Leading in her field

Focus Genetic’s rising star scientist Natalie Pickering wants to help “make the boat go faster” for New Zealand’s primary sector through genetic gains in red meat.

Dr Pickering, from Napier, has been announced an emerging talent finalist in the 2016 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards.  The winners will be announced on July 6.

She hopes her work with leading red meat genetic company Focus Genetics, will encourage more breeders and consequently  farmers to use genomic technology to enhance profitability.

At (age 31) she’s ambitious and aspirational about playing a role in moving the primary sector industry towards greater co-operation and collaboration.

“I see huge potential in creating a more efficient, consistent, greater valued products – not just more product doing the same old thing,” she says.

Focus Genetics CEO Gavin Foulsham said it is fantastic to have rising stars as part of the team.

“Natalie is leading in her field and making real gains for the industry. In addition to her emerging talent nomination, three separate breeding programmes she is involved with are also nominated. Her personal nomination is fantastic recognition of what we know will be a major contribution to our industry.”

As a teenager, Dr Pickering said her natural curiosity for how genetics work led her to the primary sector and Focus Genetics is enabling her to put her research experience and learning to work.

“I’m working out how to communicate the science ideas into industry practice and extending my mind to think about the overall picture of the red meat sector.

“I’m keen to figure out how we implement new technologies so the industry increases uptake to fly commercially and benefit NZ Inc,” she said.

Dr Pickering said Focus Genetics is a company with the right backing of like-minded farmers and leadership to be able to quickly adapt and showcase these new technologies to the industry.”

Dr Pickering has a PhD in Animal Science between Massey University and AgResearch – where she investigated the genetics of flystrike, dagginess and associated traits. As part of the AgResearch Animal Genomics team, Natalie has had first-hand experience researching sheep SNP chips and genomic selection.