microbiology laboratories in Auckland and Melbourne. This is the first automation project of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Europe's leading supplier of automated laboratory systems - Kiestra - has been selected to install the plants in Auckland in May and in Melbourne later in the year.

Announcing the decision today, Chair of AgriQuality, Sue Suckling, said "with our latest investment, AgriQuality's microbiology services will be unrivalled in the Australasian market."

This new investment is the latest step in AgriQuality's development programme for its seven trans-Tasman laboratories. It follows a $6 million investment in 2003, in a custom built laboratory that specializes in detecting extremely low-levels of herbicides, pesticides, veterinary medicines and environmental contaminants. AgriQuality has also made significant investment in technology to provide customers with real time, online access to laboratory results, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

"Our state of the art laboratory in Wellington already places us at the top of the food and environmental residues testing field. Our scientists there drive technology that enables them to detect contaminants, like dioxins, at levels previously considered impossible - one part per quadrillion" John Morgan, AgriQuality's Chief Executive Officer, said today.

Kiestra is an integrated laboratory automation system that relieves scientists of much of the mundane handling of microbiology testing. While traditional testing methodology remains the same, automatically calibrated machinery is used to consistently and aseptically prepare and process test plates. It frees up scientists to interpret results and carry out specialized analyses. Many of the opportunities for inconsistencies, contamination and human error in testing are significantly reduced.

"Increased capacity is one of the key benefits our customers will welcome," says Mr Morgan. "The investment will enable us to treble our throughput and guarantee our customers enhanced turn around times for results. We will be able to relieve many of our food processing customers of the costly burden of carrying out microbiology testing in house."

"When installation is complete, the automated system will offer the added benefit of enabling customers to download photographic images of their test plates. These photos will be stored electronically to provide an entirely traceable and permanent record of their results. Customers will literally be able to go online and see how their bacteria have grown," Morgan says.

Installation of the leading European automation system in Auckland is expected to take 72 hours. Customers will experience no interruption to services, as the systems will be installed alongside AgriQuality's existing microbiology facilities, which will be retained for backup purposes.


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