Portfolio 2: Agri- and environmental technologies


The research

Agricultural and environmental technologies are two application areas for the Challenge, given their importance to the New Zealand economy. 

There is significant potential for economic growth, since there is already a thriving agri-tech manufacturing sector with useful market share in some key export markets. 

There are also local businesses of scale in agri-tech, with a deep knowledge of export customers’ requirements and market trends, to commercialise the technologies developed in the Challenge.  

Revolutionising understanding of groundwater

beakerResearch in Portfolio 2 will be initiated by a spearhead project: Inverting Electromagnetics – a new way to measure groundwater flow. 

This aims to solve the problem of determining the spatially-averaged velocity of shallow groundwater, a vector for contaminants – culminating in a sensor system marketable to global regulators, farmers and consultants.

The research will develop and promote New Zealand’s capacity to use physical and engineering resources research, generate export revenue via New Zealand’s high-tech manufacturing sector, and benefit New Zealand-based regulators and farmers by enabling informed decision-making, land management and environmental footprinting. 

The research outcomes will particularly benefit Māori managing water quality and where mahinga kai is under threat from waterway contamination; a significant component of surface water is derived from groundwater.

Sensing technologies developed within the SFTI Challenge will provide New Zealand with a step up in its ability to use electromagnetic sensing in harsh, inaccessible environments, and provide locally-based manufacturers with new high-tech export products. 

The research involves science questions at the forefront of several disciplines.

  • The sensing concept requires precise manipulation of large-scale magnetic fields. The research will explore methods to control magnetic flux density over a large spatial extent.
  • It will explore methodologies to detect the miniscule Faraday signals received at ground electrodes in the presence of substantial interfering signals.
  • Due to non-uniform groundwater velocity sensitivity distribution, the magnetic flux will be characterised over 3-space; the research will formulate methods for profile sensing of potential difference and solving the poorly-posed inverse problem to extract groundwater velocity profiles.
  • Supporting data and methods for visualisation will be explored to determine how best to convey the flow and inter-relationships with other data layers to water quality managers and other interest groups.

The team

Portfolio 2 leader – Professor Ian Woodhead

  • Professor Bob Buckley. Robinson Institute, Victoria University of Wellington - Magnetics
  • Dr John Kennedy.  GNS - nano sensors, sensing magnetic field strength
  • Dr Ian Platt. Lincoln Agritech - modelling, signal processing/ noise reduction
  • Dr Mike Hayes. University of Canterbury - measurement, signal processing
  • Professor Colin Fox. University of Otago - modelling, inverse problems
  • Mr Maui Hudson. University of Waikato - data-to-information, incorporating/delivering to Māori.