Department of Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences

Engage with teaching, research and innovation in foods, beverages and advanced molecular technologies.

Food is essential to the existence, health and wellbeing of humankind. It is also a critical part of Aotearoa New Zealand's economy, representing almost half of the export revenue earned. In 2019, food and beverage exports generated over $70 billion for the nation. The value of wine exports has increased every year since 1995.

Food science encompasses a variety of disciplines, including biology, chemistry, microbiology, processing, sensory science and technology. Food scientists may work on production, safety, innovation, trade and sustainability.

We have been educating viticulturists for over 25 years. The Department of Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences focuses on the production and development of safe and saleable foods and beverages (notably wine) across the agricultural spectrum. Molecular biology, genetics, biotechnology and computational tools are deeply embedded in some of the department's research.

As a consequence, we also harbour research groups delivering advanced breeding systems for plants, advanced modelling for disease processes and world-leading gene therapies for rare and debilitating neurological diseases. We host a number of research centres dealing with these areas.

Key themes for the department

Wine and beverage science

  • Climate change adaptation
  • Varietal characterisation
  • Low-alcohol wines
  • Fermentation microbiology
  • Malting and brewing
  • Hop and grape genetic improvement

Food science

  • Food processing
  • Food innovation
  • Food safety
  • Food microbiology 
  • Sensory science
  • Sustainable food production

Molecular biology

  • Advanced breeding techniques
  • Genome sequencing
  • Epigenetics
  • Biotechnology
  • Gene therapy

Computational mathematical modelling

  • Genetic, protein and metabolic networks
  • Networks related to memory formation and impairments in the mammalian brain

Study programmes

The department is made up of nationally and internationally renowned academics delivering research-led teaching so that courses are always fresh and vibrant. Key study programmes include: 

In addition to these courses, bespoke research Master's degrees and PhD programmes are supported. The department hosts a number of students in these areas, helping them to become part of the next generation of leading scientists in food, wine and molecular biosciences, with a sustainability perspective essential for the future. 

Research Centres


Professor Stephen On - Head of Department

Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences

+64 3 423 0638