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Otago appoints inaugural Professor of Agricultural Innovation

Wednesday 5 May 2021 10:08am

The University of Otago has appointed Dr Craig Bunt (Te Ātiawa) as the inaugural Professor of Otago’s Agricultural Innovation programme which commenced in 2019.

Craig Bunt image
Inaugural Professor of Agricultural Innovation, Dr Craig Bunt.

Currently an Associate Professor in Animal Science at Lincoln University, Dr Bunt’s leading scientific contributions span veterinary pharmaceutics, food science and environmental management tools.

His appointment reflects a 25-year journey which began with undergraduate and Doctoral studies through Otago’s School of Pharmacy, and continued through work in industry, the Crown Research Institute AgResearch, and academia.

“While studying at Otago I was a pharmaceutics student working on single dose vaccines for animals, so right from the start I was an agriculture student, even if it wasn’t recognised that way,” Dr Bunt says.

“I’m just one example highlighting how Otago has been involved in agricultural research for some time, but all this work now has a home through the Ag@Otago Research Theme and Agricultural Innovation programme which is fantastic.”

University of Otago Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson says it’s wonderful to be welcoming Dr Bunt back to Otago to take up this important inaugural position.

“Having started his career as a student at Otago, it’s an absolute privilege to have Dr Bunt return here to lead and bring his expertise to the Agricultural Innovation programme,” Professor Nicholson says.

Agricultural Innovation, a major within Applied Sciences, commenced in 2019 in response to the changing agricultural industry. It is designed to focus students’ learning on the major issues and innovative solutions required to support the future of the industry, as well as developing leaders to drive it forward.

“As agriculture is such a huge industry for New Zealand, students from any discipline can learn from and about the industry and apply their area of expertise and interest for the benefit of agriculture,” Dr Bunt says.

The Agricultural Innovation major will collaborate with industry to develop innovative solutions for challenges it is facing, but also provide more ethical and sustainable innovations that are applicable to the industry’s outputs and their distribution, he says.

“I’m looking forward to contributing to the programme’s initiative to develop agriculture research opportunities and teaching alongside my continuing research on agricultural formulations.”

Dr Bunt’s research interests reflect a multi-disciplinary approach and focus on veterinary, agricultural and natural products formulations, which includes leading the Ag/Vet Controlled Release Laboratory based at Lincoln.

The work of his research group has produced unique transformational discoveries and technologies, including the development of a grass grub control granule, and a wildlife control bait which to date has been used in Australia to control feral pigs, and is especially important as an alternative tool to 1080.

Dr Bunt’s innovations have also led to one new FDA approved veterinary pharmaceutical (CIDRÔ) and three agricultural products (BioShieldÔ, HogGone® and Bait-Rite Paste®) that improves food safety and sustainability by better management of environmental pests, livestock, and pasture.

Dr Bunt’s return to Otago will also bring him closer to colleagues including Associate Professor Greg Walker who is a co-Principal Investigator on a recently funded MBIE Smart Ideas project on multifunctional nano-coatings for sustainable agricultural applications.

“We are working on a new sustainable biodegradable coating for agricultural products such as fertiliser and seeds that has the potential to enable greater efficiency and sustainability in their delivery and use.”

Professor Richard Barker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Sciences, says he is delighted that the University has been able to recruit a candidate of the calibre of Dr Bunt with a background that fits perfectly with Otago’s points of difference with the new programme.

“Agriculture remains a vital part of the economy of Aotearoa / New Zealand and the science focus that Otago brings to national problems around health, wellbeing and sustainability positions us to make a major contribution to agricultural innovation in the 21st century,” Professor Barker says. “I very much look forward to developing our kaupapa in this area with Dr Bunt.”

Dr Bunt will be based in the Department of Food Science and will commence his role in September this year.

For more information, contact:

Professor Craig Bunt
Lincoln University
Email crbenz@gmail.com

Guy Frederick
Communications Adviser (Sciences)
Division of External Engagement
Mob +64 21 279 7688
Email guy.frederick@otago.ac.nz