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NZ agri-food research falling behind

NZ agri-food research falling behind

Countries like Canada are stealing a march on New Zealand in the research and development required to tap the huge export potential of the agri-food industries, says Professor Paul Moughan.

Professor Moughan, a nutritionist and Co-director of the Riddet Centre, recently returned from the Univesity of Saskatchewan where he is an adviser to a major R&D project investigating the absorption and metabolism of the amino acid methionine from foods and feedstuffs.

He describes the Saskatchewan facilities as world-class, boasting what is arguably North America’s most successful university-based science parks and one of the world’s most advanced synchrotrons, a giant microscope.
“Saskatchewan’s economy, like New Zealand’s, is dependent upon agriculture. At the University agri-foods holds pride of place, with very impressive up-to-the-minute facilities.

“The Canadian Government recognises the need for ever-greater innovation in agriculture and added-value food development and is investing heavily,” says Professor Moughan.

“They are also attracting the best and brightest research scientists from throughout the world. They want to move away from commodity trading, to the production of high profit margin novel foods and food ingredients.”

Similar messages have been preached in New Zealand for more than a decade but Professor Moughan says the difference is that Canada is walking the talk.

“New Zealand can do just as well as Canada but we need to get moving in promoting innovation as a business concept and in investing in targeted R&D or we will completely miss our chance.”

He hopes the current deliberations of the NZ Trade and Enterprise Food and Beverage Task Force, which has been proactive in addressing this issue, will provide the “much-needed catalyst”.

Professor Moughan’s formal appointment to the five-year project furthers his linkages with Canadian science. He is also a member of the College of Reviewers for Canadian Research chairs and was recently appointed an Honorary Fellow at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

The Riddet Centre is a Massey-led partnership including Auckland and Otago Universities involving advanced scientific studies in food and beverage development.

ENDS

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