Dr Andrew West
Dr Andrew West - resigned 30 June 2010
Science and technology are to the production and processing of food and textiles what a twisty road is to a motorcycle; essential. The dairy and red-meat industries are New Zealand’s largest, scientifically-intensive, industrial enterprises. We eat and drink much of our high technology in this country. When I ride my old Triumphs past Waikato farms - or break down beside them - year on year it all seems the same. My cellphone and my computer are continually more technically sophisticated. They even look different. But so too is farming and food processing, only it’s far less immediately obvious. On farm, the ever-new technology is packed into the genomes of forages and livestock where you can’t see it; it’s packed into the fencing; the dairy shed; the sheep races; the yards; the delivery systems; the measurement systems; and the decision-making systems. The same goes for the dairy and red-meat factories with their robotics; neural networks; separators; extractors and the like, all behind closed doors. The net result is safe, authentic, highperforming food and biomaterials. A combination of excellence the world no longer takes for granted, and with good reason.
AgResearch is the people’s research institute. You own us and we work for the benefit of New Zealand. Profit maximisation is not our motive – a cursory glance at our finances will show you that! It never has been our motive and never will be. We exist to work with the dairy, red-meat, wool and agritechnology industries. Our prime motivation is to conduct excellent, relevant research and development that will make a real difference for this country, its farmers and food and textiles companies. For many, many years we’ve done what we believe is right for the pastoral sector, be this investing in the Meat Industry Research Institute of New Zealand (MIRINZ) or Canesis (formerly the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand) to support red-meat and wool processing; be this investing in a state of the art dairy research farm at Tokanui; supporting underfunded meat and wool scientists for as many years as we possibly could; beating the drum of the pastoral sector’s contribution to this country in Wellington when it was highly unfashionable and rather lonely to do so. And so it goes on.
AgResearch isn’t just scientists. It wouldn’t work if it was. It comprises a complex mix of scientists, technicians, engineers, farm and abattoir managers and workers, staff in business development, finance, human resources, IT and
knowledge services, publicity, campus services and even the occasional senior manager and governor. It is the team as a whole that makes AgResearch effective. It is not your AgResearch that is dedicated to farming, food and textiles – it can’t be, it’s just a ‘thing’. It is the staff who are dedicated, who believe, who act, who enthuse and who defend this mighty sector of New Zealand society and its economy.
This issue of NOW takes a brief look at just a very small number of achievements of the past few years. It highlights a few significant investments in buildings and equipment. It highlights vignettes of scientific advances that are making, or will make, a meaningful difference. It highlights some of our many scientific and commercial collaborations, all of which we enjoy and without which we couldn’t
perform to expectations. And it highlights a few of our people.
It’s been quite some responsibility to be chosen to lead such a research institute. The campuses alone are iconic – and more so the people behind them over past generations of scientists. I have often ridden onto Ruakura first thing in the morning in disbelief that I had been asked to be the principal custodian – for an ephemeral period – of such a proud history of immense achievement and of such profound international recognition.
All good things come to an end. I would like to close by paying homage to the many individuals and teams that are responsible for continually earning and maintaining the wide ranging respect for AgResearch. I want to acknowledge the encouragement and support of the whole pastoral sector, be these individuals on farms and in firms, companies and industry good organisations. I very much want to thank all the staff of AgResearch. I want to especially thank my loyal, competent and hard-working management team. I want to thank successive directors and I particularly want to thank the man who appointed me, Rick Christie. But most of all I want to thank my children, Annie, Patrick and Harry, and my wife, Janine, for supporting their so-often absent Dad. That’s it from me.
It's been a privelege.
Dr Andrew West
Chief Executive AgResearch