New partnership to develop platform for New Zealand agritech AI research

A freshly inked scientific partnership is developing new AI computing power and technology to meet demand from Bay of Plenty-based scientists for faster processing of complex research data.

This partnership intends to remove computer processing bottlenecks that limit the ability for data scientists to train artificial intelligence (AI) models that learn from high volumes of complex and tightly coupled data. It will also reduce the turnaround times for current AI research.

PlantTech chief executive Mark Begbie says the MoU was the start of an exciting strategic partnership with NeSI to better understand and cater to the developing needs of New Zealand’s AI researchers. “As NeSI continues to ensure New Zealand’s research community is well catered for in traditional supercomputing driven by Central Processing Units (CPUs), the field of AI research is driving demand for high performance computing based around GPUs.”

PlantTech and NeSI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in November 2020. NeSI has procured a first tranche of Nvidia A100 general purpose Graphics Processing Units (GPGPUs) that are now being commissioned. NeSI is working with early adopter communities, including PlantTech, to pilot the use of these new technologies for the next few months, to tailor environments and workflows to meet their needs, and to assess public and private research sector demand to inform future investments.

National platform
NeSI director Nick Jones says the partnership with PlantTech provides NeSI with an opportunity to extend its national platform to be fit-for-purpose for data-intensive agritech workloads. In its first year, the research institute has trialled innovative solutions to various challenges affecting the kiwifruit industry, including crop estimation and fruit maturity testing.

Research director Ian Yule says NeSI’s new world-class computing resource would turbocharge PlantTech’s translational research capability. “We can achieve a lot with the computing systems currently available to us, as shown by the value we have rapidly delivered to partners already. However, there are challenges that we simply cannot address without the step up to a true supercomputing architecture. Through NeSI, we will be able to access the scale of processing and memory that we need to deliver the next generation of AI solutions, beyond the current state of the art. Through this strategic partnership, we will ensure New Zealand has the tools in the future to sustain the momentum.”

Dr Georgina Rae, NeSI’s science engagement manager, expects the new platform will act as a catalyst for boundary-breaking science in New Zealand. “Other countries have been exploring these capabilities for years, but having an indigenous, accessible platform in New Zealand will support the momentum we’re seeing build around technology and solutions that support data-driven decision-making on orchards and farms.

PlantTech is sending its research data to NeSI’s platform with support from Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand (REANNZ). The not-for-profit Crown-owned company operates a super-fast network and serves the unique demands of scientists, researchers and educators by helping them move and share data-intensive research around New Zealand and the world.

For more information:
New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) 


PlantTech Research

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