Plenary Speakers

Professor Dame Juliet A. Gerrard, FRSNZ, HonFRSC

Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, Kaitohutohu Mātanga Pūtaiao Matua ki te Primia

Juliet trained at Oxford University and moved to Aotearoa in 1993 where her career has included roles in both Crown Research Institutes and universities. Juliet’s research background is broad and interdisciplinary, with particular interests in fundamental and applied protein science. She has held an Industry and Outreach Fellowship with Callaghan Innovation, founded a start-up company, chaired the Marsden Council, served on the Board of Directors of Plant and Food Research, and is currently on the Board of Te Papa.

Since Juliet’s appointment in 2018 as the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Kaitohutohu Mātanga Pūtaiao Matua ki te Pirimia, she has worked from a base of four founding principles: rigour, inclusivity, transparency, and accessibility. She has supported the science and science advisor community to provide advice to the PM, ministers, and the public on a wide range of topics, including advice on the Christchurch mosque shootings, the response to the Whakaari | White Island eruption, the Cannabis referendum, rheumatic fever and the Covid-19 pandemic. The Office has released three major reports, Rethinking plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand, The future of commercial fishing in Aotearoa New Zealand, and Kotahitanga - Uniting Aotearoa against infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance and has a current focus on food waste.

Dr Brent Clothier

Brent Clothier is a Principal Scientist with Plant & Food Research based in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Brent was President of New Zealand’s Royal Society Te Apārangi between 2020-2024.

Brent has a BSc (Hons) from Canterbury University, and a PhD and DSc from Massey University. Brent is a Fellow of Royal Society Te Apārangi. He is also a Fellow of four foreign science academies: Soil Science Society of America; American Agronomy Society; American Geophysical Union; and an Academician (Foreign Member) of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Brent has published scientific papers on the movement and fate of water, carbon and solutes in the root–zones of primary production systems, water management, plus sustainable vineyard and orchard practices, including adaptation strategies in the face of climate change. He also published on life-cycle assessment including on food waste, as well as carbon and water footprinting, environmental policy, plus natural capital quantification and the valuation of ecosystem services. Brent is an Editor-in-Chief of the highly ranked international journal Agricultural Water Management.

Brent has been, or is still involved in water-related aid and development projects in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as in the Middle East, China, and Africa.

Prof. Samir Droby, ARO, the Volcani Center, Israel

Samir Droby is a senior research scientist at the ARO, the Volcani Center, and a Professor of Plant Pathology and postharvest Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Samir has extensive research expertise in postharvest pathology in general and in developing biological and naturally-based control strategies for pre and postharvest diseases. In the past 30 years, he has been working closely with the citrus industry and other fruit crop exporters to develop advanced protocols for postharvest handling and testing new and reduced-risk chemical treatments to prevent postharvest decay.

He also did extensive basic research work on elucidating the mechanism of action of yeast biocontrol agents, pathogenicity mechanisms of Penicillium species, and resistance mechanisms of fruits against postharvest pathogens. He pioneered the exploration and development of commercial biological control products (e.g., 'Noli' and 'Aspire') that are based on naturally occurring yeasts. In recent years, he has been developing an active research program about the fruit microbiome and its manipulation for beneficial effects against postharvest pathogens. He also has been investigating the pathobiome concept in understanding the disease process of postharvest pathogens. Prof. Droby published more than 230 articles in peer-reviewed international journals, 30 review articles, and 26 book chapters on various topics on postharvest pathology.

Dr. James (Jim) Giovannoni

Jim Giovannoni is Director of the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health located on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York where he also holds Adjunct Professor appointments both with Cornell and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. He has been with the USDA since 2000 and was previously a Professor of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University. He received his Bachelor’s degree from UC Davis and his PhD from UC Berkley. Jim was elected to the U. S. National Academy of Sciences in 2016.

From his graduate thesis to the present, Jim and his lab have focused on regulation of fleshy fruit ripening and related nutritional pathways. Major research activities have been centered on understanding early events in the regulation of the ripening transition using tomato as a model, and exploring the conservation of ripening mechanisms in additional fruit species. Jim led the US component of the international effort to sequence the tomato genome, his group identified the first transcription factors regulating ripening and his lab is currently exploring the role of the epigenome during fruit development along with opportunities to identify and utilize novel genetic variation captured within the germplasm of tomato and its wild relatives for improved fruit traits.


11-15 November 2024
Rotorua Events Centre, New Zealand

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