Invermay future secure: AgResearch confirms design phase

Invermay’s future is secure for South Island sheep, beef and deer research, it has been announced today. Deer research is to be retained and expanded at the AgResearch research hub, University of Otago genomics researchers will be moving to co-locate at the campus and there are more plans for sheep and dairy research at the regional research hub. 

AgResearch is commencing  the design phase of the $100 million investment to revitalise its capabilities and resources and deliver better science to New Zealand.

Research partners and major funders have confirmed their support for the thrust of plans to reconfigure AgResearch around four science and innovation hubs, which will generate better returns to New Zealand.

The plans have been enhanced over several months of stakeholder consultation, with the most significant changes relating to the Invermay campus, which will see the retention of three researchers, and the creation of two new science roles.

These changes will see AgResearch increase the number of staff at its Invermay campus from a projected 26 by 2017 in its original business case, to a projected 38 in the current plan.

Furthermore the University of Otago have confirmed they will be co-locating between five and 10 of their Otago genomics staff and sequencing equipment with AgResearch at the Invermay campus. Both organisations are also exploring further opportunities to share infrastructure on a temporary or permanent basis.

“We warmly welcome the co-location of scientists from the University of Otago to work alongside our staff at Invermay. We look forward to working further with them, and other organisations, to explore opportunities to co-locate more staff at Invermay, which will undoubtedly add to the long-term vibrancy of the campus,” says AgResearch chief executive, Dr Tom Richardson.

Assistant deputy vice-chancellor (research and enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie says, “The move of our Otago genomics capability to Invermay is a great opportunity to have closer alignment of staff involved in genomics from both organisations working alongside each other. We are keen to identify further opportunities for University of Otago and AgResearch to work collaboratively.”

Dr Richardson says that retaining the Invermay farm will also help secure its future as a world-class science facility. The plan now retains the farm, deer system scientists, the 900-strong deer herd and will also become home to the recorded sheep flocks currently at Woodlands, near Invercargill.

“It was always intended that the Invermay campus be retained as a hub for regional farm systems and environmental research. The changes we have made to the plan will enhance that role. Furthermore, as a stakeholder driven organisation we are always responsive to new opportunities which may further influence our future plans.

“It is important to note the implementation of the proposal is still three years away and it is flexible enough to accommodate any further changes the agricultural industry and stakeholders may require over that time. We remain open to further opportunities with strategic partners to co-invest in the Invermay campus,” he says.

As well as securing the future of the Invermay farm for South Island beef, sheep and deer research, AgResearch has also decided to retain Ballantrae farm to support research needs of North Island hill country farmers.

“Farmers in Otago and Southland will hopefully be pleased that in addition to retaining Invermay as a hill country research farm, we will be retaining the deer researchers and the deer herd at Invermay,” says Dr Richardson.

“In addition we have agreed to explore partnerships with the dairy industry and the Trust responsible for the Southland Demonstration Farm in the establishment of a new dairy research farm.

AgResearch will also be establishing an animal productivity relationship management role at Invermay with the responsibility to maintain the relationships with Otago and Southland animal science collaborators and farmers.

Dr Richardson says AgResearch’s future depends on retaining as many of our people as possible, and having an organisation to which future scientists are attracted.

“Not only will this be good for science productivity, but through the hubs we will have a unique opportunity to interact with tertiary students and have a better connection with the businesses associated with our sector.

“One of our most evident risks is losing current staff, but in terms of change management programmes this is an almost unprecedented period – years, rather than weeks or months – for staff to work through the best outcomes for themselves and their families, and where possible for us to accommodate their personal circumstances.

“We will do everything we can to maximise the retention of staff with a comprehensive support package for them and their families that goes beyond the bounds of our existing relocation policy. Our staff will have the equivalent of two years’ salary guaranteed from the time they relocate.

“We are very positive about the future of Invermay, and we’re looking forward to working with its regional stakeholders to ensure the future growth and vibrancy of the campus,” says Dr Richardson.

Material supplied by AgResearch.

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