The Global Challenges Project

At the University of Waikato we have identified five global challenges that underpin healthier, more prosperous, safe and diverse societies. Through our world-class teaching, research and expertise we will contribute towards local, national and global efforts to improve and sustain:

  1. The health of the environment
  2. The physical and mental wellbeing of the world’s population
  3. The equality and rights of indigenous communities
  4. The productivity and environmental impact of food production
  5. The security and safety of people, communities, property and intellectual assets

These are the themes of the Global Challenges Project.

Dig Deeper Into the Global Challenges

Security and Safety
New threats emerge every day. Here's how we're working to make the world a safer place.

Cyber Security

Locks, keys and alarms are everyday items people use to help with security \- but what do you use in cyberspace?

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Leading the way in cyber security

In a world thats more connected than ever, unprecedented amounts of information about ourselves is shared who\-knows\-where on a daily basis, whether through the internet, our phones, in\-store purchases, or storing data in the cloud. Then theres all the personal information held about us by health providers, schools, banks Most of us have no idea where all this information goes, who sees it, how its stored or how many copies have been made and if your information is deleted, has it really disappeared off the face of the digital planet?

Director of the New Zealand Institute for Security and Crime Science and Head of the University of Waikatos Cyber Security Lab Associate Professor Ryan Ko wants to change that by giving us greater control of our data and privacy.

> At the present time, theres not a lot you can do to protect your data unless youre a geek. Researchers at the University are working to return control of data to everyday people.

Big problems require big solutions; Dr Kos team of international researchers and postgraduate students has worked with everyone from the New Zealand Police and the Defence Force to INTERPOL, most recently hosting the international ISO \(International Organisation for Standardization\) conference on global standards in cyber security. Businesses such as Deloitte and Gallagher also seek out the expertise of the Universitys researchers, looking for ways to secure data linked to confidential client information and billions of dollars of assets. The Universitys cyber security team, [CROW]( \(Cybersecurity Researchers of Waikato\), has worked with INTERPOL on research to recognise the origins of global bitcoin transactions, a digital currency notorious for being untraceable and often associated with drug payment and ransomware attacks. It was Dr Kos background in security and cloud computing at Hewlett\-Packards Cloud and Security Lab \(in Singapore, Palo Alto and Bristol\) that secured him the job at the University of Waikato in 2012. In Singapore, he had made scientific breakthroughs that changed the global understanding of cloud data provenance; his cloud data tracking innovations continue to be used around the world. At the time, there was no cyber security programme at the University of Waikato, although the need was clear. To fight future threats of cybercrime which cost the world US$450 billion in 2016 alone a whole new generation of cyber skills had to be developed.

Cyber security experts in high demand

Demand for trained professionals in cyber security is increasing globally at 3.5 times the rate of the overall job market; its an industry with a near\-zero unemployment rate. To keep up with demand, Dr Kos team established New Zealands first [Master of Cyber Security](\-of\-cyber\-security), alongside the countrys first Cyber Security Lab. From humble beginnings, the Cyber Security Lab now represents 17 nationalities, contributing to cyber security on a national and international level. The Universitys researchers are helping the New Zealand Government to implement its Cyber Security Strategy. Dr Ko is part of the eight\-member New Zealand Cyber Security Skills Taskforce that advises the Minister for Communications. Together with his PhD and Honours students, their research in mobile privacy\-preserving electronic voting won a Best Paper Award in a prestigious cloud computing research conference, and was mentioned in the Prime Ministers National Cyber Policy Offices annual report.

This ground\-breaking work continues the Universitys proud legacy of online innovation. In 1989, the Universitys John Houlker brought the internet to New Zealand via a historic collaboration with NASA. Today, Dr Kos team honours this legacy by working to ensure online and internet\-linked environments around the world are safe for everyone.

New Zealand Cyber Security Challenge

With new cyber security threats emerging every day, the University takes its responsibility to engage and educate future generations seriously. In 2014, it launched the [New Zealand Cyber Security Challenge](, an annual competition where the countrys brightest minds become cyber defenders in a game that produces the data needed for researching predictive analytics, attack and defence behaviour. About 400 school students, university students and industry all compete remotely in the initial online round of the much\-anticipated event, which culminates in a final stand off in the Universitys computer labs. Dr Ko says the hacking part of the challenge is the hook for attracting high school students allowing them to turn their perhaps informal skills into a career.

Cyber threats

As cyber security threats multiply, Dr Kos team continues to innovate, leading the way in industry trends and opportunities for improvement.

The University of Waikato is the lead in the [STRATUS](\-events/media/2014/university\-of\-waikato\-receives\-more\-than\-$35\-million\-in\-mbie\-research\-funding) \(Security Technologies Returning Accountability, Trust and User\-centric Services in the Cloud\) alliance of cloud security researchers. In 2013, the STRATUS joint cyber security project was awarded a $12.23 million research grant by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment \(MBIE\), the largest computer science research grant in New Zealands history. It is now recognised worldwide as a leader in the fields of data provenance, homomorphic encryption and cloud computing security. STRATUS is a mirror image of what we are trying to do here with our research, creating a brand new industry of DIY security to take to the world, says Dr Ko. Following the 2017 launch of the New Zealand [Institute for Security and Crime Science](\-institutes/institute\-for\-security\-and\-crime\-science), a new degree is also in the planning for future University of Waikato students. The Master of Security and Crime Science will be the first qualification of its kind in New Zealand, targeting current and future law enforcement and security practitioners. The multi\-disciplinary course has the support of the New Zealand Police, with its first intake of students in 2018.

At the University of Waikato, we're investing in New Zealands security, training the next generation of cyber security specialists and exporting our expertise and innovations across the world.

Today's farms bring together technology, science, engineering, environmental stewardship and business.


The latest advances in technology, science, engineering, environmental stewardship and business come together on the farm.

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**_In 1964 the University of Waikato was founded on rolling farmland and orchards on the outskirts of Hamilton. More than 50 years later the original farm cowshed remains a permanent feature of the Hamilton campus; an enduring reminder of the University of Waikatos strong ties with agriculture_.**

Thoughts of farming might evoke images of gumboots and hard physical labour under the sun \- perhaps even the old stereotype brawn over brains. But take a closer look and its clear that the modern farming environment is anything but simple. The latest advances in technology, science, engineering, environmental stewardship and business come together on the farm, driving national and international success. Constant evolution is key to survival and growth  and the University of Waikato has been a trusted partner for more than 50 years, helping Kiwi farmers to stay one step ahead while also exporting agricultural innovations around the world.

**_Better, safer crops_**

In the science lab, University of Waikato researchers are working to support and protect farmers livelihoods, identifying new ways to improve crop quality and address environmental threats. Postgraduate student Danielle Le Lievre is working to improve the taste of the new disease\-resistant Zespri kiwifruit variety \(known as SunGold\) by looking at how orchard conditions contribute to the gradual accumulation of flavour compounds from flowering to harvest.

Danielles project is part of a larger collaboration between the University, Plant & Food Research and Zespri that looks at how sugars, acids and starch are made as the SunGold fruit grows, providing a better understanding of how to grow the best\-tasting fruit. The results are already providing new information on how fruit growth responds to orchard management and the environment. Thats good news for growers, exporters and the Christmas pavlova.

University of Waikato Masters student Shannon Hunter is working to protect a much\-loved part of breakfasts, burgers and salads around the world, investigating ways to prevent a widespread avocado disease known as root rot. The 2017 recipient of the University of Waikatos $22,000 [New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays Sir Don Llewellyn Scholarship](\-national\-agricultural\-fieldays\-sir\-don\-llewellyn\-scholarship) is investigating whether the pathogen that causes avocado root rot is developing resistance to the fungicide currently used to protect avocado trees. The phosphite fungicide used to manage root rot is widely used across all agricultural sectors for disease management. It is currently being tested for use in protecting kauri and pine, so resistance is a very real and urgent threat.

> Shannons results will not only be important for the vibrant and expanding avocado industry. They'll also be useful for understanding the threat of loss of control of several other _Phytophthora_ pathogens affecting the agricultural sector.

The NZ Avocado Industry Research Council and Scion are collaborating with Shannon on her research, which involves gathering samples from six avocado orchards in the Bay of Plenty. She says New Zealands use of phosphite to manage avocado root rot for more than 25 years means it provides an excellent model system to study fungicide resistance. Her scholarship will fund a research trip to the USA where she will work with researchers from the University of California, Riverside to test their cultures from avocado orchards and the University of California, Berkeley, to test other important species for phosphite resistance.

Stevie Noe spends most days in a greenhouse collecting and analysing nectar from mnuka plants in order to produce better honey. His Masters research involves measuring how much nectar is produced in the flowers and how its quality changes based on different growing conditions such as temperature, humidity and light. As part of this, Stevie tests the quality of the nectar based on how much dihydroxyacetone \(DHA\) is present. DHA converts tomethylglyoxal \(MGO\) which is the key ingredient that gives mnuka honey its reputed health properties. The more DHA there is in the nectar, the more MGO there will be in the honey.

> Honey is a big deal at the moment. The industry is trying to grow as theres more demand than supply, and the government is backing this growth. Hopefully by the end of my study Ill be able to tell growers how best to test their mnuka plants to get top results.

Stevies research has been helped along by two Waikato postgraduate scholarships, as well as Pre\-Seed Accelerator Funding \(PSAF\) from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, testament to the importance of his work to New Zealands booming honey industry.

The robot revolution

A farm might not be somewhere youd expect to meet a robot but Professor Mike Duke from the Universitys Faculty of Science and Engineering wants to turn robots into everyday farming tools. Professor Duke and his team are taking robots from factories to fields, using robotics to do everything from picking kiwifruit and asparagus, to planting, lifting and grading pine tree seedlings back\-breaking work that depends on precision and careful handling. All the while these machines are also collecting data about the crops theyre processing, allowing better decisions to be made about current and future harvests.

Robots will increasingly be used in industries that struggle to attract and retain staff. With New Zealands primary industry\-linked exports set to double by 2025, there simply arent enough humans to keep up with demand.

> Robots never sleep, which makes them ideal workers. Theyll do the work humans should no longer be expected to do, and they work through the night without any extra cost.

The introduction of robotics and smart machinery into the countrys primary industries could save farmers and companies money while simultaneously improving safety and quality. And these remarkable machines are just the beginning. The University team is already looking beyond harvesting machines to robots that will be able to perform jobs such as pollination, weed spraying, thinning, transportation, quality control and pasture repair, further increasing productivity and turning robots into the farmers best friend. This particular brand of high\-tech Kiwi ingenuity has also found its admirers overseas, with new opportunities to export agricultural robots arising by the day.

**_Driving success beyond the farm gate_**

New Zealand is home to some of the worlds best farmers, but making a good living can be a challenge in a highly competitive market. The Universitys Management School is training a new generation of agribusiness specialists to help farmers and agricultural businesses to grow their profits and reap the benefits of their hard work. Agribusiness is the vital link in the chain that takes agricultural products beyond the farm gate and turns them into profits. Students gain an all\-round understanding of the agricultural sector, including farm management, soil and nutrient management, rural financial management and banking, and value\-chain management. Agribusiness also looks beyond New Zealand to the possibilities offered by international exports. Professor of Economics Frank Scrimgeour says that agribusiness dominates New Zealand exports and our largest businesses are in the agribusiness sector.

> New Zealand agribusiness provides huge opportunities to gain experience in international commerce as our products are sold on every continent, reaching high\-end consumers and the protein needs of people with limited incomes.

Its a sector with deep connections into the research and development community as agribusiness entrepreneurs develop and apply new technologies which enhance the economic, environmental, and social performance of agri\-food systems. Agribusiness students learn about international marketing and sales, technological innovations, the impact of free\-trade agreements, and how sustainable farming practices can be used to reduce costs and gain a competitive advantage. Courses are delivered in collaboration with successful companies such as Fonterra, the Tatua Co\-operative Dairy Company and DairyNZ, with graduates in high demand by employers.

**_Dishing the dirt on climate change_**

Modern farmers recognise that environmental sustainability is key to long\-term success. Ground\-breaking research by the University of Waikato is helping farmers to be good custodians of the land and waterways they manage. Researchers are working with the Ministry of Primary Industries and international counterparts around the world to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through good farming practices. A greenhouse gas is any gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide \(CO2\), methane \(CH4\) and nitrous oxide \(N2O\) are some of the most common types. Farms can be a big source of emissions  peat soils are a significant contributor to soil carbon emissions and methane from sheep and cattle accounts for almost one third of New Zealands total greenhouse gas emissions  but, with careful management, emissions can be reduced and even eliminated. In parallel with research to determine the best ways to manage agricultural emissions, Professor Louis Schipper, Associate Professor David Campbell and postdoctoral researcher Dr Susanna Rutledge from the University of Waikato's [Environmental Research Institute]( are part of a major international research project to investigate whether carbon levels in soils can be increased, effectively burying \(sequestering\) and removing carbon from the atmosphere. Varying types of crops may be one way to sequester carbon so the research team is comparing different crops and pastures to determine which mix most effectively increases carbon soil inputs. With funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, and working in collaboration with Crown Research Institutes Landcare Research, AgResearch and DairyNZ, the team is measuring and comparing carbon exchange at adjacent pasture areas at a dairy farm near Waharoa. This important work has the potential to support achievement of the Global Sustainable Development Goals, enhance food security and mitigate climate change. It also has the potential to transform farms from producers of greenhouse gases into carbon sinks that help to reduce gases and slow global warming.

**_Healthy communities, healthy farms_**

Healthy farms are powered by healthy communities. The University of Waikato works to support the health and wellbeing of rural communities through a range of initiatives. Professor of Population Health Ross Lawrenson is one of the Universitys many passionate advocates for rural health.  Amongst other initiatives, he is leading a three\-year project to improve early access to lung cancer diagnosis for Mori and rural communities.

> We need to be supporting our rural areas better. Rural communities are the backbone of New Zealand, yet their access to health services is poor.

Professor Lawrenson says the highest occurrence of cardiovascular disease is in rural towns, and GPs in cities far outweigh those in rural towns per head of population. To address this problem, the University of Waikato and the Waikato District Health Board have submitted a proposal to the government to establish New Zealands third medical school. If the government accepts this proposal, students will be able to enrol as early as 2021. The Waikato Medical School will focus on enrolling students from vulnerable and rural communities, training a new generation of community\-focused doctors and health professionals who understand the needs of rural communities and support their success.

We are committed to making serious contributions to each of these challenges. Our work will support innovative and effective solutions to real-world problems, inspiring and nurturing new generations of change-makers along the way.

Within each Global Challenge theme we are:

  • Fostering curiosity, innovation and rigour at all levels; from undergraduates through to post-doctorate research (both grant-funded and commercialised).
  • Undertaking a broad range of projects, initiatives and research.
  • Identifying and strengthening interdisciplinary connections.
  • Partnering with industry and organisations outside the University.
  • Making a distinctive and meaningful contribution towards the resolution of challenges on a local, national, and global scale.

We believe that the biggest global challenges can be solved. What role will you play in helping us to tackle them?