AgResearch’s new $103 million science facility has opened. It is expected to generate important new research to support farming in the district and beyond, in addition to being a drawcard for students and future generations of scientists.

The facility in Lincoln, called Tuhiraki, is located on land purchased from Lincoln University, and will accommodate almost 300 scientists and support staff once all have moved in from the existing AgResearch facilities nearby. The name Tuhiraki is gifted by local Te Taumutu Rūnanga and references the mahi carried out by Rākaihautū, who – according to tradition – used his kō (or digging stick) to explore, name, and claim the landscape in Te Waipounamu (South Island). Symbolically, Tuhiraki also references the knowledge Rākaihautū released into te ao mārama, the natural world.

AgResearch chief executive Sue Bidrose says the new two-storey, 7600 square metre facility, comprising an open-plan office wing and a science facilities wing, will be a valuable addition to the science community. Being located right next to the university and in close proximity to other research institutes and agriculture businesses, it would also have an important role in connecting people.

“One of the driving factors for this new facility was that our previous buildings were ageing and not providing the best working environment for our people. But, also, we wanted to create a place that inspires people to come and do great work for New Zealand,” Sue says.

“I’m really proud we have a new facility that is welcoming to all, will deliver what the agriculture sector and rural communities need from us, and really adds to the growth and development of the local area too.”

Guests and staff gather in the entrance to Tuhiraki for the early morning whakatau whare (blessing) on 1 September.

Research to be undertaken at Tuhiraki includes ongoing work to better understand farming systems and how they can adapt to changing conditions and challenges, empowering farmers and providing tools to address the costly growth of weeds on farms, and growing the knowledge of properties of food and other animal products produced in New Zealand (including new innovations and market opportunities for these). Tuhiraki also houses a Life Cycle Assessment capability, where the environmental footprint of products farmed in New Zealand can be calculated to show how they stack up against other products globally.

“We are continuing to operate our own research farm with sheep across the road, and we also have a stake in the local South Island Dairy Demonstration Centre, which is connected to the Lincoln University Dairy Farm. Our relationship with other local farmers and the Selwyn community is important to us.”

Sustainability is a priority right now for New Zealand and the world, and AgResearch has an important role to support the agriculture sector to become more sustainable.

“We wanted this commitment to sustainability to be reflected in our new facility as well. We’ve gone with wool carpeting and insulation, passive ventilation and the office/workplace wing of our facility is built primarily with timber. The estimates we have tell us that this offices component of Tuhiraki has just 22 per cent of the embodied carbon (the amount of carbon emitted during a building’s construction) of an equivalent traditional structure with a concrete and steel baseline.”

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