Scientist's 'outstanding contribution' recognised

AbacusBio managing director Neville Jopson has been recognised for his ''outstanding contribution'' to animal production in New Zealand.

Dr Jopson was awarded the McMeekan Memorial Award at the New Zealand Society of Animal Production's conference in Hamilton this week.

The award, presented annually, recognises an outstanding contribution to New Zealand animal production or the society in the past five years.

In nominating Dr Jopson, Dr Geoff Nicoll, from Focus Genetics, and Dr Peter Amer, from AbacusBio, said Dr Jopson's leadership lay behind many of the developments and technological applications contributing to enhanced livestock performance and productivity, and incremental improvements in agricultural product value.

Brought up in East Otago, Dr Jopson gained an honours degree in agricultural science from Lincoln College (now Lincoln University) in 1987.

After gaining his PhD from the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, he moved to Norway to take up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Norwegian Agricultural University, where he was involved in using CT scanning to measure changes in body tissue in dairy goats.

He returned to Invermay Research Centre in 1994 on a New Zealand science and technology postdoctoral fellowship and, in 1996, was formally appointed a scientist at AgResearch.

He was closely involved in the implementation of CT scanning in sheep and was involved with the investigation of the inheritance and effects of the Carwell gene, which was publicly released as LoinMAX.

Other projects included investigating the implementation of DXA scanning for yield measurement in meat plants, as well as developing a case for a sheep progeny testing programme to improve genetic linkages among industry sheep breeders.

That programme was now the Beef and Lamb New Zealand central progeny test.

In 2001, Dr Jopson became consulting scientist in a newly established research and applied science company known then as Abacus Biotech Ltd.

His role increased with his additional appointment as a director and shareholder of AbacusBio Ltd in 2006 and subsequent promotion to managing director in 2010.

Dr Nicoll and Dr Amer said it was a key leadership role in a company that developed from a small niche consultancy business to one that employed more than 30 consultants and staff.

A central focus of the company was on using science to create value through practical business solutions.

A second major contribution to New Zealand animal production was the leadership he provided in the management of the central progeny test, they said.

His influence in that role was illustrated by the evidence that the rate of genetic progress in the profitability index in recorded sheep-breeding flocks had increased by 50% since the introduction of the industry progeny test structure.

When contacted, Dr Jopson said highlights in his career included CT scanning implemented in sheep, his involvement in the central progeny test and being part of building AbacusBio Ltd from four people to more than 30.

He enjoyed being able to use science and technology to improve people's businesses.

Dr Jopson believed the future of New Zealand's agricultural industry was bright.

That was reinforced when he travelled to Latin America, as part of a trade delegation with Prime Minister John Key and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, earlier this year.

New Zealand was ''looked up to'' when it came to agricultural pastoral production, he said.


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