Canterbury innovators take on the Food, Fiber and Agritech Challenge


The 2022 Supernode Food, Fiber and Agritech Challenge culminated in an exceptional showcase during E Tipu: Boma Agri Summit. The gala evening on June 21 highlighted and rewarded the impressive award-winning thinking behind the top 12 companies entered in this year’s Challenge.

  • University of Canterbury Associate Professor of Chemical and Process Engineering Ken Morison uses his research expertise in dairy and food process design alongside PhD student Mahnaz Shahverdi to develop SuperPro, the big winner and winner of research.


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

The prizes were awarded with one overall winner and two Research and Enterprise Challenge winners named. Now in its second year, the Challenge has inspired innovators to create disruptive new solutions for the food, fiber and agritech sector with the potential for global impact.

University of Canterbury (UC) University Associate Professor of Chemical and Process Engineering Ken Morison is using his research expertise in dairy and food process design alongside PhD student Mahnaz Shahverdi to develop SuperPro, the overall winner and the big winner of research.

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

“This year, the Food, Fiber and Agritech Supernode Challenge came at the right time for the project; interest in plant-based foods and especially protein is growing rapidly, and there are discussions of new directions for sustainable New Zealand agriculture,” he says.

“One of the unique characteristics of the technology is that it can be scaled incrementally without requiring high-risk capital investment. We hope this technology will serve as the basis for the production of niche, high-quality plant-based protein foods for the growing market of people who prefer to eat less meat.

He says the next step is to produce protein powder in the food lab at the UC School of Product Design, 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 of the Bragato Research Institute, research finalist recipient Daniel Mak has a solution with his company, Winealyse, which eliminates the need for large and complex equipment and simplifies test methods. Mak’s project will develop self-contained, wearable lab-on-a-chip devices capable of performing complex chemical and biochemical reactions to replace traditional lab testing for a range of wine analytes.

Cameron Bartley and Callum Windley are the two UC students behind Bambax, which started in the 2022 UC Entrepreneurship Center Summer Startup Program and is a sustainable food packaging company whose mission is to create the necessary change.

UC postdoctoral researcher Dr. Josh McCulloch is the mastermind behind the PwC Innovation Award-winning company, Autonabit, which aims to solve vineyard problems such as bird damage, and possibly mowing and spraying.

Each of the finalists offered transformative industry solutions they had worked on through the Accelerator program from April 4 to June 3, where they refined their projects with the support of masterclasses, coaching and go-to-market advice.

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

“Special congratulations to our winners tonight, we’ll be helping post-Challenge teams move their big ideas forward,” Quinn said.

The winners are:

Overall Winner: SuperPro ($10,000)

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

Business Stream

  • Grand Prize: Carbonz – New Zealand’s first fully traceable and tradable carbon credit exchange ($15,000)
  • Finalist: Bambax – premium food packaging created from biodegradable wood fibers and biopolymers serving as an alternative to single-use plastics ($10,000)

Research pane

  • Grand Prize: SuperPro – highly soluble and nutritional pea protein for the growing plant-based food market ($15,000)
  • Finalist: Winealyse – a tool that allows winemakers to analyze wine quality quickly and inexpensively, eliminating the need for lab testing ($10,000)

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

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