AbacusBio merges with plant breeder

Anna Campbell, of AbacusBio. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Anna Campbell, of AbacusBio. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting firm AbacusBio has merged with a North Island-based plant breeding company.

Rotorua-based Gemnetics did similar work to AbacusBio but in plants, not animals, and it was a very complementary skill set, AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell said.

Plant and animal breeding methodologies were converging with the growth in genomics and big data tools and technologies.

The merger would allow the company - retaining the name AbacusBio for operations and Gemnetics for specific plant-breeding software - to offer clients access to leading-edge genetic and system services, software and data management products, she said.

AbacusBio was introduced to Gemnetics through a University of Otago colleague nearly two years ago, Dr Campbell said.

Gemnetics worked with clients who bred a variety of plants, including radiata, eucalyptus, Douglas fir, manuka, African mahogany and sustainable palm oil.

It was a specialist in outcross species and talks were already being held with the likes of the hemp industry while AbacusBio consultant Luke Proctor was heading north next month to do the first field work setting out a manuka trial.

Dr Campbell said there was "definitely" room for well-thought out planting of tree species, both natives and commercial forestry.

AbacusBio was also adamant it would continue to support - and see - the huge potential for growth in the red meat industry.

For Dr Campbell, whose training was in plant breeding - including her PhD - it "feels like coming home".

Gemnetics founders Mike and Sue Carson were now partners at AbacusBio and there were four other Gemnetics staff. At AbacusBio, there were about 40 based in the Dunedin office and another five in the United Kingdom.

Dunedin was still very much AbacusBio's base and its relationship with both the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic was "fantastic", enabling the company to tap into young talent. Already talks were being held with potential PhD candidates around tree breeding, Dr Campbell said.

Meanwhile AbacusBio's UK team has recently obtained a contract, funded by Innovate UK, to work in Uganda on pig improvement, developing data systems and genetic improvement and working with veterinary clinics.

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