Dr Tony Conner has had an outstanding science career of over 40 years in New Zealand. He graduated with a BSc (Hons) from University of Canterbury and was appointed as a tutor in the Horticulture Department at Lincoln College. Tony was then awarded a series of scholarships to undertake a PhD in genetics at the University of California, Davis. While completing his PhD studies, Tony was employed by DSIR. He returned to New Zealand in 1985 and took up a role in DSIR Crop Research at Lincoln. Upon the formation of the CRIs he transferred to Crop & Food Research, then following the merger with HortResearch, he transferred to Plant & Food Research. In 2011 he took up a science management role in AgResearch.

Tony’s research has focused on biotechnology and genetics for the improvement of plants using a wide range of tools. He has primarily applied these tools to the improvement of vegetables, arable crops, ornamental plants and forage species. Tony’s major contributions to plant science have involved advances in genetic modification. This included breakthroughs involving the use of Agrobacterium-mediated transformation in monocotyledonous plants (asparagus and onions) and the first field trials of transgenic plants in the Southern hemisphere. Despite sometime acrimonious public debate on transgenic technology, Tony has made significant contributions to ‘working papers’ on the biosafety of transgenic plants for FAO (Rome), WHO (Geneva), OECD (Paris), IFBC (Washington DC), and the USDA (Washington DC).

With numerous other commitments to explaining genetic modification issues to government officials and groups from all part of society and business he was elected a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2003 and received several other national awards (the Sir Arthur Ward Communications Trophy from the NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science and an award for science communication from the NZ Association of Scientists).

Over his career, Tony has authored 190 peer-reviewed scientific publications. These are recorded in Google Scholar as being cited 5271 times with an h-index of 36, a g-index of 66, and an i10 of 101 (May 2020).

Throughout his career Tony has provided science leadership by active involvement in scientific societies regularly holding officiating roles, and on the organising committees for science conferences. He has been an active member of the NZ Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science for over 30 years, including the Canterbury Branch Committee 2009-2012.

Tony Conner has made an outstanding contribution to primary resource science as a researcher, educator, communicator and a champion for the adoption of the latest biological technologies in agriculture and horticulture. For his contribution to both horticultural and agricultural sciences in New Zealand, both as a leading scientist and a leader of science, he is an exceptionally deserving recipient of the Jubilee Medal.