Harnessing Technical and Commercial Synergies for Advancing the Expertise of Two
AgroFresh and Plant & Food Research two years ago established a formal Science, Technology and Business Co-operation Agreement as a way of harnessing the resources of both global organisations to achieve the best technical and commercial outcome for growers, storage room owners and marketers. It’s a partnership that combines this science expertise with the technical know-how of AgroFresh to develop new understanding of how fruit behaves in storage both with and without SmartFresh ™ as well as in the orchard with Harvista ™ . Nick Sanders, AgroFresh Commercial Regional Manager, ANZ, says the working relationship is about the transition of research to a live commercial environment. “Fundamental to this business agreement is tapping into the global capabilities of both Plant & Food Research and AgroFresh which now has close to 20 years commercial experience in post-harvest with its proprietary 1-MCP solutions across fruit, vegetables and floriculture.” Dr Hannah James has been managing AgroFresh’s ongoing research and development projects in the region for almost three years based outside of Melbourne. Prior to that she was in Washington State with AgroFresh for five years. Her work on postharvest research projects involved developing special recommendations for using SmartFresh technology with new varieties and guiding post-harvest decisions given seasonal variations are part of the mix. Relocating back to the region has allowed Hannah to bring with her the international hands on experience as well as her extensive network of contacts to help jump start local projects to achieve to commercial outcomes quickly.
Research and extension that is making a difference
A significant step forward this year has been Plant & Food Research’s appointment of a dedicated scientist available to work with AgroFresh and its New Zealand customers. This scientist is Dr Nicolette Niemann who, for going on 12 months, has been part of Plant & Food’s postharvest team based in Havelock North, headed by Dr Jason Johnston. She took up her position after almost 13 years at the University of Johannesburg. Nicolette works closely with Hannah in harnessing technical and commercial synergies of each organisation. Their key goal is presenting research findings in fruit storage and logistic practices that will work in a commercial setting across industries including but not limited to apples.
Nicolette is enjoying being part of two global teams, Plant & Food Research and AgroFresh, and involved in projects on the ground where the real difference can be made. “The majority of my work has involved analysing what influence fruit temperature and other environmental factors have on the atmosphere during a SmartFresh treatment and storage. This is educating us and cool store operators on how best to handle fruit.
“At Plant & Food Research we have a community of scientists, and in working with AgroFresh there is access to a global environment as there are research teams throughout the business. With operations in both the northern and southern hemispheres, they manage to fast track scientific projects. “The postharvest team at the Hawke’s Bay Research Centre, headed by Jason Johnston, includes my colleagues Matt Punter and Hannah Lloyd.”
Adding value in horticulture
Peter Landon-Lane, Plant & Food Research CEO: The relationship with AgroFresh has been transformational and has allowed for step changes in the postharvest quality management of fruit in New Zealand. Combining the knowledge that has developed through our partnership has allowed us to develop new methods for ensuring New Zealand retains its reputation for premium quality. We have also capitalised on the opportunity to investigate new areas of interest to both companies, such as understanding how new technologies and big data can be employed to manage and enhance the supply chain.
Jason Johnston, Plant & Food Research Science Group
Leader, Postharvest: Postharvest science is critical for ensuring the best fruit quality for export, and our collaboration with AgroFresh and developing technology pipeline adds new knowledge in this area. Building science understanding and capability in postharvest biology helps to provide best state of the art tools for keeping
New Zealand at the leading edge of horticulture. Jane Turner, AgroFresh Asia Pacific Marketing Lead: A primary focus since AgroFresh began has been the ongoing investment in R&D and in people who understand the customer’s business and can articulate technical solutions. We view our partnership with Plant & Food Research as helping to build these technical capabilities, where investment in people and the extension of their knowledge delivers real value behind the technology.
Members of Plant & Food Research’s postharvest team, L to R, Hannah Lloyd, Matt Punter, Nicolette Niemann and Jason Johnston (inset).