A multi-million dollar horticultural research institute has been announced for Tauranga.
Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith made the announcement today at the Bay of Connections forum in Rotorua and said it would leverage the Bay of Plenty's strengths in horticulture to accelerate and commercialise research and innovation for the benefit of the region.
The Government would provide $8.42 million over five years for the institute and, with additional funding from industry, it will operate as a private, independently governed organisation.
To be called Plantech: the New Zealand Institute for Technology and Innovation in Premium Plant-based Value Chains, it will be led by economic development agency Priority One, and is the fourth proposal under the Government's plan to establish regional research institutes.
Plantech would initially focus on research to enable digital automation of devices for growers, including robotics and digital sensing, with the aim of becoming a leader in supporting customised, precise and automated production systems that are accessible for businesses at a range of scales.
Bay of Plenty and Tauranga MPs Todd Muller and Simon Bridges heralded the institute's economic benefits for the region.
"Horticulture is a serious contributor to the Bay of Plenty's economy and connecting the existing skills, knowledge and resources, could potentially transform the sector," Bridges said.
"Kiwifruit is booming after the low of the PSA outbreak. [The industry] is now back stronger than it was before, but winners don't rest on their laurels. This new regional research institute will help ensure horticulture reaches new heights in growth, value and sustainability."
The announcement follows the refresh of the Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Action Plan, a regionally led collaboration between local and central government, business and Iwi that aims to increase jobs, income and investment in the Bay of Plenty.
"The Bay of Plenty is one of New Zealand's strongest-growing regions, with an increase of 7.7 per cent in GDP in the last year. A wide range of sectors contribute to the success of the region, including horticulture, forestry, agriculture and tourism," Muller said.
Goldsmith said horticulture was a significant contributor to the Bay of Plenty's economy and by connecting the existing skills, knowledge and resources, this new institute will make an exciting test-bed for research and technology development that could potentially transform the sector.
"This research will increase effective development, adoption and adaptation of new technology which will improve the productivity and sustainability of the Horticulture sector. This has the potential to drive significant economic benefits for the region," Goldsmith said.