The inaugural Agribusiness Conference has been held.  This was hugely successful.  To see the Conference report, please scroll down this page.  To view the Conference resources, please go to the Conference resources section.

  Conference Programme 

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National Agribusiness Conference 20 – 22 April 2017

St Paul’s Collegiate School hosted the inaugural National Agribusiness Conference for New Zealand schools over the recent term break.  Over 160 delegates, including representation from 56 New Zealand secondary schools, turned up to hear about this exciting initiative that St Pauls’ Collegiate and its agri-sector partners first began working on some four years ago.

The conference was opened by the Minister for Economic Development, the honourable Simon Bridges, who set the scene for what was to follow – that  agribusinesses will remain a central core of New Zealand’s economic future and that there is an urgent need to attract bright, tertiary capable young men and women into the sector over the next few years to meet our export targets, increase the value of our products and to gain better public understanding of both the challenges and importance of the sector.

Our first key note speaker, Ian Proudfoot, Head of Agribusiness KPMG, gave a thought provoking and entertaining address on current and future trends in the agribusiness space, highlighting the rapid speed of change in the global economy, the need for innovation in product development and marketing, the need for adding product value in New Zealand and for forward thinking, and for telling our New Zealand stories to the marketplace.

Following conference speakers and workshops emphasised that New Zealand’s primary industries are still the backbone of our economy, but that they are not what they used to be, and it is are changing every day. New technologies and innovation help produce more food to feed an ever increasing population, however the level of scrutiny over the management of our natural resources intensifies. Today’s agribusinesses are sophisticated multi-million dollar businesses with people who have many skills that are required to run these enterprises. The primary industry needs more than just growers, producers, workers and farmers. They need environmental scientists, engineers, economists, accountants, marketers, technicians, business professionals and much more.  

Excellent keynote addresses were also given by Dr Brendan Haigh from AgResearch on Food and Dame Alison Paterson on the role of women in Agribusiness.

Plenary sessions at the conference tracked the journey of developing and implementing a new achievement standards based agribusiness teaching and learning programme at NCEA levels 2 and 3, which this year is being trialled by 10 “lead schools” across nNew Zealand by NZQA.  The schools involved are;  Mt Albert Grammar School, St Paul’s Collegiate School, Feilding High School, Lindisfarne College, New Plymouth Boys High School, Christchurch Boys High School, Columba College, John McGlashan College and Southland Boys and Girls High Schools.

SPC Deputy Headmaster Academic and Director of Agribusiness Peter Hampton told the conference that; “Agribusiness is a multi-disciplinary subject, which integrates concepts from a range of learning areas including Sciences, Technology, Commerce, and Mathematics and Statistics.  It primarily focuses beyond the farm gate and has underlying themes of growing value, future proofing and sustainability.” He also said that the new Agribusiness curriculum matrix has four strands, Agri-Innovation, Agri-Science, Agri-Finance and Management and Agri-Marketing.   A strength of the new Agribusiness standards is that they can be taught using any of the primary industry contexts, whether that be Forestry, Aquaculture, Agriculture, Horticulture and so on.

Mr Hampton further explained that “the programme has been designed so that it engages the students through an emphasis on experiential learning, which enables understanding and applying examples of industry ‘best practice’ to conceptual learning within the classroom.  A key focus is to improve the understanding on career pathways and opportunities within the agribusiness sector using the value chain”. Peter also commented that “industry visits, virtual visits, field trips and guest speakers from within the agricultural science and business sectors are an integral part of the programme, where students see ‘real’ people doing ‘real’ jobs.”  

Conference highlights included a “round the kitchen table” forum where agribusiness leaders discussed their support for the initiative and a graduate panel session provided by Growing NZ, where young graduates recently employed in the sector described their career paths to date and the opportunities that have opened up for them.

The overall intent of the Agribusiness initiative, delegates were told, is as follows:

To produce an Agribusiness programme for senior secondary school students that will:

  • stimulate and encourage young people to proactively select career pathways in the agribusiness sector.

  • be attractive to academic, tertiary capable students strong in Sciences at Years 12 and 13  and / or to those students strong in Commerce at Years 12 and 13

  • be seen as a game changer in that it is recognised as a key driver for New Zealand’s economic future and well-being

  • assist the best and brightest students to further their goals and aspirations in agribusinesses which in turn will help cater for the primary sector’s long term needs

  • be a pioneering programme of regional and national significance in NZNew Zealand  that provides opportunities and is accessible by 2018 for all secondary schools to benefit

  • improve the public perception of primary industry careers

  • highlight to urban students the potential for well paid, stimulating careers in the primary sector

  • provide better links between secondary schools, tertiary institutions and the agribusiness sector.

Over the course of the conference, delegates attended a variety of workshops, including Food Markets and Branding, Understanding the Business Side of Farming, Spatial Data and Precision Agriculture, Climate Change in Agriculture, the environmental and economic benefits of Dung Beetles, Agri Supply Chains, Leading Change (Fieldays), Digital Horticulture, Educating for Success in Horticulture, Cash Flow Forecasting and Growing Value. The workshops were very well received and it is something of a testament to the continued support that the Agribusiness initiative has received from the agrisector that all speakers and workshop organisers gave their time for free!  Delegates also had the opportunity to select a field trip to either Gallagher Group, Waikato Milking Systems or Viligrad Wineries.

The final conference plenary session reinforced with delegates New Zealand’s need for bright, academic young people who understand the production of primary and secondary products and who value the contribution that agribusinesses make to our society, economy, and culture.  It needs people who are able to apply scientific, technological and business knowledge and skills to new situations and to the solving of current or future primary industry problems.  Such knowledge and skills are crucial to our future, but are in short supply.  St Paul's Collegiate School believes that they have achieved a teaching and learning programme in Agribusiness that has helped to meet this short fall, with 24 students going on into further education in the industry last year.  With the amount of interest from other schools around the country (over 100 schools to date have expressed interest), St Paul's Collegiate School is confident that Agribusiness can be taught in a range of schools throughout the country.   At St Paul’s for example there over 100 students taking Agribusiness this year at NCEA levels 2 and 3, and across our ten lead schools there are over 350 students.

The conference organisers would like to again thank their principal partners and business partners for sponsoring the conference and for their amazing support for establishing Agribusiness a new subject in New Zealand schools.

Peter Hampton

Last modified: Wednesday, 7 February 2018, 2:10 PM