Researcher lights up growing plants

Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012

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A Palmerston North-based Massey University researcher has become the first person to receive part of a $500,000 seeding fund set up by the Central Energy Trust, which aims to help start-up businesses get off the ground.

The fund, announced yesterday, will see the money distributed by the Bio Commerce Centre to start-up businesses over the next three years.

Trust chairman Sir Brian Elwood said the fund was a "new and bold initiative" for the trust, which usually gave grants to community, sports, educational and cultural organisations.

"The aim here is to help get things started, rather than be long-term investors in a start-up business," Sir Brian said.

"This will help economic growth, business development and employment opportunities in Palmerston North and the wider Manawatu region."

BCC chief executive Dean Tilyard said the money given to start-ups would be a mixture of the trust fund and private investment capital.

The fund would see more entrepreneurs getting their ideas off the ground, he said. "The problem with starting a business, and moving an invention from the lab or the garage to the market place, is getting the funding.

"We hope [the funded start-ups] will grow and employ many, many people in this community so we will see the big benefits."

The first recipient of a grant from the fund was Jason Wargent, a researcher at Massey University who has been looking into how different waves of light affect how plants grow, look and taste.

Through his research he has developed "light recipes" for plants, which can make them stay a certain colour longer, or taste a certain way every time.

Turning the idea into a business would involve taking the research and turning it into a product, which would be cost-effective for growers, he said.

"The idea is already developed, but it's turning academic reality into a commercial device."

Wargent said it was important to have the funds around so ideas could become valuable businesses.

"It's good to see science taken into a commercial reality, which is important for science because we need it and maybe don't see it enough in New Zealand at the moment."

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- Manawatu Standard

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