Plant & Food Research

Plant & Food Research
Plant & Food Research
Rangahau Ahumāra Kai
PlantandFoodResearch logo.jpg
Agency overview
Formed 2008
Preceding agency HortResearch and Crop and Food Research
Headquarters 120 Mt Albert Road, Sandringham, Auckland
Agency executives Peter Landon-Lane, CEO
Michael Ahie, Chairman

Plant & Food Research (Māori: Rangahau Ahumāra Kai) is a New Zealand Crown Research Institute (CRI). The institute was formed on 1 December 2008 by merging existing CRIs HortResearch and Crop and Food Research.

The merged organisation has over 900 staff based at sites throughout New Zealand as well as science and business development staff working in the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The interests of the institute are based in horticulture, arable and seafood research, specifically in the areas of sustainable production, bioprotection, elite genetics & intelligent breeding, food and health science and biomaterials.


Areas of Research


New and novel plant varieties – Pipfruit, kiwifruit, stonefruit, berries, potatoes, brassicas, onions, peas, cereals, hops and ornamentals.

Conventional breeding – Over 300 hectares of research orchards and farms across New Zealand plus unique germplasm collections for key crops.

Functional genomics – Molecular biology, genetic mapping, marker assisted selection, bioinformatics, metabolic profiling.

Consumer and producer trait targets – Health, colour, texture, flavour, storage, flowering, shape, dwarfing, pest and disease resistance.


Smart packaging – Biosensors and consumer-friendly packaging including ripeSense, now marketed by Ripesense Limited.

Environmentally friendly pest and disease treatments and grading technologies – Heat treatment (water or air) for insect disinfestation or pathogen reduction. Near Infra-Red (NIR) and non-destructive firmness grading technologies.

Hi-tech storage – Modified atmosphere storage plus novel temperature manipulations and optimisation. Controlled atmosphere storage including dynamic CA storage.

Ripening control and monitoring – Ethylene treatments (pre-ripening or conditioning), Ethylene antagonists SmartFresh .

Freshcut innovation – Technology that supports fresh-cut solutions with added food safety.

Sustainability & Bioprotection

Carbon efficiency – Whole lifecycle analysis for key crops including kiwifruit and wine.

Soil ecology – Soil and water management and modelling. Risk assessment.

Crop management tools – Software tools that optimise inputs and interventions. CropLogic Potato Calculator and Spray Plan Manager.

Integrated pest and disease management – IPM and IFP systems.

Pollination – Artificial pollination, honeybee ecology, varroa mite resistance and natural varroa controls.

Non-chemical pest and disease control – Biocontrols, pheromone-based insect mating disruption and trapping, Sterile Insect Technique.

Insect biology - Biology, life history, behaviour and ecology of insects and mites.

Food & Health

Functional foods – Plant-based foods and food ingredients that offer consumers health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

Superfruits and high health vegetable cultivars – New, novel, natural plant cultivars with enhanced levels of health-promoting compounds.

Nutrigenomics and gastronomics – Customised foods tailored to the needs of individuals based on their genetic profile.

Sensory evaluation – Understanding and predicting future global consumer, market and technology trends through research into consumer behaviour and preferences.

High value seafoods – New harvesting, postharvest, processing and storage technologies that improve the texture, taste and shelf life of key finfish, shellfish and crustacean species.

Major FRST Funded Research Programmes

Better Border Biosecurity – in association with AgResearch, Scion, the National Centre for Advanced Bio-Protection Technologies, MAF Biosecurity, the Department of Conservation, Environmental Risk Management Authority New Zealand and the Forest Biosecurity Research Council.

A collaborative science programme delivering science-based solutions, new tools, technologies and knowledge to protect New Zealand's terrestrial plants. The programme supports the international competitiveness of New Zealand's export industries and protects natural, recreational and amenity estates from exotic pests and diseases.

Engineering Marine Molecules

Development of new extraction and molecular modification technologies for the industrial manufacture of marine protein and lipid products for use in food, biomaterials and nutraceuticals.

Exploiting opportunities from Horticultural Genomics

Identification of the genetic mechanisms involved in key plant traits to inform breeding programmes, including the establishment of technologies required for gene identification and marker characterisation.

Fashionable plants

Development of novel varieties and technologies for the high-value ornamental market.

Food-microbe-host interactions – in association with AgResearch

The development of a technological platform to generate knowledge about the interactions between food, the intestinal microbiome and the human genome. This knowledge will be used to develop new, value-added, export-focused SMART foods that deliver improved health, performance and well-being.

From Tools to Traits

Development of non-food and new food products with novel functional, health or colour properties derived from an improved knowledge and understanding of the carbohydrate and carotenoid pigment pathways of plants. Lifestyle Foods

Developing knowledge, tools and concepts to enable industry to deliver healthy products for consumers, initially in the form of convenient snack foods, with good sensory appeal and targeted energy release capability.

Future Vegetables

The development of high value vegetables that can be produced sustainably and exported to world markets, including development of product concepts with enhanced consumer values and underpinned by new and improved production technologies that support economic and environmental sustainability.

Higher Value Seafoods

Increasing the value of seafood products through increased harvest recovery and creating niche products based on New Zealand seafood.

Kiwifruit Research Consortium – in association with ZESPRI Group Limited

Development of plant breeding, screening and evaluation technologies to increase number of cultivars developed in the breeding programme with reduced time to market.

Land Use Change and Intensification - in association with AgResearch

Developing improved tools and land management practices and decision support tools that enhance the productive capacity of agricultural land while retaining soil and groundwater quality.

Looking into fruit

Development of tools and technologies to measure quality attributes of fruit pre-harvest, reducing harvest losses and labour costs while maximising yield.

Low-impact disease control

Development of purpose-built disease management systems for the horticulture industry, incorporating biological, genetic and fungicidal controls applied according to disease risk.

New Berries

Identifying components of berryfruit with added health benefits and developing customised berryfruit products with high flavour and validated health-enhancing attributes.

Nutrigenomics – in association with The University of Auckland and AgResearch

Determining how food and food composition affects health based on genetic information, including developing gene-specific foods that prevent, control or cure disease. The initial target for the programme is Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel disorders.

Pipfruit 2020 - a juicy future

An integrated research programme developed to underpin industry strategies for economic transformation through enhanced quality of fruit products and services, including building an understanding of consumer preferences and applying this knowledge to breeding programmes.

Premium kiwifruit: growing the future

Building fundamental understanding of carbon partitioning and development of fruit, leading to the development of innovative new kiwifruit technologies, to increase productivity and fruit quality.

Roots for Sustainability - in association with AgResearch

Identifying germplasm resources for breeding new and improved pastoral and arable crop cultivars with root systems that improve water and nutrient uptake, and reduce the impact of productive systems on the environment.

Sensor labels

Development of cost-effective horticultural packaging systems with ripeness indicators that conform to global food contact regulations. Sustainable IPM

Reducing the reliance of New Zealand horticulture on broad-spectrum and persistent insecticides by developing alternative and sustainable means of controlling pests, and delivering produce that achieves the most stringent market requirements.

Sustainable Land Use Research Initiative (SLURI) - in association with Landcare Research and AgResearch

Developing tools and knowledge to quantify and value the function, quality and resilience of New Zealand’s productive soils and landscapes across a range of land uses for land management and policy purposes.

Taste the Future

Development of novel kiwifruit varieties to achieve premium prices, including maintaining an elite germplasm collection and identifying novel compounds and genes that can be used in producing high value flavour ingredients for foods and beverages.

Wellness Foods

Developing innovative foods based on combining the health-enhancing properties from fruits and vegetables.


External links

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