AgResearch plans its future footprint

The country’s largest Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, has released further details of its plans to reinvest $100 million into its campus facilities and resources.

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson says the proposal is now with staff for consultation and involves a major reconfiguration and reinvestment of AgResearch’s campus and farm infrastructure to create a vital agricultural research institute for the next 50 years.

“We will be modernising our science facilities, co-locating our capability wherever possible, and participating in large agriculture innovation hubs, all of which will generate greater returns across the pastoral sector.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to put AgResearch in the best possible long-term position to do more quality science more effectively and efficiently, and to  make a much bigger difference to the agricultural sector’s productivity and profitability,” he says.

“We are proposing to have two large campuses, one in Grasslands in Palmerston North and one in Lincoln. Our Grasslands and Lincoln campuses will form part of much larger agriculture innovation hubs with key sector partners at those locations. Our science at Grasslands will focus on food, nutrition, animal health and forage.  Lincoln will focus on farm systems and land use; as well as sheep, beef and deer productivity, supported by our

“–omics platform” (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics). These locations have the right ingredients to create successful innovation hubs: the presence of agriculture-focussed tertiary institutions, other large research organisations, industry bodies and private sector companies.

“We will focus activities at our Invermay (near Dunedin) and Ruakura (Hamilton) campuses on  specific environmental and farm systems regional needs,” he says.

Dr Richardson says having two large AgResearch campuses with a higher number of co-located teams and staff will see much more knowledge sharing and internal collaboration resulting in more quality science being delivered.

“We have also had strong support from our partners and stakeholders for our plans, and since the high-level proposal was announced in late April, many other organisations have contacted us to express interest in being involved in the innovation hubs,” he says.

Over the next three to four years, about 280 roles – which include both science and support functions – are proposed to relocate to Grasslands and Lincoln as facilities become available. “While 280 roles are proposed to move, we expect this to be about 240 of our staff, given the fact it’s not happening for another three to four years, and there will be natural staff turnover in that time.”

Dr Richardson says AgResearch’s executive team is proposed to be based at Lincoln, along with the bulk of the support staff. “We are proposing to co-locate our executives and our support team.

We chose Lincoln over Palmerston North, on the grounds that Canterbury has a much larger population base for retention and recruitment purposes.”

The proposed size of each campus is:

  • Grasslands: about 300 roles
  • Lincoln: about 330 roles
  • Invermay: about 30 roles
  • Ruakura: about 90 roles

“These proposals will add approximately 215 roles to Lincoln, and 45 to Grasslands, with approximately 180 roles proposed to move from Ruakura and 85 roles proposed to move from Invermay.

While this has an impact for the local Hamilton and Dunedin economies, the net overall gain for New Zealand will be far greater, through delivering more quality science as a result of co-location and increased collaboration.”

Dr Richardson says no roles will be required to relocate before 2016, and staff will be given a minimum of six months’ notice before their role is moved. Everyone whose role is required to relocate will have their relocation costs paid for by the company.

“We are not under-estimating the scale of proposed change. This is a significant project and our immediate focus is firstly on working with our staff, and also with our stakeholders to continue to deliver the science and innovation needed to create value for New Zealand’s agricultural sector.”

The proposal is now with staff for a four week consultation period, with final decisions expected in September.