The CenGen team, with Dr Renée Prins in the lead, was recently awarded the 2016/2017 NSTF-South 32 Award for Research leading to innovation (SMMEs) for their efforts on utilising molecular genetic approaches to the benefit of SA agri-industries. Analogous to the requirements of Renée’s hobby, endurance sport, perseverance was needed to establish this privately-owned company in the rural setting of Worcester as a reliable service provider in the agriculture sector.
Cengen’s outputs are quite diverse across a range of plant and fungal species and can mainly be categorised into a research and an application focus, respectively. A strong emphasis is placed on collaborative research with leading national and international scientists with Renée also being a research fellow in the department of Plant Sciences at UFS. As an example, the team would unravel the genetics of a useful trait in a wheat or table grape cultivar and then use the identified DNA markers as tools to track this useful trait in the progeny of the cultivar.
The end-result of these collaborative efforts are improved wheat or table grape cultivars for producers. Although CenGen started off as a one-(wo)man business, the key to success has been the motivated, results-driven team producing outputs that are comparable to the outputs of much larger local research groups.