A freshly inked scientific partnership is developing AI computing power and technology to meet demand from Bay of Plenty-based scientists for faster processing of complex research data.
The initiative, a marriage between the needs of PlantTech Research Institute in Tauranga and the expertise of New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI), is accelerating innovative research, starting in the agritech sector.
It will remove computer processing bottlenecks that limit the ability for data scientists to train artificial intelligence (AI) models that learn from high volumes of complex and tightly coupled data. It will also dramatically reduce the turnaround times for AI research.
Horticulture and produce are among the first New Zealand industries to benefit from this faster AI computing infrastructure. PlantTech scientists use it to explore new approaches to data-driven horticulture in key sectors, including kiwifruit.
PlantTech and NeSI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in November. NeSI has procured a first tranche of Nvidia A100 general purpose Graphics Processing Units (GPGPUs), which are now being commissioned.
NeSI is working with early adopter communities, including PlantTech, to pilot the use of these new technologies for the next few months, to tailor environments and workflows to meet their needs, and to assess public and private research sector demand to inform future investments.
PlantTech chief executive Mark Begbie says the MoU was the start of a strategic partnership with NeSI to better understand and cater to the developing needs of New Zealand's AI researchers.
"As NeSI continues to ensure New Zealand's research community is well catered for in traditional supercomputing driven by Central Processing Units (CPUs), the field of AI research is driving demand for high-performance computing based around GPUs.
"The strategic alliance and MoU will see PlantTech's insights as a preeminent developer of AI solutions couple with NeSI's solution expertise as a preeminent provider of computational capability to ensure New Zealand has the right AI research platforms to take it to the next level of international competitiveness, now and into the future."
NeSI director Nick Jones says the partnership with PlantTech provides NeSI with an opportunity to extend its national platform to be fit for purpose for data-intensive agritech workloads.
"This is a special collaboration, enhancing the capabilities and support we offer to New Zealand's agricultural research communities, particularly those working in emerging technologies, such as AI and deep learning.
"It also gives us the opportunity to extend our reach beyond the public research sector, to positively impact research in the horticulture industry, which is discovering that its pressing challenges can be solved by more precise technologies.
"In doing so NeSI has leaned into its relationships and distributed teams to connect locally with PlantTech."
Research director Ian Yule says NeSI's new world-class computing resource would turbocharge PlantTech's translational research capability.
"We can achieve a lot with the computing systems currently available to us, as shown by the value we have rapidly delivered to partners already. However, there are challenges that we simply cannot address without the step up to a true supercomputing architecture.
"Through NeSI, we will be able to access the scale of processing and memory that we need to deliver the next generation of AI solutions, beyond the current state of the art. Through this strategic partnership, we will ensure New Zealand has the tools in the future to sustain the momentum."
Speaker series celebrates businesswomen
What do a fashion designer, microbiologist and eco-conscious beauty product pioneer all have in common?
They are Kiwi businesswomen at the forefront of change – and the keynote speakers at a new event in Tauranga.
Hosted by Business Women's Network (BWN), in partnership with Cooney Lees Morgan and Craigs Investment Partners, the BWN Speaker Series brings together inspirational, influential and innovative women from around New Zealand and the Bay of Plenty to share their insights into new ways of doing business.
BWN is a networking group formed by women, for women, as part of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce, with a goal to connect local women to exciting and engaging opportunities.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce event organiser Anne Pankhurst says the Speaker Series theme, The Changing Face of Business, addresses the fact that in today's world doing good businesses isn't just about financial profit – it's about how you look after your people and your place in the world.
"Companies are scrutinised or praised in real-time for the decisions they make that impact not only their customers, but society as a whole. They must demonstrate values, such as social responsibility, diversity, kaitiaki, and sustainability in their corporate strategy."
The event's keynote speakers include New Zealand fashion designer Karen Walker, microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles and eco-beauty entrepreneur and founder of Ethique, Brianne West.
They are joined by a slew of other inspirational women from companies that live and breathe the event's values. These speakers include Jennifer Del Bel (founder, Downlights), Jennifer Boggiss (CEO and founder, Heilala Vanilla), Clare Swallow (director, Mulberry St), Fiona McTavish (CEO, BOP Regional Council), Gordy Lockhart (who will be giving a quick overview of The Kollective before Tania Wilson of Momenta).
The Speaker Series events will be held on May 27 and July 8 from 1pm to 5pm at Trinity Wharf Hotel.
New leader for Climate Change Ambassadors
Award-winning dairy farmer Fraser McGougan has been appointed chairman of the DairyNZ Climate Change Ambassadors.
The ambassadors are leaders for climate change action on dairy farms. They help communicate the challenges and opportunities dairy farmers face in addressing climate change, alongside the rest of New Zealand.
"The 13 ambassadors are leading dairy farmers who run their farms sustainably and profitably, while being committed to reducing on-farm greenhouse gas emissions," said DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr David Burger.
"The ambassadors work to raise awareness and mobilise change for the benefit of the environment, farmers and New Zealand."
McGougan, 42, from Whakatane said he was looking forward to leading the ambassadors to engage with farmers, communities and decision-makers, and to provide a farmer voice at national level. He has been a climate change ambassador since 2018.
"Farmers want to be part of the climate change solution," said McGougan. "Our role as climate change ambassadors includes helping farmers understand the changes they can make on their farm to reduce emissions and improve water quality, while maintaining or even increasing profitability.
"There is no one-size-fits-all approach and small incremental changes on individual farms add up to big changes nationally."
McGougan is a fourth-generation farmer – Willowvale Farm has been in the McGougan family for 120 years. He and his wife Katherine have 430 cows on 143 hectares.
Among a number of awards, the couple won the Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards Supreme Award in 2019. They have three children, Emily, Isaac and Liam.
The ambassadors group was created in 2018 under the Dairy Action for Climate Change. New members have been appointed this year to maintain the diversity of the group, with a mix of locations, farm systems and experience.
The five new ambassadors are Waikato farmers Melissa Slattery (Dairy Environment Leaders chairwoman) and Graeme Barr, Southland farmer Steve Smith, and Canterbury farmers Ash-leigh Campbell and Phill Everest.
Bay leaders form Tauranga taskforce
A collective of concerned Tauranga business, property and community leaders have launched an Urban Task Force for Tauranga (UTF).
The taskforce is an incorporated society set up to provide strong leadership, advocacy and positive change for the betterment of the community of Tauranga.
The UTF committee has been formed by a broad and influential group of founding members including Scott Adams from Carrus in the role of chairman, Steve Cutfield from Classic Group, Simon Collett from Holland Beckett Law, Scott McKenzie from PMG Funds, Morgan Jones from Veros, Buddy Mikaere from Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Pukenga and Peter McCawe from Hawkins.
UTF is inviting more members from the community of Tauranga.
Dine on a Lime foodie trail launched
A new venture from Tourism Bay of Plenty is encouraging food lovers to scoot around town to locally recommended eateries.
The organisation has worked with Kitchen Takeover's Stacey Jones to produce Dine on a Lime – a foodie trail featuring 18 favourite foodie stops in Mount Maunganui, as recommended by Bay of Plenty locals.
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive, Kristin Dunne, said the venture is just the start of a new focus on the Bay of Plenty's food story.
"We want to highlight our amazing food scene and encourage locals and visitors to try out this new food trail. The venture is also about creating new food experiences for people to enjoy as well as supporting local businesses."
The 18 eateries featured in the guide include Pizzaroma, The General, Vitality Organics, Izakai and Mount Made Ice-Cream.
Lime's public affairs manager Lauren Mentjox said the foodie trail is a clean, green and fun way for people to experience what Mount Maunganui has to offer.
"We are excited to work with Tourism Bay of Plenty on this innovative initiative and support local businesses.
Toi Ohomai offers level 4 barbering course
When Leah Friis picked her career, she knew barbering wouldn't fade away.
The Toi Ohomai barbering tutor is passionate about her craft and says the industry in New Zealand is booming, with huge demand for barbers and barbershops.
"There're so many gaps in the market and we are seeing a massive increase in the number of guys who want to pamper themselves and take grooming seriously."
Toi Ohomai is now offering a level 4 barbering course, which is the highest level of barbering qualification available.
"It opens up so many more opportunities and make you more employable," Friis says.
"You will also learn about running your own barbershop."
The course at Toi Ohomai is taught by industry experts in an on-campus professional barbershop. It is a one-year course and is hands-on and practical.
"You'll learn all the detailed knowledge and skills to be able to work in the ever-growing barbering industry. The course combines a focus on elements of traditional and modern fashion styling with an understanding of the history and influences of this trade."
Cycle challenge announces new event director
The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge Trust has appointed Hayden Dickason as event director.
Dickason has been with the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge since 2012 as media and partnerships manager.
He will retain the media role as well as taking on responsibility for the overall strategic direction for the event, working alongside the existing management team and board of trustees.
Dickason says he is excited to be taking up the position of event director and looks forward to help plan and celebrate the 44th year of the event in November.
"I'm also looking forward to playing a key role in the events strategic direction and what innovations might be possible in future years.
"Having lived in Taupo for the past decade, I love being part of its vibrant events industry. We play a significant role in our local economy, with the BDO Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge being seen as one of the regions 'big three' iconic events, injecting around $5 million of direct economic benefit to the community each year."
Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge Trust chair Kay Brake says they received a large number of applications for the role from across New Zealand and further afield.
"Hayden comes to the role with an in-depth knowledge of the event, along with an understanding of the challenges faced by the event itself and the events industry as a whole."
Straight-through seasonal hiring app launched
Kiwi agritech start-up PICMI has unveiled its next generation of straight-through hiring for seasonal workers.
Developed and tested with local agri-businesses in the face of Covid-19, employers can now hire jobseekers without meeting them face-to-face via PICMI's contactless solution.
To encourage grower adoption, PICMI is on a week-long roadshow in the Bay of Plenty.
PICMI founder Genevieve Griffin-George says growers don't want another system, but they want tools to help speed up the process of hiring seasonal workers.
"Using our cloud-based tool we're seeing growers reduce hiring time by 70 per cent from application to contract to induction."
Griffin-George says seasonal labour shortages are a problem globally and a well-known challenge in New Zealand.
An estimated 24,000 seasonal positions need to be filled in kiwifruit orchards in the Bay of Plenty this harvest season.
"We're already seeing PICMI deliver some fantastic results.
"Our newest Bay of Plenty customer registered 670 jobseekers, and 450 of them secured contracts this season. Forty-five per cent of the contracts were signed within one hour and 80 per cent within one day.
"We're on a mission to create straight-through seasonal hiring that's contactless. We're working alongside growers to build in their critical hiring criteria to the point where they are confident with the straight-through hiring workflow."
Breaking bread in Pāpāmoa
A pay-as-you-feel dining concept that aims to reduce food waste, food poverty and social isolation is encouraging people from all walks of life to break bread together on Monday nights in Pāpāmoa.
Everybody Eats is a pop-up restaurant operating out of Bluebiyou – an upmarket restaurant overlooking Pāpāmoa Beach - to bring a sit-down, table service dining experience to the community.
Three-course meals are prepared and served by volunteers using food rescued by Good
Neighbour and diners pay as much or as little as they can afford.
Founder Nick Loosley, winner of the 2020 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year, set up a seven-week trial of Everybody Eats in Pāpāmoa last year. Because of its success, and sponsorship from the Wright Family Foundation, Everybody Eats will continue weekly from February 15.
Chef Matt Schaeffer and his brother Nathan Schaeffer own Bluebiyou and feel that opening their doors one night a week so everyone can eat at their beachside location – on council land in the middle of a reserve - is a great way to give back to the community.
Donations from diners cover most of the operating costs, but sponsorship from the Wright Family Foundation will help meet the cost of consumables, pay some staff costs and top up the rescued food.
Wright Family Foundation CEO Chloe Wright says paying as much as you feel means you can share the load.