Grape Days Speakers

Meet the researchers and industry experts who will be speaking at Grape Days 2024.

The future of plant breeding

Dr Darrell Lizamore, Bragato Research Institute
Grapevine Improvement in New Zealand

Darrell is the Principal Research Scientist on the Sauvignon Blanc Grapevine Improvement programme. Originally from the Stellenbosch wine region in South Africa, Darrell established BRI’s Lincoln-based Grapevine Improvement Laboratory in 2019. He now leads a brilliant team of scientists working to improve genetic traits associated with resilience, sustainability and profitability of winegrowing in New Zealand.

Darrell manages a variety of research projects ranging from the rehabilitation of New Zealand’s National Vine Collection to the development of non-GMO tools for regulating the expression of plant traits (e.g. in response to inter-seasonal climate variations). The largest of these, the Sauvignon Blanc Grapevine Improvement Programme, is a 7-year Ministry for Primary Industries/New Zealand Winegrowers partnership that is currently developing New Zealand’s own Sauvignon Blanc clones to increase the resilience of the New Zealand wine industry. 

Dr Annabel Whibley, Bragato Research Institute
Grapevine Improvement in New Zealand

Annabel is a Bioinformatician in the Grapevine Improvement team. Her role explores genomic datasets to glean insights into grapevine biology. Annabel completed her PhD in plant molecular genetics at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK. Since then she has applied genomics technologies to questions in clinical research, evolution and conservation. As a bioinformatician at BRI she is characterising genetic and epigenetic diversity in new and existing grapevines to develop more resilient plants for the future.

Annabel also holds an Honorary Academic position in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland.

Jim White, Cloudy Bay Wine
European Plant Breeding - disease resistant vines

Jim White is the Technical and Sustainable Development Director at Cloudy Bay Vineyards in Marlborough, where he has worked for the past 14 years. Hailing from Melbourne, an interest in horticulture led to studying agriculture from which Jim started his career in viticulture, working across several Australian regions before joining Cloudy Bay in 2010.

Today Jim’s role encompasses vineyard and winery technical matters plus a broad range of responsibilities including H&S, engineering, major capital projects and CSR programs. Jim became interested in disease-resistant varieties (DRV) when attending a Moet Hennessy technical forum in Italy in 2022. A follow-up visit in 2023 was made to nurseries and producers in Italy and France to explore the potential for DVR for Cloudy Bay and the New Zealand wine industry.

Soil and water

Dr Solomon Wante, Bragato Research Institute
Trichoderma root application: Effects on vine response to drought stress and soil microbial communities

Solomon is a Research Associate in BRI's Grapevine Improvement team. Solomon coordinates the grapevine virus elimination project from the National Vine Collection as well as working on other grapevine improvement projects.

Originally from Nigeria, he has worked at the Federal University in Nigeria as a Lecturer. Solomon studied for his PhD in Biotechnology at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in 2019. His work focused on somaclonal mutation using the in vitro tissue culture technique to develop new clones or variants of plant lines with superior benefits, which could survive harsh changing environmental conditions.

Romy Moukarzel, Lincoln University
Vineyard management systems influence on Mycorrhizal fungi

Romy is a Lecturer in plant protection at Lincoln University. Her main research area is plant-microbe interactions and plant biochemistry. She focuses on the use of beneficial microbes as sustainable and ecological strategies to improve plant health and growth. This includes detailed investigations on the biotic and abiotic factors influencing beneficial microbes like mycorrhizal fungi and the impact of these microbes on plant growth parameters, nutrient uptake, and resistance to pests and diseases. Her work also involves studying the impact of management practices on plant physiology and plant biochemistry including the accumulation of primary and secondary metabolites in the plant bio-compartments.

Braden Crosby, Bragato Research Institute
Water use efficiency of 11 rootstocks under deficit irrigation

Braden is the Knowledge Transfer and Engagement Leader and is responsible for leading the transfer of knowledge and engaging with our viticulture and winemaking communities. Braden has a Bachelor in Wine Science and has been involved in an array of winemaking and viticultural roles over the last 20 years, including owning and operating his own vineyard and wine brand in Martinborough.

Braden aims to facilitate a two-way engagement with growers and winemakers to ensure industry research requirements are fulfilled by the BRI.  He is excited to work closely with the wine community in all regions to get the best benefit out of our research outcomes.


Yuichi Ando, Bragato Research Institute
Long spur pruning, an alternative to cane pruning

Yuichi joined Bragato Research Institute after over a decade of working in viticulture, most recently as Vineyard Manager of the Allan Scott Family vineyards. Yuichi’s mix of technical viticulture, practical vineyard operations management and tertiary qualifications make him a key member of the viticulture and extension teams. He assists with running trials and then helping communicate findings to members.

Yuichi has been managing the long spur pruning trials across Marlborough for the past two years. 

Dr Eline van Zijll de Jong, Linnaeus
Grapevine remediation – grapevine trunk disease management techniques

Eline joined the team at Linnaeus Laboratory in Gisborne in 2016 with more than 15 years of research experience in applied microbiology and molecular biology. Since joining the team she has been actively involved in four New Zealand Winegrower projects investigating trunk disease and its management. In her current role as Lead Scientist at Linnaeus, Eline works closely with Riversun Nursery to improve production and quality of grafted grapevines for the wine industry. Eline has valued the opportunity to not only advance but also apply scientific knowledge to benefit growers directly.

Plant Protection

Marlborough only

Dr Vaughn Bell, Plant & Food Research
Mealybug insecticide best practice

Vaughn is a Senior Scientist working for The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research, Havelock North. Since 2004, he has studied sap-feeding mealybugs in vineyards, with an emphasis on their ecology, biology and ability to transmit (or vector) grapevine viruses. By examining the inter-relationship between the vine, virus and vector, his findings contributed to the development of a practical and financially sustainable virus management response commonly deployed in commercial vineyards in New Zealand. He has also sought to increase the effectiveness of mealybug biological control by focusing on ‘softer’ chemistry and habitat manipulation supporting greater biodiversity.

Andrew Blakeman, AJB Solutions
Mealybug insecticide best practice

Andrew is a horticultural consultant, who has over 30 years of experience in horticulture, 20 of those years in the wine sector. His work has included managing large-scale multi-orchard and vineyard operations, conducting trial work for private companies and industry bodies, and providing technology transfer. Andrew has a passion for helping growers to improve outcomes through the application of research findings.

Ngarita Warden, Bragato Research Institute
Bragato Research Institute Winery’s Impact on the Spray Schedule

Ngarita is BRI’s Research Winemaker. She is responsible for the running of the Research Winery, as well as conducting our winery research trials each year for industry and commercial clients. Ngarita has a Post Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology. After a number of vintages in New Zealand and Australia, the UK became home for 6 years. There Ngarita was the wine buyer for St Johns College, Cambridge University and worked for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) educating on wine as well as managing the research and program development projects. She joined BRI from NMIT where she was the wine science tutor. She also runs a WSET course provider, The New Zealand Academy of Wine and Spirits.

Pinot noir and red varieties

Central Otago and Hawke's Bay

Rachel Petrie, Te Pūkenga
Phenology and wine chemistry from the Pinot noir clonal trial

Rachel is a passionate viticulturist, who has grown up with the Central Otago wine industry, growing grapes in Central Otago since 1996.  She has been a Senior lecturer on the Otago Polytechnic horticulture team for the past 8 years.  Constant liaison with the Horticulture/Viticulture industry leaders helps to keep her practices current and real.

Rachel's teaching focus is on sustainable pest and disease management, irrigation management and all aspects of viticulture management, through to the final product.  "My biggest buzz as a teacher is seeing the doors open as students move out into the industries surrounding us, there are so many opportunities out there for learners with some good hands-on learning under their belt."

Dr Damian Martin, Plant & Food Research
Grape sugar loading and harvest date implications for red winemaking

Dr. Damian Martin is one of New Zealand’s leading wine technical specialists and innovators. With a PhD from Bordeaux University in viticulture and wine science, Damian has worked in senior management, operational and technical roles for leading New Zealand wine companies (Ara Wines, Corbans, Montana) since 1997. Based in Marlborough, Damian currently leads Plant & Food Research’s Viticulture & Oenology Science Group, is Chief Editor of the International Viticulture and Enology Society - International Technical Reviews journal and has made extensive science and leadership contributions to several major NZ Wine research programmes including Lighter Wines and Pinot noir.

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