Seven new projects have been announced

Venture Taranaki has announced seven new Curious Minds community science projects, bringing the total number of projects in the region to 57 since 2015, with $970,000 in overall funding to help school and community groups test their ideas and observations with science.
 
Led by Venture Taranaki and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the 2021 round of Curious Minds projects reflect our regional strategic goals and aspirations, aligning with our community vision for a better tomorrow, through community-based, innovative research.
 
The new projects span a collaborative-based research on Tarakihi Taiora, collecting data on New Zealand shark sightings, assessments on reptile abundance and diversity in Purangi, investigating an automated growing system, testing the Wētā Watcher that autonomously takes photos of ground-dwelling lizards and geckos, a running and exercise programme for 11- to 13-year-olds, and regenerative farming trials and practices.
 
“Curious Minds has been running in Taranaki since 2015 and has included a diverse range of projects in every corner of the region. Our newly funded projects will be exploring their ideas through a collaborative research model that promotes the development of science and technology capability in Taranaki through locally relevant and community-driven investigation,” explains Justine Gilliland Venture Taranaki chief executive.
 
“In this new batch of funded projects, it’s great to see some food and fibre related ideas, as well as some that are looking at environmental monitoring and restoration,” says Justine.
 
“It is also exciting to see some strong elements of technology coming through, particularly artificial intelligence. It’s fantastic that this platform can be utilised to support our community’s development across a wide variety of sectors.”
 
“The Tarakihi Taiora project in particular is another awesome example of mātauranga Māori and pūtaiao approaches complimenting one another,” adds Anne Probert, General Manager Regional Strategy and Sectors.
 
“The importance of the Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform has been validated recently with the success of Aurora School’s Sound Lures Project, which was funded through this year’s round of Curious Minds. They won the New Zealand title at the 123 Technology Innovation Challenge, and were awarded at the 2020 Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Awards, which is an amazing achievement for the school, and their vision and contribution towards our predator-free Taranaki,” says Anne.
 
The Taranaki community has been busy investing in and backing these projects too; alongside the $970,000 Curious Minds has allocated to projects since 2015, Taranaki individuals, organisations and enterprises have given from their own pocket, almost matching the region’s funding to date through in-kind and co-funded project support, that sees the total value of these projects now reaching more than $1.5 million.
 
The core objective of Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform is to build capability, and a life-long interest and fascination with science, through engaging, real-world research, to inspire and provide relevance as to how science forms a critical part of our daily lives.
 
“Our community is harnessing science and technology to do some amazing things and it is great that we can continue to offer Curious Minds in Taranaki,” explains Anne.
 
“We’re extremely proud to be announcing these projects today, and we’re excited to see how these projects progress, and to share their progress and the stories of those involved along the way,” says Justine.
 
These next projects are getting underway now, as the groups begin their journey to explore, validate and evolve their thinking.
 
About the new projects
 
Tarakihi Taiora
Next year, Te Kāhui o Taranaki will undertake a collaborative based research project with the Ngāti Moeahu hapū. The key outcome is to reconnect whānau, hapū and iwi to Tarakihi, while empowering them with knowledge and skills to protect and manage Tarakihi for future generations.
The project will capture oral traditions followed by workshops on GIS, remote sensing technologies and marine science.
The science and technology will help capture stories related to pūkawa (reefs), tauranga waka (canoe landings), tauranga ika (fishing channels), awa (streams), hūhi (wetlands) and pā (fortifications).
This kaupapa is supported by LINZ, Drone Technologies NZ, Seachange Surveys and will also involve students from Coastal Taranaki and Rahotu schools.
 
Shark Spy Taranaki
Shark Spy is looking for sharks around the Taranaki region in 2021! The project seeks to collect sightings and information on sharks, rays and skates (including egg cases) to help bridge the gap in what we know about New Zealand sharks. These sightings can help quantify the species diversity, abundance, seasonality, size and sex structure. Our team will be working with local school and community groups to collect video data in the North and South Taranaki bights, as well as collecting any sightings that the community may find on their own adventures. The project is coordinated by the University of Otago and the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre.
 
Project Mokomoko
In 2021, Experience Purangi will team up with local school children and other collaborators to assess the reptile abundance and diversity across different habitat types in Purangi. Reptiles are understudied due to their cryptic nature and often small population sizes (due to predation from invasive pests). This will be the first reptile survey conducted in this protected area, which is part of the 13,000 hectares currently under pest control that is managed by Experience Purangi. Local school children will learn about science and research by establishing the hypothesis of the study and helping to design the research plan with the help of experts from Taranaki Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Wildlife.ai, and Taranaki Lizard Group.
 
Robogrow
In 2020, a group of Inglewood High School students will be investigating how an automated growing system can be developed and how such a system compares to traditional growing methods. To start this process, students will employ a range of cross-curricular skills to construct, programme, and monitor a miniature greenhouse for growing herbs. The learning from this phase will then be applied to investigating how such a system might be upscaled or adapted to a wider range of applications which could have potential for 'backyard growers.' The 'Robogrow' team will be working alongside a range of industry professionals during this process, who will be sharing their expertise with engineering, automation, science, commercial growing, and industrial design, to help bring the project to life.
 
Wētā Watcher
Wildlife.ai will be testing a device, Wētā Watcher, that autonomously takes photos of ground-dwelling invertebrates and herpetofauna (lizards/geckos). In collaboration with local community, conservation and education organisations, Wildlife.ai will compare the Wētā Watcher with traditional monitoring tools. This project will take place in areas with different abundance of introduced predators (possums, stoats and rats), including Lake Rotokare and Mount Taranaki. This will enable the team to improve the current understanding of Taranaki’s invertebrates and herpetofauna and research if Wētā Watchers can provide scientific evidence to guide more efficient conservation efforts.
 
TempoFit - Running in Schools Programme
In 2021, TempoFit is launching a pilot of a ground-breaking running and exercise programme for 11 to 13-year-olds in Taranaki intermediate schools. This Curious Minds grant will not only enable results of the pilot programme to be measured but also allow young people themselves to be part of the data collection and analysis of their own exercise development. Designed to re-ignite the love for running and movement that young people are born with, the programme seeks to address growing rates of childhood obesity, inactivity and mental health issues through empowerment, education and inspiration over a 5-week, in-class and take-home programme. The research will focus on behavioural and psychological outcomes as well as physiological metrics.
 
Regenerative Farming
The Regenerative Farming project will see more than 30 Taranaki dairy, sheep and beef farmers collaborate and work alongside one another, scientists, and regenerative agriculture specialists to learn about, action, and monitor regenerative farming trials and transitions on their farms.
Participants will develop an understanding of and make use of comprehensive soil, biology and pasture analysis, along with Visual Soil Assessments and other indicators, to offer foundational feedback and help assess changes over time. Regenerative Farming looks at how we can take our farming to the next level of health, prosperity, resilience, and responsibility. Optimising Soil Health is an essential key to unlock this potential. With a strong collaborative approach, workshops, farm visits, coaching and discussion groups, participants will explore what ‘regenerative farming’ can be for us here in Taranaki.