The NZ Truffle Association Executive is made up of a wide range of people with different experiences and background. As volunteers we juggle executive work, day jobs & family life while promoting truffles in NZ.
President – George Wilkinson
Tasman District | Truffle Grower | 0292313743
George has been involved in the truffle industry for 7 years and has traveled fairly extensively checking out what others in the world are doing with growing, selling and eating of truffles.
Secretary – Fiona Johnson
Fiona came across the idea of truffle growing reading an Air NZ magazine about 7 years ago and, after some investigation and eating of truffle, became hooked. Three years ago, she and husband, John planted some trees and now eagerly await the first truffle.
Treasurer & STNZL Officer – Steve Hart
With his wife Jenny, Steve bought land in Riwaka at the top of the South Island. Their idea was to try developing a truffiere but cultivation showed many large rocks, requiring screening of a significant part of the truffiere and a very large pile of rocks. After several years of applying lime, about 90 T.melanosporum infected trees were ultimately planted in spring of 2010.
During his time in Central Otago, while working on construction of the Clyde Dam, Steve was a director of a company that developed stone fruit orchards and operated a large pack-house that provided a packing service for both local and export markets. During this period Steve was also a representative on the local irrigation scheme which provided water to irrigate the flats around Cromwell for the local horticulture industry.
The skills developed in these roles and in civil construction are what Steve brings to his interest in the development of both their own truffiere and the NZ truffle industry as he moves onto a new stage in his working life.
Other Executive Members:
Research & Development Officer – Dr Alexis Guerin-Laguette
Alexis is a mycorrhiza scientist (MSc. and Ph.D.) who specialized on edible mycorrhizal fungi (EMF). Alexis worked in France, Japan and Canada before joining Plant and Food Research (ex-CFR, Invermay, Dunedin) in 2004. Alexis is now based at Lincoln, Canterbury, where he leads mycorrhiza research at PFR for edible fungi production and plant bio-protection.
His main interest is knowledge, cultivation and conservation of all EMF species (over 500 worldwide!). His passion for this field stems from his early works on red milk cap mushrooms (Lactarius deliciosus and related species) at INRA-Montpellier France and on the Japanese delicacy matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake) at the University of Tokyo. In New Zealand, Alexis extended his activities to more EMF species, including truffles, alongside Dr Ian Hall and Prof Yun Wang. Alexis’ research interests include the development of field cultivation techniques, i.e. from seedling inoculation right through to edible fungi harvest and commercialization, for saffron milk cap and gourmet truffles (Tuber melanosporum, T. borchii, T. aestivum, T. brumale etc.). Alexis hopes to help growing the young New Zealand EMF industry by sharing his knowledge and expertise with all players, i.e. growers, nurserymen, investors, and the food sector. Alexis maintains and monitor the PFR-Lincoln plantation trials (saffron milk caps, bianchetto, and porcini). Alexis has authored over 20 research papers in international peer-reviewed journals.
Alexis is the Secretary of the International Workshop on Edible Mycorrhizal Mushrooms (IWEMM) whose next edition will take place in Cahors, France, in 2016 (http://www.iwemm8-cahors.com/). Alexis has started a collaboration on truffle and mushroom cultivation with the Kunming Institute of Botany (Yunnan, China) funded in 2015 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Alexis will visit KIB again in 2016 to pursue the cooperation which is part of a wider collaboration between PFR and KIB.
Since 2012, Alexis extended his activities to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), the most widespread type of mycorrhizal fungi on earth. He is working alongside PFR pathologists to assess the potential of AMF to protect commercial potato cultivars from soil borne diseases.
REGIONAL COORDINATOR – Karen Drummond
Karen has been involved with dogs and training for 15+ years. She facilitates and organises world leading lecturers on scent work, canine behaviour, and dog training techniques to come to New Zealand to speak and teach, so others can benefit from the experts as well.
Karen began offering Truffle Dog Services in 2011. Karen has found a new passion and love in truffle hunting. She enjoys undertaking truffle surveying for owners in New Zealand as well as teaching them to hunt with their dogs, whilst sharing in their excitement as each and every truffle is pulled out of the ground.
Karen is a reward based trainer with a holistic approach to training focusing on operant conditioning and building a dog’s confidence to create a scenario with a successful outcome.
Conference Officer & Web Master – Konrad Hickson
Firstly thanks for the opportunity to be on the Exec. Rachael and I have started up a truffierre in early stages in Wanganui but we are based in Upper Hutt, Wellington. I can bring experience for the NZTA from being a trustee of a local school for 3.5 years which involves spending tax payers money and being an employer to dozens of staff. As a Chairman I helped set up a community garden in Upper Hutt which has won regional and local awards for its garden and orchard. Also I had organised martial arts festivals for a number of years.
As Conference Officer & Web Master my desire is see the NZTA as an inclusive one stop shop for all of the industry. We have greater strength pulling together and cooperating. I’m happily married with three boys. I work for IBM and have 20 years IT experience. My other Interests as an Aikido Instructor (martial arts), Amateur Dramatics as an actor, Cycling and Piano.