NZ Apples & Pears – Aotearoa Horticultural Immersion Programme

Rapid growth of the horticulture sector over the past and in future decades will require industry to build a sustainable talent pipeline.

The Aotearoa Horticulture Immersion Programme (AHIP) is working to fulfil this need through attracting and developing high achieving university students and talent into careers within the sector.

AHIP, run by the Massey Business School and NZ Apples & Pears and supported by AGMARDT along with Zespri and HortNZ, is a two-week study programme. It immerses top university students from a variety of disciplines into the whole value chain of horticulture.

“Over the next decade, a large proportion of industry managers and leaders will begin to retire,” says Erin Simpson NZ Apples & Pears Capability Development Manager Erin Simpson.

“So, developing future leaders and talent within horticulture and passing on industry knowledge needs to be an industry priority.”

During 2020, 14 high-achieving students from Massey, Lincoln, and Victoria Universities were selected from more than 40 applicants to take part in the inaugural AHIP, a two-week professional development and leadership tour of horticulture operations across New Zealand.

Students experienced the entire horticultural value chain from plant breeding to the end consumer, exposing them to different value chains and business models and the multiple potential career pathways.

It also enabled them to grasp the sector’s future challenges and opportunities and think about the implications for the future of horticulture – and their potential role in shaping that.

“AHIP is about activating leadership potential in talented students through exposing them first-hand to the industry. It also is a great platform for open conversations between business and students and exchange of knowledge and different ideas.”

The trip started in Christchurch and delved straight into the vegetable seed industry while also looking at precision horticulture. The group made their way up the South Island visiting Kaikōura, Marlborough and Nelson where they were exposed to diversified farming systems, viticulture, hops, boysenberries, and Māori AgriBusiness.

The second week was spent in the North Island, focusing on the kiwifruit industry, the apples sector, and agri-tech. The programme ended in Wellington with the students presenting their insights to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and HortNZ.

The tour bus was also used as a moving classroom, allowing students to reflect, debate, and critically analyse their learnings and insights from visits. The power of AHIP to engage and inspire students was evident, says Erin.

“Many students that were on the fence about pursuing a career in horticulture finished the trip really wanting to work in the horticulture sector and excited to see how they could use their tertiary study and degrees within the wider horticulture industry.

“AGMARDT has been a fantastic supporter of AHIP from the start, alongside our other partners, working to attract young talent into our industry.”