2019 sustainable agriculture & viticulture mission to France: scientist interviews

France and New Zealand share common academic and research interests, which are developed through researcher mobility and exchanges, co-publications, common projects and partnerships.

In October 2019, eight NZ scientists travelled to France to further this scientific cooperation, especially in sustainable agriculture and viticulture.

Here is the first part of interviews and feedbacks from this experience.
(The second part will be release in two weeks...)

Nicholas Dickinson - Ecologist and soil scientist / Phytoremediation

Nicholas Dickinson

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Biography

I am an ecologist and soil scientist, recognised internationally for my research in phytoremediation: the use of plants to clean-up and improve the environment. My career history in East Africa, UK and New Zealand has taken me along a parallel pathway to my colleague in Nancy, Bordeaux and Nantes, focussing on soil quality and soil health in agricultural and other human-modified landscapes.

Interview

Could you please introduce yourself and your field of work?

My interested are in agroecology, specifically concerned with introducing more biodiversity into agricultural systems and improving soil health.

Did you already have any professional links with France before the mission you took part in?

I have no active research or teaching projects, but I have a long-standing professional knowledge of the groups I visited.

What was the mission about?

Urban agriculture and soil quality: ensuring that food production in cities takes place on safe and healthy land.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

This collaboration between France and NewZealand is potentially very valuable, because it will become necessary to produce more food and manage wastes better in urban areas. The two countries provide a contrast between land that has a long history of previous use and development, and land that has only a recent history of development. We have much to learn from each other about soil management and use.

Nathan Tomer - Research Technologist working at Plant and Food Research

Nathan Tomer

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Biography

I completed my undergraduate studies at Drake University, in Iowa, majoring in Math, Physics and Computer science. Continuing on with postgraduate studies I completed a masters in computer science at the University of British Columbia. Following that I moved to New Zealand to work at Plant and Food Research. My hobbies include hiking, computer games, guitar playing and martial arts.

Interview

Could you please introduce yourself and your field of work?

I am a Research Technologist working at Plant and Food Research. Most of my work revolves around computer vision projects, or writing computer programs. The computer vision projects currently focus on in-orchard imaging and postharvest evaluation of fruit, while the more general software writing can cover topics like numerical simulation of light inside produce, or program interfaces for data collection from fruit grading equipment.

What was the mission about?

Our mission to France was focused on establishing relationships with researchers and organizations with the goal of developing collaborative research programs in the near future.

Do you think your mission could be followed by additional collaboration with French partners?

Plant and Food Research is in the process of establishing a co-sponsored PhD position with the IMS lab in Bordeaux.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

This collaboration between France and NewZealand is potentially very valuable, because it will become necessary to produce more food and manage wastes better in urban areas. The two countries provide a contrast between land that has a long history of previous use and development, and land that has only a recent history of development. We have much to learn from each other about soil management and use.

Nicola Schreurs - Animal Scientist in the School of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University

Nicola Schreurs

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Biography

My research specialty is the area of meat science, meat production, animal nutrition and animal science. A key topic of my research is the utilization of calves of dairy origin for beef production in dairy-beef systems. For this we are developing a new product called New Generation Beef.

Interview

Could you please introduce yourself and your field of work?

Bonjour! My name is Nicola Schreurs and I am an Animal Scientist in the School of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University.

Did you already have any professional links with France before the mission you took part in?

I spent 2 years from 2006-2008 doing my post-doc at INRA Theix (near Clermont Ferrand). During this time I learnt about French beef production and was working on a project to look at how muscle characteristics changed as cattle grew.

What was the mission about?

A key objective of the mission was to development the New Generation Beef research programme that is currently in place at Massey University. New Generation Beef utilizes dairy-origin cattle for a new class of beef. Secondly, it was an opportunity to develop research relationships by finding commonality in sheep and beef research.

I started my mission in Rennes where I visited the veal production research station of the Institut de Elevage (Idele) at Le Rheu. This is the only research facility for veal production in France. In France the calves are reared to produce white meat graded using the EUROP system with an added colour score (with lighter being better). This visit provided me with a perspective on how they utilise calves from the dairy industry. Like New Zealand, cow-calf separation, welfare of calves for veal and indoor beef/veal production are all on the agenda for research in France.

Of interest was research that was about to get underway to look at Jersey, Jersey x Blond Bleu and Jersey x Charolais calves in different rearing systems either utilising the traditional indoor milk and concentrate systems or a complete outdoor pasture grazing system after a period on milk/concentrate (like NZ!) or a mix of the two system types with processing for beef at 16-18 months of age. It was agreed to keep in contact regarding the results.

I also visited the Agrocampus Ouest to present information to students about Massey University and the meat production research done in the Animal Science group. This will hopefully entice some students to Massey for their overseas experience component of their programmes.

After Rennes it was a 630km drive to Clermont-Ferrand to visit the “old stomping ground” at INRA Theix and catch-up with colleagues from when I did a post-doc. They are looking at feed efficiency in cross-breed beef cattle (e.g., Saler x Angus) and looking at using more outdoor grazing along with mixed sheep and beef systems. This is unique for France because cattle production has traditionally been done with straight breeds (no crosses) and housing cattle usually prevents a mixed sheep and beef enterprise from being feasible and economical.

I ended my visit to Clermont Ferrand discussing research opportunities and collaborations and identifying areas of research similarity that are likely to be useful for collaboration

Do you think your mission could be followed by additional collaboration with French partners?

Yes, absolutely. Many of the research themes are similar and there was interest from the French colleagues I visited to work on collaborative projects that can aid the sustainability of beef production in both New Zealand and France.

Dernière modification : 16/01/2020

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