• Emily McIsaac during the AIMES Supreme Award presentation with North Harbour Club president Mike Atkinson and judging chair Andrew MacDonald.
  • Emily McIsaac speaking when accepting her AIMES Supreme Award.
  • Emily McIsaac with her parents David and Kate.
  • Emily McIsaac (right) with fellow DaisyLab founders Irina Miller and Nikki Freed.
  • Emily McIsaac with her AIMES Innovation Award. Also pictured Mike Atkinson (North Harbour Club President), Rees Ward (of sponsor Bridgewest), Andrew MacDonald (AIMES judging chairperson).
  • Emily McIsaac
  • Emily McIsaac at work.
  • Other AIMES Awards recipients.
  • AIMES Emerging Talent Award Recipients in 2024 (Sponsored by Bellingham Wallace CONSULTING).
  • AIMES Scholarship Award Recipients in 2024 (Sponsored by Vantage Windows & Doors North Shore).

Biotech company founder receives 2024 AIMES Supreme Award

25-year-old Emily McIsaac, co-founder of biotech start-up Daisy Lab, took away the AIMES Supreme Award, as well as the Innovation Award, at the North Harbour Club’s annual AIMES Awards Gala Dinner held at the Bruce Mason Centre in early June. In winning both awards she received a total of $30,000 in award grants as well as the Sir Peter Blake Trophy.

The North Harbour Club & Charitable Trust makes grants through the annual AIMES Awards to outstanding young people, aged 13 to 25, who are achieving excellence across the following sectors – the Arts; Innovation (Science & Technology); Music; Education; Sport; and Service to the Community.
Since the North Harbour Club's inception in 1995, over $3.2 million in grants has been made, making the club one of the largest donors to individuals in New Zealand. The North Harbour Club is made up of over 250 members, all passionate in local affairs, business, education, sport and social development. These members are all residents of, or have their businesses in, the North Harbour region.
2024 AIMES Supreme Award winner Emily McIsaac discovered her passion for science while attending Rangitoto College.
Initially, accepted into Otago’s medical school for a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, Emily realised that studying genetics was the field she wanted, so transferred to Massey University’s Albany campus to complete a degree in genetics and physiology.
During the 2020 lockdown, Emily came across a research project on how to use microorganisms to produce casein and whey proteins. The research would be a first for New Zealand.
Her research was successful in expressing dairy-identical proteins from microorganisms, proving that this technology is a viable option for the future of food.  
Emily carried on proving the viability of a system in which dairy-identical proteins can be produced from substances that would otherwise be destined for landfill. Not only can dairy-identical proteins reduce greenhouse gas emissions but can also redirect waste from landfill into a valorisation pathway. Emily filed a patent for this technology in 2023.
While completing her Master’s in 2022, her research was used to establish a biotech startup called Daisy Lab. Daisy Lab is New Zealand’s first precision fermentation company, producing dairy-identical proteins from microorganisms. Daisy Lab microbes are currently producing a greater yield of whey proteins than a cow does, per litre.
Recently, Daisy Lab was able to produce enough protein for a first batch of ice cream in collaboration with a renowned ice cream maker. This is the first step in showcasing what dairy-identical proteins through precision fermentation can offer to New Zealand and the global dairy markets.
At scale, this technology could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 96%, water use by 97% and land use by 99% when compared to traditional dairy farming. The technology was developed in the North Harbour region and is the first of its kind in New Zealand.
This year, Daisy Lab aims to raise enough money to build the first pilot plant facility. The pilot plant will be a 1000 litre scale and will allow them to produce enough product to do small batch runs.
Using their existing downstream processing infrastructure, they can transition to proteins produced via precision fermentation and away from traditional dairy farming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I feel incredibly privileged to be receiving an AIMES award,” said Emily McIsaac when notified of her success. “Not only does it validate my hard work and dedication, but it also signifies a milestone in my journey towards excellence. Being acknowledged by such a distinguished prize alongside other high achievers is a humbling experience that fills me with gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose.
“Moreover, the opportunity to be part of the North Harbour Club network is invaluable. A key take-home message from the interview was value and benefit that the North Harbour Club network can provide to me both professionally and personally. I am excited to leverage their insights and guidance to continue to develop. The idea of sharing knowledge within this network speaks to me, and I'm excited to contribute as much as I gain from this community.”
Emily has also recently been accepted into an international accelerator programme, called the ‘Respond’ accelerator by the BMW Foundation. The programme aims to advance how entrepreneurs lead, grow and scale sustainable businesses.
Emily says the award funding will go towards upskilling in particular areas of science and business operations, finance, and communications to help her contribute to the success of her biotech startup, Daisy Lab.
“I am very grateful to the North Harbour Club and Bridgewest for honouring me with this award,” added Emily following the presentation. “The prize will go a long way in helping me upskill in several areas to help Daisy Lab grow and succeed.  It was a wonderful evening celebrating so much talent in the North Harbour Region and I am proud to be a part of a community that celebrates success in this way.”
Emily McIsaac received the North Harbour Club AIMES Innovation Award for 2024, sponsored by Bridgewest, and a cash grant of $15,000 as well as a further $15,000 as the AIMES Supreme award winner.

Other AIMES Awards recipients in the categories were:-
AIMES Awards for The Arts (sponsored by ASB): Arthur Adams-Close (25, baritone singer) and Geena Hutton (23, actor/musical theatre), each receiving $15,000.
AIMES Award for Music (sponsored by Yamaha Home Entertainment/Sound Group): Cecille McNeill (23, musician/viola), receiving $15,000.
AIMES Award for Education (Sponsored by Kristin School): Cameron Senior (20, medicine), receiving $15,000.
AIMES Award for Sport (Sponsored by AUT Millennium): Alicia Hoskin (23, Olympian/kayak), receiving $15,000.
AIMES Award for Service to the Community (Sponsored by Albany Toyota): Jaden Movold (19, community champion/para athlete), receiving $15,000.
AIMES Ross Finlayson Award (Sponsored by Alvarium): Laura MacLean (20, community champion/musician), receiving funding toward an Outward Bound or similar leadership programme.

2024 AIMES Emerging Talent & Scholarship Awards

In addition to the AIMES Awards a further 16 awards for excellence were made at a special cocktail function event at the B:Hive at Smales Farm on Thursday 13 June. These were six AIMES Emerging Talent Awards and 10 AIMES Scholarship Awards. From the total award entries of over 180 in 2024, these recipients were deemed by the judges to be achieving excellence, therefore deserving of these awards that sit just below the main AIMES Awards as detailed on the facing page.

AIMES Emerging Talent Award recipients in 2024 (Sponsored by  Bellingham Wallace Consulting):
Janayah Wadsworth (19, singer/recording artist); Josh Armit (22, windfoil sailor/yYachtsman/Olympian); Miles Timmis (21, classical singer/musical theatre); Shan Liu (14, pianist); Summer Osborne (18, swimmer); Tara Vaughan (20, Olympian/kayak).
Each received a cash grant of $7,500.

AIMES Scholarship Award Recipients in 2024 (Sponsored by Vantage Windows & Doors North Shore):
Anna O’Reilly (13, alpine skier); Bailey Flavell (16, basketballer); Fuwen Aston Ding (14, aviation/innovator); Haifeng (Charles) Xing (13, pianist); Joel Bird (17, musician/singer); Kaiha Gilbertson (17, surf lifesaver/kayak sprint);  Lisa Murata Gutierrez (13, pianist); Luis Vallejo-Mohl (academic); William Mason (14, sailor/yachting); Xavier Wetere (19, community service).
Each received a cash grant of $3,000.

For more information visit: northharbourclub.co.nz