Rongoā Infusions

Public Summary

Principal Investigator: Nikki Middleditch, Massey University; Dr Jane Mullaney, AgResearch; Robyn Richardson, Macorja Group Limited
Industry partners: Macorja Group Limited
High-Value Nutrition funding: $29,064

Developing a Rongoā beverage

This project brings together researchers from AgResearch and Massey University with the Macorja Group to develop a Wairākau functional beverage informed by Rongoā knowledge and taonga species.

Together, the researchers and Macorja aim to:

  • Establish that Macorja’s Rongoā blends are safe to consume as a food and beverage and contain components that may offer well-being benefits
  • Achieve a greater understanding of how ingredients in Rongoā may contribute to well-being benefits

The potential impact of this research is the commercialisation and export of Rongoā beverages that benefit from telling the story of both Māori Rongoā knowledge and scientific expertise.

This research also lays the initial groundwork for future trials to validate the well-being benefits of the components of the Rongoā blends.

Research at the interface of Mātauranga Māori and western science

The cross-disciplinary team has key researchers with expertise in microbiome, nutrition and chemistry from AgResearch and food product development specialists from the Massey School of Food and Advanced Technology, using the facilities housed within the FoodPilot.

For the research team, a key ingredient to science excellence is the collaborative nature of research, where all have a part to play and can contribute together to achieve much more than as individuals.

The researchers aim to develop a strong trust relationship with Macorja Group and develop a partnership that explores the interface of Mātauranga Māori and western knowledge systems.

As partners, the research team will contribute by measuring and validating the ingredients using western science methodology and technology products.

Growing scientific capacity and capabilities

While the research team will learn about Mātauranga Māori, Macorja Group will experience how the team conduct research. This knowledge can assist Macorja’s aspirations to develop their science capability through training and mentoring rangatahi – our future scientists.

Research team

Nikki Middleditch

Nikki Middleditch

Massey University

Nikki studied Food Quality and Product Development at the University of Plymouth, UK. She then built her career within the food manufacturing industries in the UK and Europe. Her product development experience covers bakery, meat-free products and prepared meal solutions. Nikki’s success at leading projects has resulted in products landing on European supermarket shelves, British casual dining menus, and within global quick service restaurant offerings.

Since joining Massey University in 2017, she has led externally-funded food and beverage R&D, innovation and product and process development projects, working with a wide range of clientele – from budding start-ups through to corporate innovators. She credits her achievements with focussing on people; building strong relationships between her teams and clients “really understanding what the clients’ needs are and taking them through the project with you, makes success much more meaningful for everyone involved”. She currently leads Massey Food Innovation and is the FoodPilot’s Client Solutions Manager. With access to Massey’s expertise and facilities, Nikki and her team are perfectly positioned to support all of NZ’s food and beverage commercialisation R&D needs.

Robyn Richardson

Robyn Richardson (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngati Tukorehe, Ngati Hauiti ki Rata, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Tuwharetoa)

Macorja Group – Advisor

Robyn gained a Master in Management, Postgraduate Diploma in Law and Philosophy, Diploma in Rongoā Māori, Information Management from Te Wānanga o Raukawa and is a Doctoral Candidate with Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

Robyn’s expertise is in the traditional healing system Rongoā Māori, which was taught to her by her tupuna and parents. Robyn has been practicing Rongoā for 38 years and provides advice to the Macorja Group. Robyn’s study is seeking to answer the question, in what ways does Papakainga facilitate the expression of Rongoā at Mangamāhoe?

Jane Mullaney

Dr Jane Mullaney (Ngati Porou/Ngati Raukawa)


Jane obtained her MSc in microbiology in 2009 from Massey University. In 2010 she was the recipient of a Massey Doctoral Scholarship and Riddet CORE scholarship studying the bioactives in broccoli and the interactions with the gut microbiome. She obtained her PhD in 2013 and took up a postdoctoral position at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute (UQDI). In 2014 she was awarded a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation post-doctoral fellowship at UQDI where she worked on the role of the microbiome in Type 1 diabetes.

Returning to New Zealand in 2017 she joined AgResearch to work on the HVN priority programmes for infant and digestive health and is currently an associate investigator for these programmes. Additionally, she led a Vision Mātauranga programme on developing NZ grown bananas through tissue culture, which she continues to develop. She is now a senior scientist at AgResearch and an Associate Investigator for the Riddet Institute CORE 2021-2028. Her key expertise is in the microbiome, but she is always interested in anything involving plants, people, animals, health through nutrition and is a keen finch breeder of Gouldians.

John te Amo

John P.B. Te Amo (Ngai Tūhoe /Ngati Porou/ Ngāti Kahungunu)

Managing Director, Macorja Group Ltd