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Canterbury innovators rise to the Food, Fibre and Agritech Challenge

22 June 2022

The 2022 Food, Fibre and Agritech Supernode Challenge climaxed in an outstanding Showcase during E Tipu: The Boma Agri Summit. The gala evening on 21 June highlighted and rewarded the impressive prize-winning thinking behind the top 12 ventures entered in this year’s Challenge.


University of Canterbury Chemical and Process Engineering academic Associate Professor Ken Morison is using his research expertise in dairy and food process design alongside PhD student Mahnaz Shahverdi in developing SuperPro, the Overall Winner and Research Grand Winner.


Prizes were awarded with an overall winner, and two Research and Enterprise Challenge winners named. In its second year, the Challenge has inspired innovators to create new, disruptive solutions for the Food, Fibre and Agritech sector with the potential for global impact.

University of Canterbury (UC) Chemical and Process Engineering academic Associate Professor Ken Morison is using his research expertise in dairy and food process design alongside PhD student Mahnaz Shahverdi in developing SuperPro, the Overall Winner and Research Grand Winner.

Associate Professor Morison says the responses to their venture have all been very encouraging.

SDG9-Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

“This year’s Food, Fibre and Agritech Supernode Challenge came at just the right time for the project; interest in plant-based foods and especially proteins is growing rapidly, and there are conversations about new directions for sustainable New Zealand farming,” he says.

“One of the special features of the technology is that is can be scaled-up progressively without the need for high-risk capital investment. We hope that this technology will provide the basis for the production of niche, high-quality plant-protein food for the growing market of people who prefer to eat less meat.”

He says the next step is to produce protein powder in the UC School of Product Design food laboratory, where food safety can be assured, and products can undergo full sensory evaluation.

Working alongside UC Professor Renwick Dobson and Associate Professor Volker Nock, and Dr Tanya Rutan from the Bragato Research Institute, the Research Runnerup recipient Daniel Mak, has a microfluidic solution with his venture, Winealyse, that cuts out the need for large, complex equipment and simplifies the testing methods. Mak’s project will develop autonomous, hand-held, Lab-on-a-Chip devices that can perform complex chemical and biochemical reactions to replace traditional laboratory tests for a range of wine analytes.

Cameron Bartley and Callum Windley are the two UC students behind Bambax, which started in the UC Centre of Entrepreneurship 2022 Summer Start Up Programme and is a sustainable food packaging company on a mission to create necessary change.

UC Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Josh McCulloch is the brains behind the venture that received the PwC Innovation Award, Autonabit, which aims to solve problems for vineyards such as bird damage, and eventually mowing and spraying.

Each of the finalists pitched transformative industry solutions they had been working on in the Accelerator Programme from 4 April to 3 June, where they sharpened their ventures with the support of masterclasses, coaching and commercialisation advice.

Gerard Quinn Director of the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship was impressed with the ideas, mahi and passion of all the teams.

“Special congratulations to our award winners tonight, we will be helping the teams post-Challenge to advance their great ideas,“ said Quinn.


The prize winners are:

Overall winner: SuperPro ($10,000)

PwC Innovation Award: Autonabit – an autonomous robot for bird control, mowing and spraying in vineyards (in-kind services $5,000)

Enterprise Stream

  • Grand prize: Carbonz – the first exchange for fully traceable, tradeable native New Zealand carbon credits ($15,000)
  • Runner up: Bambax – premium food packaging created from biodegradable wood fibre and biopolymers serving as an alternative to single use plastics ($10,000)

Research Stream

  • Grand prize: SuperPro – highly soluble and nutritional pea protein for the growing plant-based foods market ($15,000)
  • Runner up: Winealyse - a tool to enable winemakers to analyse wine quality fast and cost effectively, removing the need for lab tests ($10,000)

The Challenge is powered by ChristchurchNZ, KiwiNet and the Canterbury Mayoral Forum in partnership with the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, and supported by ThincLab Canterbury and B.linc Innovation.

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