Dr Errol Thom

Errol was born in Pongaroa and spent his early years on a sheep farm at Waione. The family shifted to another sheep farm at Sanson when he was 5-years-old, and so had better access to education facilities. Errol graduated from Massey University with a Masters in Agricultural Science and began work as an agronomist in the Dairy Science Group at Ruakura Agricultural Research Station in 1975, based at No 5 Dairy.

Errol completed a thesis entitled “Competitive interactions in dairy pasture containing paspalum (Paspalum dilatatum Poir.) following the introduction of ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)”  based on six years of research and in 1984, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Waikato.

His work as a pasture agronomist within the Dairy Science Group at Ruakura was maintained for 38 years until his retirement in 2013, although the Dairy Group was renamed the Dairying Research Corporation, then Dexcel, then DairyNZ, the head office being relocated from No5 Dairy to Newstead after the purchase of research farms nearby.

In 2002, Trevor Ellett invited Errol to be a trustee of the T.R. Ellett Agricultural Research Trust, a position he has held for the last 21 years.

Grant Wills

Grant and his wife Karo live in Walton, Waikato, on their 750-cow dairy farm, where they now contract a 50/50 sharemilker.

 Grant has had a strong involvement in research, management, and extension roles throughout his career. He spent six years in research and consultancy for the then MAF in Taranaki, before embarking on a dairying career. Grant spent 10 years taking care of the dairy interests of Matamata’s farmers as a Fonterra Shareholders Councillor. He continues to be involved in the industry with a focus on environmental stewardship, research, education and extension, along with agricultural tourism.

Grant joined the T.R. Ellett Agricultural Research Trust as a Trustee in 2019.

He has a passion to turn relevant applied research into meaningful outcomes on farm through extension and adoption. Grant and Karo enjoy spending time with their three adult children, and their families. Outside farming and family interests, Grant enjoys travel and sport, particularly golf and tennis.

Karl Moreton

Karl studied at the University of Auckland and upon graduating joined one of the Big Four accounting firms.  After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, Karl worked in London in various finance roles, particularly in investment banking.  Upon his return to NZ, he gained further experience in commercial roles before moving back into public practice as a chartered accountant.  Karl has been a director of an Auckland based accounting practice since 2006.  He has a mixture of clients, and his combined experience in both commercial and public practice enables him to deliver a vast range of services as a trusted advisor.   Karl is a trustee of many of his clients’ trusts and has been a trustee of the T.R. Ellett Agricultural Research Trust since 2019. In his spare time Karl enjoys fishing and spending time with his wife and three kids.

Penny Jones

Penny has been a trustee of the T.R. Ellett Agricultural Research Trust since 2018.

Originally from a small town in rural West Wales, Penny obtained her undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Laws (LLB Honours), from the University of Liverpool, England and a postgraduate research degree (Master of Philosophy) from the University of Wales. 

Following qualification as a Solicitor in the UK, Penny practiced law in a large commercial firm in England before moving to New Zealand in 1997 where she has worked as a Solicitor ever since.

Penny is a director of Wynyard Wood Lawyers based in Highbrook, Auckland.  Over her career as a Lawyer she has worked in a wide range of legal areas, starting in business and property matters and then moving to trusts, asset protection and estate planning/disputes.   Penny also acts as an independent trustee for many trusts.

Outside of work, Penny is married with two young adult children.  She has always been very involved in the Bucklands Beach community where she raised her family and served as Chairperson on the Board of Trustees for the local school.  Having a strong interest in continuing education she has been a part-time instructor at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies teaching ‘PROFS’ to new graduate Lawyers.  In her free time, Penny enjoys yoga, hiking and spending time at her family bach in Whangamata.


Angela Halliday

General Manager

Originally from a sheep farm near Edendale, Southland, Angela joined the Trust in 2022 as their General Manager. 

After studying Zoology and Wildlife Management at the University of Otago, Angela has had a wide variety of vocations from milking cows to tourism marketing, working in London for the Energy Saving Trust to being a compliance officer for Southland District Council and Natural Resources and Environment Manager at Horticulture New Zealand in Wellington.  During her career she has also studied Environmental Health and Planning, and is currently working on a Masters of Applied Science with Lincoln University.

Prior to starting with the Trust, Angela was working as a Partnerships Director for The Deep South National Science Challenge.  Angela has two boys (2 and 4) and lives near Levin with her partner, who is an engineer and makes cattle yards and bale feeders.

Aligned Academic Staff

Andrew Cartmill

Trevor Ellett Senior Lecturer in Grassland Science, Massey University

Newly-appointed Trevor Ellett Senior Lecturer in Grassland Science at Massey University, Andrew Cartmill, brings with him a wealth of experience in agroecology, and a desire to work with farmers to help unlock potential in agriculture.

Originally hailing from Birkenhead in the North West of England, Andrew and his wife landed in New Zealand in July after Andrew was offered the position at Massey. It’s been a whirlwind packing up and shifting their lives from their Wisconsin, US, base, but Andrew says it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.

Having completed his undergraduate studies in the UK, Andrew moved to Texas A&M University, where he completed his Masters and PhD, and met his future wife. For the last 10 years the couple has lived and worked in Wisconsin.

Andrew’s early interest was in what was going on below ground with plants and root systems. His Masters was in a greenhouse setting with ornamentals, and explored root work and keeping plants alive with poor quality water using a naturally occurring arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

His PhD researched the effect of warming and precipitation distribution on soil respiration and mycorrhizal abundance in post oak savannah.

On moving to Wisconsin, where his wife had been offered a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Andrew secured a research position at the university farm.

Wisconsin is a dairying stronghold in the US and Andrew was keen to see if he could apply his skillset to an agricultural setting. Working alongside his supervisor, who worked on the water side while Andrew looked at the soil and plant component, they shared the animal aspect. He explains it was very similar to regenerative agriculture. Through this position, Andrew had the chance to work in a pastoral setting, and began working with local farming groups. Much of their work was about taking an ecological standpoint and applying it to farming systems.

This led to the pair working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of its long-term agricultural research network, trying to answer questions about the sustainability and resilience of farming. Through this work, they were able to gain inclusion of the university research farm as a designated Global Farming Platform.

“The focus was on sustainability and resilience, focusing on ruminant animals and moving into the agroecology idea – the soil, the plants, the animals and the people.”

Andrew says the agricultural sector is a growing area in New Zealand, one that attracts a lot of interest. He sees potential in the sector here, and ample opportunity to work on new projects and learn a new skillset. It also affords him the chance to move back to his ‘roots’ looking at root work and gas exchange on some existing Massey projects.

“It’s early days but I’m really excited to be part of the T.R. Ellett Agricultural Research Trust and do more with the Trust. I would like to get out and work with the farming community, too. Farmers are so often ahead of myself, as an academic, and you can see and learn some neat applications of good agronomy, to fix problems and make things better.

“Agriculture is the key to civilization and I see my role as not to tell farmers what to do, but help explain why they are seeing certain things or responses with things they’re trying on farm. Agriculture is always addressing problems and making progress.”

As well, Andrew is currently working on the Whenua Haumanu project at Massey. It is a large project involving lots of people and he will be the pasture research lead. Amongst other things, he hopes to focus on the belowground aspect of pasture systems, and linking these into aboveground pasture performance and ecosystem service.

Since moving to New Zealand, Andrew has been astounded by the birdlife and how quiet it is here. He and his wife hope to rediscover a better work life balance after a hectic 10 years of teaching and researching in the US. They plan to explore the country, and enjoy heading for the hills or relaxing at the beach.

Sam Wilson

Trevor Ellett Lecturer in Grassland Science

Studying agricultural science has been a happy marriage of agriculture and science for Sam Wilson, who is currently undertaking his PhD in plant science at Massey University.

Sam grew up on his family’s sheep and beef farm at Hunterville and always felt he would do something in the agricultural sector. At high school, he discovered he enjoyed, and was good at,
science. Studying agricultural science seemed a logical option to bring the two together.

He completed his undergraduate studies at Lincoln University. Inspirational lecturers in the plant science space, like Derrick Moot, Rainer Hofmann and Alistair Black, sparked a love of plant science and agronomy and set him on a path to discover more. “Their enthusiasm and passion rubbed off on me and it clicked that this was a topic I wanted to look at. I have always felt I wanted to be academically challenged, and like thinking about things from a scientific point of view.”

A summer job at Plant and Food Research opened his eyes to the connection between science and research, and the idea it could be a career pathway for him. Sam gets a kick out of knowing he is continually in search of knowledge that no other human being has ever held.

“To be able to apply what I’ve learned, in a context that could potentially help the New Zealand pastoral industry and community, is an opportunity that I am extremely grateful for.”

While many of his undergraduate peers went off to work in agri-business roles, he decided to pursue a pathway of further education. His PhD project is investigating the impact of abiotic stresses on the ability of plantain to persist and grow within perennial ryegrass-based grazed pastures.

Sam thought he would like to get into teaching and when the opportunity arose to apply for a T. R. Ellett Agricultural Research Trust funded lecturer’s role at Massey, he jumped at the chance.
“I’ve always liked teaching, especially around coaching and sports clubs. I like watching younger people learn and achieve, it’s fun.”

The Trust funded position helped provide a pathway for Sam to realise his desire to teach, while enabling him to finish his PhD. This provided him with some certainty around his future and secured
him a lecturing role. “It’s definitely sped the whole process up, and it was perfect timing for me.” He began in his new position in June and his main focus is to complete his PhD while easing into the
new teaching and research role. So far, he has spent time observing other lecturers and learning how to manage a group for the integrative studies paper that agriculture students take in the final
semester of their third year. Once his PhD is finished, he expects to transition into lecturing, with a 70% teaching, 30% research split.

“I love my hometown of Hunterville and I think, ultimately, it’s about paying back my own community for developing me as a person.”

A little-known fact about Sam is that he’s huge Taylor Swift fan. When he’s not busy with work he enjoys spending time with his partner Kate and cat, Luna. He enjoys playing cricket, though he’s
shelved his childhood dream of becoming a professional cricket player in favour of science and developing the next generation of agriculturalists.