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Meet the Founders: University of Auckland

Meet Nijat Imin & Samuel Wilkins. The University of Auckland (UoA) team and one of the companies in Cohort A!

Nijat Imin is the creator of the IP. He is a passionate plant biologist and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Science at UoA. Before joining UoA, Nijat was at the Australian National University for many years, where he also gained his PhD.

Samuel Wilkins is a commercialisation manager at Auckland UniServices. He spends his time identifying exciting research that could have commercial applicability around the university and provides support and resources to get it to market.

The driving problem motivating and bringing together the UoA team is the environmental consequences of climate change and nitrogen. 

"The disruption of the nitrogen cycle is one of the biggest issues we are facing. It's becoming more and more serious every day, causing many environmental problems like coral bleaching, nitrous oxide production, and nitrate leaching." 

Nijat's interests in understanding how plants regulate nitrogen in demand signalling, paired with Sam's commercialisation expertise, have led to the team applying research to solve this problem.
 
The team is developing a proof of concept novel foliar bio-stimulant that promotes increased nitrogen uptake and utilisation in plants. This is promising technology that can minimise adverse impacts.
While both Sam and Nijat have different day jobs, the team works together closely when they can and build off each other's shortcomings. Sam often sees new opportunities in different areas that Nijat may not have thought of.

Nijat mentioned that Sam had done a great job grasping and understanding the science joking that "Sam is almost becoming a plant biologist!"

However, while the team bounces off of each other, the journey so far has not been without its challenges. Funding and access to resources have presented themselves as obstacles for the team. Opportunities like learning about the problems they're solving, their potential customers, and getting advice have only helped propel the team forward.

Nijat and Sam hope to have a startup company and prototype within the next five years. They hope to be producing products that provide benefits, not just to customers but also to the environment.  

It's great to have Nijat and Sam as part of our first Sprout cohort of 2021, and we can't wait to see their growth over the coming months.