Our People

To tātou iwi

Directorate | Ranga Whakahaere

Joanne Todd, Challenge Director | Manutaki

Joanne Todd leads the Challenge Directorate team. She joined the Challenge from Fonterra Co-operative Ltd, where for over 20 years she held several nutrition and management roles with a focus on combining business development, science, regulatory and marketing activities, with an emphasis on Asian export markets. She has led and developed globally based cross-functional teams to deliver on a portfolio of projects and has built consumer insight, clinical research, and product development programmes that have delivered successful commercial outcomes increasing revenue for Fonterra’s consumer brands business. Her experience includes work across many areas including maternal, paediatric, immunity and mobility platforms, bringing vast experience in consumer-led innovation, combined with commercial acumen and understanding of the global consumer goods market and international regulatory environments.


Professor Richard Mithen, HVN Chief Scientist | Kaipūtaiao Matua HVN

Richard Mithen is a Professor of Human Nutrition at the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland and Chief Scientist for the New Zealand High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge. Following a PhD at the University of East Anglia and several years working in south central Africa on the conservation of wild crop relatives, Richard was a group leader at the John Innes Centre and Professor of Crop Science at the University of Nottingham prior to moving to the Institute of Food Research in 2003. Richard has played a major role in the development of the Quadram Institute, a new institute on the Norwich Research Park that combines food and nutritional science with human microbiome research and clinical expertise. Richard’s major research interests are at the interface between crop and food science and human nutrition. Richard migrated to New Zealand in 2019. More information about Professor Mithen’s role within HVN can be watched here.

Arohaina Owen | HVN Vision Mātauranga Leader | Kaiarataki Vision Mātauranga

Arohaina Owen’s career to date has been in Financial Services with her most recent role being Principal. Head of Intrafund Advice (superannuation) for the global corporate company Aon. She holds a Masters in Financial Planning as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Social Policy and Māori business, and is looking forward to continuing to grow her mātauranga experiences in this new role. You may recognise Arohaina from her previous mahi with Kaitahi where she was the Working Group Lead. The team were fortunate to receive HVN funding for their innovative award winning product of frozen smoothy drops. Arohaina brings strong business acumen and leadership skills to HVN , which will be of great value to us in supporting our Māori business partners, researchers and rangatahi. Arohaina is Pookai Aronui (Director) for Te Pataka o Rauru and Kii Tahi Ltd, investment arms of Southern Taranaki iwi, Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi.

Dr Simmon Hofstetter, Research Operations Manager | Poutaki Whakahaere Rangahau

Dr Simmon Hofstetter is the Research Operations Manager for the New Zealand High-Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge. He joined the HVN Challenge team from the Strategic Research and Development Programme of the Government of Alberta, Canada, where he worked with a team to deliver a multi-million-dollar research funding portfolio targeting issues in agriculture and livestock production. Simmon completed his PhD at the University of Alberta, combining a background in microbiology with expertise in food science and technology, before moving on to lead teams as a post-doctoral researcher in academia and as a research scientist in industry. His experience spans a broad range of applied research topics in areas of food and environmental microbiology and safe food production. Simmon combines his experience as a researcher with project management principles to ensure cross-functional scientific projects and programmes achieve successful outcomes.

Treena Brown

Treena Brown, Senior Marketing and Communications Advisor | Kaitohutohu Matua Whakawhitinga, Whakatairanga

Treena joined the HVN Challenge from the University of Auckland Business School, where she was the Marketing Content Manager. Treena is an experienced writer and editor with over 20 years’ publishing, marketing and communications experience in the United Kingdom and New Zealand in the areas of science, medicine, law, business and economics, engineering and tertiary education.

Eleanor Surtida, Executive Assistant | Kaiāwhina Huarangi

Eleanor Surtida is the Executive Assistant for the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge. She has over a decade of administration skills. Eleanor also has experience and understanding of research environments in the tertiary education sector and is committed to supporting science research programmes that make a difference to people’s lives.