Dr Aoife O' Driscoll


A molecular plant pathologist by training, Aoife has broad ranging experience in crop protection research, agronomy and knowledge transfer in the arable and horticulture crop sectors. Her PhD conducted with Teagasc investigated novel sources of resistance to Septoria tritici in wheat and the model grass species Brachypodium distachyon. She has since held roles in agrochemical regulatory science and as a field vegetable pathologist with ADAS, achieving her BASIS Certificate in Commercial Horticulture in 2018.

Colin Peters


Colin has previously worked as a distributor agronomist and a farm manager for a large farm management organisation before moving on to work as Head of Farms for BBSRC, based at Rothamsted Research.

As NIAB's break crop specialist he provides specialist technical and scientific knowledge on the evaluation, selection and management of crop varieties, focusing on break crops including oilseed rape, linseed, pulses, sugar beet and other minor crops. As part of the role he helps coordinate the break crop trials programmes, working with staff across NIAB.

Professor Ji Zhou

Prof Ji Zhou (周济) is Head of the Data Sciences Department at NIAB. He is an expert in multi-scale plant and crop phenotyping, computer vision (CV) based trait analysis, IoT sensing, and artificial intelligence (AI) modelling. By combining phenotyping, genotyping and environmental data, Ji and his group are developing open-source hardware and software to address yield, quality, and disease related challenges for UK’s key agricultural and horticultural crops such as wheat, Brassica, strawberry, and orchard fruits.

Dr Michael Gifford


Michael joined NIAB as Director of Commercialisation in March 2019. His role is to develop revenue streams based on the research and intellectual property being developed within NIAB. Within this he manages much of the SME engagement, is active in developing spin-out opportunities and is leading the development of Barn4, a new agri-tech incubator on NIAB’s campus in Cambridge.

Vanessa McMillan

Vanessa joined NIAB in May 2019 as the Technical Manager responsible for DUS (Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability) Testing of Cereals (barley, oats and wheat) on behalf of APHA for National Listing (NL) and Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR).

Vanessa has a background in plant pathology and, prior to joining NIAB, her main research focus was the development of genetic strategies for the control of foliar and root diseases in wheat.

Alex Talibudeen


Alex Talibudeen is the Technical Manager responsible for DUS (Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability) Testing of Winter Oilseed Rape, Fodder Rape, Field Bean, and Fodder Kale on behalf of APHA for National Listing (NL) and Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR).

Alex Joined NIAB in July 2010 and has since been involved with the delivery of Agricultural and Ornamental species DUS testing and Seed Certification. During this time, Alex has also specialised in the use of image analysis phenotyping for DUS purposes.

Tim Henshaw

Tim joined NIAB in March 2018, with more than 30 years’ experience in the agricultural industry, and was appointed as Technical Manager for Seed Certification in March 2019. He has responsibility for administration, control plots and seed crop inspections for all agricultural crop species. He also manages certification under the OECD seed schemes in England and Wales.

Dr Michelle Fountain

Research interests

Michelle specialises in the minimisation of pesticide use in fruit horticulture, improving pollination in fruit crops and incorporating modern fruit growing practices with Integrated Pest Management. The former includes research on improving pest monitoring by developing semiochemical manipulation of insects, optimising the use of biological control agents and enhancing and fostering local landscape ecology to provide the ecosystem service of pest control.


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