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Otago’s Agricultural expertise on display at Field Days

Friday, 31 March 2017 2:34pm

Otago's exhibit at the South Island Field Days in Kirwee this week, which includes Lab-in-a-Box.

Otago is this week showcasing its agricultural expertise at the South Island Agriculture Field Days at Kirwee near Christchurch with Lab-in-a-Box.

Despite an “incredibly muddy and wet” first day, the skies cleared on Thursday and Otago Research and Enterprise Business Support Coordinator Angela Hendry says the event is going really well, with Otago’s science-focussed display attracting even more attention than anticipated.

With more than 600 exhibitors across 1,000 sites, and more than 30,000 attendees including international investors, the event is a chance for Otago’s ‘Ag@Otago’ research theme to raise its profile – showcasing the University’s expertise within a sector not traditionally associated with Otago. The other university attending is Lincoln.

The South Island Field Days are a prelude to the massive National Field Days held at Mystery Creek, Hamilton in late June and, Mrs Hendry says, this week’s event provides an ideal opportunity to ensure the exhibits are effective and meet the objectives of attending.

“The University of Otago stand at Kirwee is focused on research commercialisation, collaboration and opportunity for investments as well as highlighting the educational opportunities within Agriculture to future domestic and international students.”

Mrs Hendry says visitors to the site have been surprised and interested in the level and diversity of agricultural research taking place at Otago.

What is Otago showcasing at Field Days?

Disease Research Ltd
Within Lab-in-a-Box is the work of Disease Research Ltd (DRL) – a University of Otago company commercialised through Otago Innovation. Otago’s DRL is a diagnostic facility for the national deer herd tuberculosis testing programme. It also provides testing services for Johne’s disease in deer, cattle, sheep as well as goats and alpaca. It also has a research programme to identify resilience to infection in domestic livestock.

Bovine Mastitis testing
Also on show is the work of Dr Olaf Bork of Pharmacy. He is working to develop and commercialise a point-of-care bovine mastitis diagnostic test which identifies the specific bacteria causing mastitis infection. Dr Bork had been funded through WNT Ventures which is a Technology Incubator licensed by Callaghan Innovation.

Flax seed uses
Further diversity in agriculture is evident in the display from the Department of Food Science. Their research in food product development is highlighted through displaying their work with English Flax seeds and the multiple functional uses identified.

Plant health tests
The Departments of Botany and Food Science have also collaborated to display the work of Dr David Burritt, whose work focuses on the measurement of a plant’s health through testing levels of photosynthetic performance. This assists those farming crops for animal feed purposes as well as those who are crop framers. It also has the aim of ensuring plant products get to market in peak condition.

Plant Genetics
Work in the Department of Biochemistry explores genes involved with the production of Vitamin C in apples, and bulbing characteristics in onions.

Future students
To ensure that future students are catered for, domestic and international prospectuses are available, plus information sheets on related subjects and disciplines. The Ag@Otago exhibits have been visited by many high school students with an interest in AgScience, and their teachers who have expressed enthusiasm for future educational opportunities available through Ag@Otago teaching programmes.

The University of Otago exhibit at Kirwee has also allowed Ag@Otago researchers to network with many agencies and experts involved with leading edge agricultural research throughout New Zealand.