The nation's biggest state-owned science company, AgResearch has posted an after-tax loss of $754,000, in the year to June 30, compared with a $3.05 million surplus in 2008.

The crown research institute had budgeted for a deficit of $4.94m

It notched up operating revenue of $155.11m -- close to its budget -- and better than last year's $149.28m.

CRIs were set up to carry out research supporting the wider economy, rather than to return direct dividends to the crown.

Over $66.58m ($63.18m last year) of the revenue came from taxpayer-funded research contracts, with $72.61m ($70.2m) in commercial revenue, and $5.62m ($6.21m) from farm produce. Its result was aided by tax benefits of $704,000 ($665,000).

Chief executive Andrew West said that despite the loss the outcome was "in part, encouraging".

AgResearch earnings before interest, re-investment, restructuring and tax were $9m, 50 per cent up on last year, representing a 6 per cent gross margin, achieved through 4 per cent lift in operating revenue and a 2 per cent lift in operating expenditure.

The re-investment amount mainly comprised investment in commercialisation and in important collaborative relationships, he said in a statement.

AgResearch chairman Sam Robinson said the company's staff were the heart of the organisation, whose committment enabled it to punch above its weight internationally.

"Harsh times" had underscored the importance of the pastoral sector to the economy and the critical role science played in its vitality, said Robinson.

"AgResearch has not been immune to the recessionary climate, but has responded realistically," he said.