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Team Profiles

​James Turnerturner.jpg

James has 20 years research experience in the New Zealand forestry and agricultural sectors for organisations such as the Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and USDA Forest Service.

James started out at Scion (NZ Forest Research Institute) developing models of wood quality in standing trees. During this time he undertook part-time study towards a post-graduate diploma in Development Studies at Massey University. Then from 2000 to 2004 James studied for a PhD in forest economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Returning to Scion James moved into research on land use change and international wood product markets, and how these are influenced by policies and issues such as non-tariff barriers, phytosanitary regulations, illegal logging and carbon markets. In 2010 James joined AgResearch to undertake research on innovation and extension in the NZ primary sector.

As part of this work James is Project Leader of an MBIE-funded programme, Primary Innovation. The purpose of this 5-year programme is to deliver and demonstrate a co-innovation approach to practice change in the New Zealand primary sector in which participants in the sector form innovation networks to co-develop solutions to our sector’s critical challenges. James’ other research is on processes for collaborative natural resource planning, especially for water quality and quantity under the National Policy Statement – Fresh Water


​Karen Bayne

I started my career as an engineering graduate, with a Bachelor of Technology from Massey, so it may seem strange that I am now working more in the social science area! I really enjoyed the Consumer Behaviour aspects of my degree, and decided to follow up with a Masters in Marketing, looking at reasons and barriers behind consumer's technology adoption and uptake.

During my 17 year career with Scion, I've worked across many areas of the forestry sector - Initially in sawmilling and primary processing, wood quality, composite and panel products development, and strategic market analysis before moving into the area of value chain management. My role has always been about trying to better understand what customers want and need from the sector, and pulling together collective groups in providing advice and solutions. In my role as Unit Manager with the Built Environment team, I used my experience towards encouraging end users (in this case architects and engineers) to appreciate and adopt wood products in the non-residential building sector.

In my personal life, raising my two young children, Olivia (6) and Nathaniel (3), with husband Peter at home in Christchurch keeps me on my toes! I'm also involved in the wider community through my role as parish churchwarden for the Opawa-St Martins Anglican church. I'm an avid genealogist, and have been tracing my roots over the past 15 years, and discovering the amazing stories of long lost ancestors. Any other spare time gets spent in tilling the vege plot and knitting jumpers for local children and beanies for the hospital.


​Sam Beechener  sam beechener157x197.jpg


Sam Beechener is one of two PhD students currently working on aspects of the Primary Innovation Project.  His 31/2  year project, due to finish in March 2017, is co-funded by AgResearch and SRUC with additional expert input from the Universities of Edinburgh and Wageningen.  Although based mainly at SRUC in Edinburgh, Sam spent twelve months with AgResearch at Ruakura from November 2014.


The focus of Sam’s work is on how co-innovation impacts on scaling-up and scaling-out.  For the purposes of this study, scaling-up describes activities associated with generating buy-in for the underlying concept behind the innovation among opinion leaders, regulators and influencers; whereas scaling-out describes the take-up and use of the innovation itself across communities, groups or regions.  For example, if we consider the introduction of electronic identification technology in livestock then scaling-up activities are associated with gaining support from policy-makers, regulators, retailers and so on; and scaling-out activities are associated with the use of the technology on-farm as well as among livestock market operators, veterinarians and meat-processors, across regions.  Douthwaite et al (2003, page 247) distinguished between scaling-up, in terms of creating an ‘enabling environment of change’, and scaling-out in terms of innovation spread from ‘community to community, within the same stakeholder groups.’
From a theoretical perspective, we turn to the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) to guide the enquiry.  This conceptualises three levels of activity: the landscape, regime and niche.  The overarching landscape is associated with long-term structural trends; day-to-day activities take place in the regime with groups of actors operating according to common rules and shared beliefs; niches provide the space for novelties to emerge and evolve.  Over time, some niches will develop and stabilise, breaking through to complement or to destabilise and replace existing regimes (Geels, 2002).  The interactions within and between all three levels are at the very heart of scaling-up and out and we apply the theory of anchoring as a way of zooming-in on these processes.  Used in this context, anchoring reflects the fragile nature of emerging connections.  Three forms are suggested: technological, network and institutional; previous studies have suggested that ‘an alignment of the three forms of anchoring is crucial to transform anchoring into durable links’ (Elzen et al, 2012, page 15).
Empirical data comes from a series of case studies in New Zealand.  From within the Primary Innovation (PI) programme, these are: Water Use Efficiency in the Waimakariri; and Heifer Rearing in the Dairy sector.  Outwith the PI programme we explore Land and Environment Planning in the beef and sheep sectors; and Facial Eczema control strategies in the beef sector.  The last component of the study will be a small-scale survey of attitudes and opinions among producers in Scotland to explore to what extent the findings emerging from work in New Zealand may be more widely generalised. 
Douthwaite, Boru., Kuby, Thomas., Fliert, Elske van de., Schulz, Steffen (2003) Impact pathway evaluation: an approach for achieving and attributing impact in complex systems. Agricultural Systems, 78, 243–265
Elzen, Boelie., van Mierlo, Barbara., Leeuwis, Cees. (2012) Anchoring of innovations: assessing Dutch efforts to harvest energy from glasshouses. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 5, 1-18
Geels, F (2002) Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study. Research Policy, 31, 1257–1274



​Paula Blackett

I am a social scientist with NIWA, based in Hamilton. I have worked for as a social scientist for over 8 years and have transdisciplinary research experience in both ecology and social science.I have worked for AgResearch, DairyNZ, Waikato University, AUT and a small environmental consultancy. As a result of my interdisciplinary academic background (which makes for a dog’s breakfast of a CV) my research strengths are in areas where integration of disciplines is key to understanding problems and achieving outcomes. 

Over the years I have been involved in a wide range of projects principally focused around: understanding stakeholder decision-making and values; engaging with the community and stakeholders around complex “wicked problems” in natural resource and hazard management where integration of socio-political and ecological/science issues are critical for informing policy, action and decision making. There was also a short stint understanding the nature of on-farm decisions making on dairy cow induction practices in the Waikato... which has been extremely useful for being the Reflexive Monitor in the dairy herd reproductive performance case study!

My role in Primary Innovation is twofold: first, as a reflexive monitor for the ex-post and ex-ante dairy case study, and second annoying James, Kelly Neels and Denise and drawing the odd complicated diagram…


​Neels BothaNeels Botha.jpg

Having worked for 8 years as an extension officer in Namibia, followed by an academic career at the University of Pretoria, I joined AgResearch in 2000 and moved to New Zealand with my family.
I was the Team leader of the social research group until more than a year ago and currently focus on Farmer wellness and Innovation Systems research, but also do other bits on demand like social impact assessments, communication strategies, reviews for journals and so on. Both IS and farmer wellness are relatively new areas to me, but build on my scientific interest and background: human behavior and encouraging change.
I have a dual background in bio-physical and social science as I started with a BScAgric degree which was followed by a social science education. This saw me ending up with a research PhD in agricultural extension, which strongly leans on disciplines like psychology, rural sociology and management science. Some say I joined the “dark side” but I prefer to call it interdisciplinary.
On a more personal level - Sonja and I have two grown kids, a daughter who is a teacher and a son who is completing his law degree at Waikato Uni. We have two grandchildren boys and the whole family still lives in Hamilton. I enjoy spicy food, am a bit of a musician who plays the guitar in a church band and I enjoy boating and fishing even if I don’t catch much.

​Aniek HilkensAniek Hilkens.png

Aniek Hilkens is one of the two PhD students working on aspects of the Primary Innovation Programme and based at Massey University for the duration of her PhD.

“Some of you met me already during earlier workshops of the Primary Innovation Project. I am Aniek Hilkens and started a PhD linked to Primary Innovation in July.

I turned 25 last year, come from the Netherlands, and studied Applied Communication Science (bachelor and master) at Wageningen University. During my master, I followed a minor in Sustainable Food Management. Next to my courses on communication, I always found myself questioning a broad range of food related topics and am especially interested in livestock. Worldwide, I think innovation towards more environmentally sound and socially accepted practices in the livestock sector is necessary. My studies and experience in (Dutch) livestock practices taught me that achieving this requires a system change. At the same time, I am convinced of the key role of the primary producer in achieving this.

In July 2014, I started a PhD at Massey University, supervised by Janet Reid, David Gray and Laurens Klerkx. The scholarship of my PhD comes from OneFarm, the Centre of Farm Business Management and I receive additional funding from the Primary Innovation project. The topic of the PhD is about innovation in financial management in the New Zealand dairy sector. Several actors in the New Zealand dairy sector have the perception that farmers’ financial management skills should be improved. During my PhD, I thus aim to explore how innovation in financial management occurs in the New Zealand dairy sector by using qualitative research methods. I plan to use the Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) perspective to be able to give an overview of the situation, the stakeholders involved, and the interactions between the stakeholders. I would like to complement this perspective with other, in-depth, theories that focus on the interactions between the involved stakeholders and the influence of power and how agenda setting occurs.

Next to focussing on the literature, I also enjoy learning in practice about the dairy sector in New Zealand. I am a casual worker at dairy no. 4, the research farm of Massey University in Palmerston North.”



​Selai LeticaSelai Letica.png

Tena koutou, katoa!
I have been based in the Invermay Land and Environment Team for a number of years in a number of roles; Technician, PhD Student, Post-Doctoral Scientist). Prior to this I conducted field research for a local fertiliser company. Within AgResearch the focus of my PhD was on the spatial distribution of nitrous oxide emissions from hill country soils. My work was then primarily within the NOMR project investigating the effect of DCD on a number of soil nitrogen pathways and dairy farm management issues. I recently took time out from work to have my first child and I’ve re-entered the workforce on a part time basis in the People and Agriculture Team at AgResearch. I’m excited to face new challenges in a new role. I have begun work in the area of Maori agribusiness and Agricultural Innovation Systems. This role promises to expand my skillset and challenge me in many ways, so I am lucky to be surrounded by a supportive and very capable team.
I have recently been added to Stream 1 of the Primary Innovation Project; my current activity is to review the literature around Maori research methodologies and knowledge systems, so as to deepen our understanding about how, when and where co-innovation with Maori research partners might occur. The literature is also helping me to form interview questions for key non-Maori and Maori researchers, academics and entity representatives, to confirm and deepen that understanding, and relationships. This process will serve to form a framework in partnership with Iwi and Hapu, to help guide the approach scientists might use to form research relationships with Iwi and Hapu in future. 
When I’m away from work I spend most of my time running after my partner and 18 month old daughter!  We live on a 16 hectare lifestyle block, so our weekends (and week nights) are generally filled with ‘farm jobs’. When we get away from the farm we like to have ‘fluffies’ at cafes, visit friends and family, walk the numerous trails around Dunedin and go exploring on the beach. I’m doing an extramural post-graduate paper on Maori research methodologies which has helped in my new role. I also play netball and basketball, and try to get to gym in my lunch breaks. I also eat far too much for my own good!
Noho ora mai

​Nicola ParkNicola Park.jpg

Case study leader of the ex-post Apple Futures case study, I am a member of the Applied Entomology team at Plant & Food Research based in Havelock North. Located in Hawke’s Bay, we work closely with the fruit growing sectors specialising in the development of IPM and market access programmes and low pesticide residue pest management which includes the Apple Futures programme.
My childhood was spent on a sheep and cattle station at Whatawhata in the Waikato where my parents still farm now as dairy farmers, so I have an interest in a number of the case studies. I studied Horticultural Science at Massey University with varied roles since.  Pipfruit breeding at HortResearch Havelock North, ENZA New Zealand off-shore fruit quality assessor with interesting experiences based at UK ports, then Packhouse Quality Systems Officer which was a compliance and quality system implementation role. Then as IFP Co-ordinator I participated in the start of the NZ Integrated Fruit Production for Pipfruit, forerunner to Apple Futures. The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council next with some study in qualitative research methods and roles relating to environmental policy implementation: environmental education officer, compliance officer and pollution officer. The later was a mix of “who dunnit” and “neighbours from hell”.   
With the sad loss of our colleague and friend Alison Dundass a few months ago, Tracy Williams and I have taken on the shared role of Reflexive Monitors, working with Jessica Dohmen-Vereijssen and Natasha Taylor on the innovation project Tomato-Potato Psyllid/Liberibacter Complex in Potato Crops. I look forward to bringing together skills from previous positions in learning the Reflexive Monitor role.

​Janet ReidJanet Reid.jpg

I am one of the Massey University people involved in the Primary Innovation project and am involved thanks to my colleague Dave Gray. My involvement is as a member of Stream one, as well as case study leader for the ex-post Beef&LambNZ LEP case study and also Reflexive Monitors for a potential ongoing innovation project (ex-ante case study) with Beef&Lamb NZ.
Although hard to remember that far back, my undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Agricultural Science which saw me become a Farm Advisor with MAF back in the days when central government funded an advisory service. I returned to Massey University as a research officer in the Farmer First Research project in 1992 alongside Rob Brazendale. New Zealand is a small, small village. Building on my experience in the Farmer First programme I gained experience with participatory approaches using them in public consultation and rural development in NZ and overseas.  While back at Massey, I have completed a Masterate using Soft Systems Methodology and a PhD which has seen me cross the divide into the social sciences. The PhD focussed on exploring and critiquing central government, regional council and farmer governing of highly-erodible hill country farm land in the Manawatu-Whanganui region using a framework of analysis originally developed by the late great French philosopher Michel Foucault.
In addition to research, my role at Massey includes teaching undergraduate papers that are designed to assist students to integrate knowledge and skills and apply it to problematic situations in agriculture. I enjoy teaching a lot. The approaches we teach include some based on systems thinking. I am also involved in delivering post graduate papers in Agricultural Extension and Consultancy for which there is a growing interest from both New Zealand and international students.

​MS SrinivasanMS Srinivasan.jpg

MS Srinivasan, and for those inquisitive ones, ~Mathirimangalam Subramanian Srinivasan, works as a hydrologist with National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd at Christchurch. MS received his bachelors in Agricultural Engineering from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India, and his MSc and PhD in Agricultural & Biological Engineering from Pennsylvania State University, USA. Following his graduation, he worked for the US Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service before moving to NZ in November 2005. MS joined AgResearch at Invermay, working on critical source area hydrology – areas that are critical to phosphorus and sediment transport from land to waterways. MS started at NIWA in April 2008. At NIWA, MS leads a variety of hydrological field investigations - quantifying rainfall recharge using lysimeters, quantifying surface water/groundwater interactions in headwater and lowland-springfed catchments and quantifying water use in irrigation schemes. As a part of his work, MS regularly interacts with farmers and other end-users such as regional councils. Through these interactions, MS has come to realise the need and value of sharing real-time environmental data with end-users to enable informed decisions. His current work in the Primary Innovation project has grown out of this learning.

As a part of the Primary Innovation project, MS works closely with five farmers from the Waimakariri Irrigation Scheme. These farmers are supplied with daily updates of current environmental (rainfall, irrigation, soil moisture and soil temperature, drainage, evapotranspiration) and 2-, 6- and 15-day weather forecasts to enable informed irrigation and nutrient scheduling practices. For MS, the Primary Innovation project offers a framework for including a wider group of stakeholders such as irrigation scheme managers, regional councils and policy makers, who directly and indirectly influence on-farm management decisions and ability to adapt to changes and regulations.


Toni WhiteToni White.jpg

​I am a full time social researcher who has been with the AgResearch People and Agriculture Team for the last 9-10 years and I am also a part-time dairy farm worker. I laughingly said the other day that there is about half an hour and a hot shower between my science and the practical application of my science on farm – as most mornings this is absolutely true as I scurry off farm and into the office. My background is in horticulture with a BHort (Hons) from Massey standing me good stead in my home patch of Northland before I retrained in the biological sciences as well as resource and environmental management at Waikato University. This was followed by a masters in the social sciences where I realised the importance of being able to share the context that people live and operate in to make a real difference. Hence, my next move was into the AgResearch social research team where I have recently been working with a team to encourage more monitoring and evaluation to improve, and to prove, the changes and impacts that occur as a result of our science.

I believe that monitoring and evaluating the progress and impact of the work we do can make a real difference for how we work together and what we achieve both at the team/project level and within the wider agricultural environment. I have recently joined Stream 1 of the Primary Innovation Programme to help achieve the monitoring and evaluation component of the program. At the outset of the Primary Innovation Project a comprehensive program logic was developed by the research team and Jeff Coutts, which sets an overall framework for what we need to achieve with the project.


​Akiko Horita

Akiko Horita joined the People and Agriculture Team at AgResearch, Ruakura in April 2015. Previously she spent 5 years at the Centre for Development Studies, University of Auckland and conducted two research projects looking at the complex relationships between people working in the Cambodian and Japanese agricultural sectors.
"While there is a lot of information to catch up with in Primary Innovation, I am finding some similarities between the New Zealand, Japanese and Cambodian contexts within, as well as beyond, agricultural issues."
My master’s research project looked at the relationship between education policies and farming communities in Cambodia. I conducted questionnaires and interviews involving school students and their family members. The most important part of this research was to understand the social and economic contexts of the participants and how they differed from the idea of development promoted at the national level including foreign aid policies. This was the basis for my doctoral research exploring how agricultural development is defined in Cambodia’s market economy and how Japan’s aid projects actually function in Cambodia’s agricultural sector.
At Auckland I worked as a teaching assistant in a general education course that covered historical and contemporary issues affecting New Zealand and Asia. It was interesting to explore the different perspectives students have of the world in which we live. I look forward to exploring new ideas through Primary Innovation.”

Simon Fielke simonfielke.jpg

My name is Simon Fielke and I have joined the Primary Innovation team as a Postdoctoral Scientist.  I am originally from a farm in regional South Australia and completed my studies at the University of Adelaide.  I moved to Hamilton to take up the position last November and have enjoyed getting to know the Primary Innovation team.

My PhD looked at the history of agriculture and agricultural policy in South Australia and compared that to other regions internationally, most notably the UK as an example of increased public support for agriculture through the EUs Common Agricultural Policy.  From this I found that South Australia continued to encourage productivism within a policy framework of minimal public support, that the education of farmers in SA was one mechanism which could work to reduce the risks and concerns of primary producers), and that different regions within SA faced different challenges that would need to be addressed in different ways.

Half of my time at AgResearch will be devoted to Primary Innovation which I have found fits well with the previous research I undertook in SA. I am taking over the role of budgeting and quarterly reporting for Stream 2, and I’ve been tasked with producing outputs to explain to the broader scientific and general public what the lessons from applying a co-innovation approach in NZ have been and why it is of importance

​Wendy Boyce wendyboycewebready.jpg

Hi, I recently joined the People and Agriculture team at AgResearch. I will be working as a social scientist and a reflexive monitor for the DairyNZ heifer rearing and nutrient management projects as well as the NIWA Waimakariri irrigation project. I will be based in Hamilton, working Mondays and Tuesdays.
I grew up on a farm in the Waikato and previous work included stakeholder engagement and science communication workshops for the Ministry for the Environment; and the collaborative process for a water management project in Waikato and Waipa catchments (Healthy Rivers Wai Ora).
I look forward to working alongside you.

John Moore

I am the case study leader for the innovation project on timber segregation. I started working at Scion in 1994 – back then it was known as the Forest Research Institute. Initially my research looked at wind damage in forests. I then did a PhD at Oregon State University where I looked at the biomechanics of trees under wind loading. 
That got me interested in the wood properties of trees and how they are affected by environmental and management factors.
When I came back to New Zealand, there wasn’t a lot of funding available for wind damage research, so got involved in the development of the Land Use and Carbon Accounting System (LUCAS), which is the system that the Ministry for the Environment use for calculating the carbon stocks in New Zealand’s planted and indigenous forests. It was probably my first real experience of co-innovation (not that I probably realised it at the time) as we had a group drawn from a wide range of organisations all of whom played a role in developing the system.
In 2006 I took up a position at Napier University in Edinburgh where I was in charge of the Strategic Integrated Research in Timber project. This project aimed to get more British grown timber used in higher value applications. We worked with a wide variety of groups from tree breeders, forest managers and sawmillers, through to engineers, architects and building regulators. It was an extremely rewarding project and I learned a lot about the value of building an innovation network. I also worked with a colleague who was passionate about outreach and engagement, and I learned a lot about science communication. We were involved in the Royal Society’s Summer Science Festival which had 7000 visitors over four days (including Stephen Hawking), did science stand-up comedy (yes there is such a thing!) and school visits to promote the science of wood. This taught me a lot about the value of science communication – passive communication isn’t enough, you need to engage with people directly in order to understand what they are thinking and to communicate what you do. This is why I am really excited about the Primary Innovation programme and what it is trying to achieve.
In 2011, my wife and I decided to return to NZ to be closer to family. We have two boys (Cameron aged 6 and Callum aged 4) and together we enjoy anything outdoors related. I am a keen mountain biker and runner, so working right next to the Redwoods in Rotorua is just perfect.

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