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Rebecca Abbot

Rebecca Abbot
Place of Work
Plant & Food Research

Rebecca’s research looks at how to better predict the growth of farmed chickens, by understanding the effects of different nutrients in their feed.




In NZ, commercially farmed ‘meat’ chickens (or broilers) are fed on a diet that includes wheat and barley. However, both of these grains contain non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs). NSPs cause digested food to become very viscous in the chickens’ gut and makes them have quite sticky droppings! It also means that the chickens do not absorb all of the nutrients from the food and don’t grow as quickly as they can. This research is important for chicken farmers who want produce good quality chickens quickly and economically.

You are always learning, everything is always changing...

Rebecca’s other main project also focuses on NSPs. Crop & Food Research, now called Plant & Food Research, have developed a process to remove beta-glucan, a dietary fibre, from barley. This product is called Glucagel™ barley beta-glucan and has commercial applications within the food industry. She was responsible for scaling-up the laboratory process to pilot and then commercial scale, and is now part of a team running a commercial manufacturing plant to produce Glucagel™ barley beta-glucan.

Rebecca has become an expert in scaling-up biological processes from the lab bench to the pilot plant. This now forms the major part of her role with the Lifestyle Foods programme. She loves the challenges that this provides. This research is always testing her ability to solve problems and make decisions using knowledge she has gleaned throughout every aspect of her life.

Rebecca never thought she would end up working as a researcher but has found that she loves it. Her work is always changing and it gives her huge satisfaction to achieve her goals and succeed, sometimes against the odds.

Career Pathway

Rebecca took science subjects through school, largely at the advice of her older brother. A high achiever, she quickly set her sights on medicine. However, when the time came to go to university, she changed her mind and enrolled instead in the B.Tech (Biotech & Bioprocess Engineering) degree at Massey University. Keen for a summer job that would help develop her science skills, Rebecca sent letters introducing herself to all the relevant places she could think of in her home town of Christchurch asking for work. This lead to a summer position at Crop & Food which turned into a full-time position on graduation. Since starting at Crop & Food Research, she has completed a Diploma in Nutritional Science and is currently completing a PhD in Nutrition.


Rebecca is sports mad, and particularly enjoys indoor netball, skiing and squash. She designs clothing for herself and her family, and loves to spend time with her children. She is a keen musician and is learning to play the guitar.


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