Growing our future

Working in the primary industries, you can help feed the world, build a sustainable future or help find solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems – like biosecurity risks, animal welfare and the effects of climate change.

Growing primary industry careers

The future of primary industries won't look the same as it has traditionally. Issues like biosecurity, climate change and animal welfare will require us to find new ways to work. Growing populations, complex global trade and a move toward sustainability will pose new challenges that the industries will have to respond to.

As primary industries grow to meet these challenges, the sector will need researchers, consultants, veterinarians, and people skilled in IT, engineering, robotics and other technological areas.

The sector will need to attract keen, innovative people from diverse backgrounds, including urban areas. They'll need qualifications across a range of subjects from science and technology, to economics, maths and engineering, right through to marketing and human relations.

Workers will need higher qualifications

While parts of the primary industries will continue to generate opportunities for people without formal qualifications, much of the growth will be in highly skilled roles. That will drive demand for diplomas and certificates – particularly those that can be gained through in-work training.

  • In 2012, an estimated 44% of employees in the primary industries had formal, post-school qualifications.
  • By 2025, it's anticipated this will need to increase to 62% to meet these new demands.

What that means for you, is that a career in primary industries could take you on a varied and rewarding path with plenty of options to continue training and upskilling throughout your working life.

Primary industry champions

To help give you an idea about the kinds of jobs people do in the primary industries, we've interviewed a range of people about their work and what gets them up in the morning.

Video: Overview – growing our future (3:21)

[Upbeat music plays whilst different scenes of people working in the primary sector are shown – packers on a farm, a woman in a laboratory, a man in a factory busy filleting fish and another man standing on a farm holding open a gate to herd in cows whilst a black utility vehicle (ute) with farm dogs on the back arrives on a paddock with sheep running in the opposite direction. Three metal spiral-shaped mixers attached to a metal bar are mixing fertiliser inside a building, a woman with protective glasses and yellow hard hat is holding a cutter and standing on yellow platform of a moving vehicle that moves through an avocado orchard.

[To help give you an idea about the kinds of jobs people do in the primary industries, we've interviewed a range of people about their work and what gets them up in the morning.]

Craige Mackenzie: Well actually, some of the very best farmers in the world are right here. It’s not something that we always celebrate, but it’s certainly something that we should be more proud of.

Rangitane Marsden: The future is actually in the younger generation.

Hannah Wallace: There’s a lot of opportunities out there for people, they just need to grab them.

Ian Proudfoot: Any job you want to do, you can do in the primary sector in New Zealand.

Erica van Reenan: There’s huge opportunities for pretty much any career.

Emily Tasker: It’s this perception that agriculture is just farming, and it’s not. You get to start businesses, it’s got so much potential to use all these new technologies. It’s really cool.

Shay Wright: It’s more than just the business. It's actually about how do we create better opportunities for communities, as well as better opportunities for our environment.

Gabi Michael: For me that’s sustainability. I’m building something that’s not all about returns.

Sonia Waddell: We are caretakers of the land, and that’s something that both Rob and I are really passionate about.

Sir Peter Gluckman: The world needs food, the world needs better food, the world needs healthier food, produced in an environmentally sustainable way.

Dr Cather Simpson: We really need to take advantage of the fact that we have not just really strong primary industries here, but we have absolutely fantastic high-tech, innovative researchers.

Dr William Rolleston: What’s going on with precision agriculture, with the use of robotics and drones and all the technology around big data, that’s really exciting stuff.

Traci Houpapa: That uplift in performance, productivity and profitability is going to come from our research, and technology is going to come from innovation.

Dave Maslen: We can innovate and change very, very rapidly, far more rapidly than a lot of our other, competing countries can.

John Wilson: The world’s quickly moving to fresh dairy solutions, far more innovation required, traceability what we call trust in source.

Volker Kuntzsch: What I feel very passionate about is, with my scientific background, to be able to make a difference in this industry and create a great name for New Zealand.

Dr Mark Harris: I’m trying to make farming life better, and I want to be able to look back and say, "Hey, we did those things, and that was pretty worthwhile".

Aaron Gunn: We’re not looking at what we’re harvesting just next year, we’re looking at what we’re harvesting 50 years into the future.

Lindy Nelson: So if you want something dynamic and exciting, and challenging and growing, something that adds real value, providing food and product for people, I say pick agriculture.

Sir David Fagan: There’s never, ever going to be too much food in the world. So there’ll be ups and downs, but long term, farming is a really great place to be in.

Caleb Dennis: You never quite know exactly what the next day is going to bring.  You continue learning and growing, and what you’re doing is making a difference.

Holly Tonkin: Finding your work purpose once you find it you know. I just love my job.

Matt Bell: I know I have found what I want to do because I probably would do it for free "maybe not quite, but pretty close".

[Music: Alive by Graeme James]

[End of Transcript]

Video: Science and technology (3:22)

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor: The primary industry has got the greatest growth potential perhaps of any of our industries if we use science properly. We’ve just got to get over the mindset that agriculture is low technology. It’s in fact very high technology, although I think we’re only a small part up the ladder.

Professor Cather Simpson, The University of Auckland: We really need to take advantage of the fact that we have not just got really strong primary industries here, but we have absolutely fantastic high-tech innovative researchers.

Dr Mark Ferguson, Production Science Manager, NZ Merino: We don’t get stuck in what is traditionally done. We think about how we can – we look at a production system and think about how we can tweak that to have a more valuable product coming from New Zealand.

Helen Mussely, General Manager, Plant & Food Research: For me, the way our science gets used is the really important thing. That it goes to help industry to do things better, to make their industry more sustainable in the long run, both economically, but obviously environmentally as well.

Craige Mackenzie, Farmer and CEO/Director, AgriOptics New Zealand: We start with things like autosteer on the tractor, and once you have it on one, you’ve got to have it on all of them. So, you turn at the end, hit the button and it automatically drives to the far end. But that allows us to spatially apply different products and fertilisers in different areas to match exactly what the crop needs. The returns are huge. The opportunities to even the crops up – it just means that we can really drive productivity without actually necessarily using as much fertiliser.

Ellen Ashmore, Food Chemistry Scientist, ESR: There is much more need to collaborate with those producers overseas and the importers and exporters. And that brings together scientists from all over the world, but also from the different disciplines of science.

Associate Professor Māui Hudson, University of Waikato: Certainly within the Māori space, when thinking about Mātauranga Māori all of it has been informed by an evidence base. Just like there is no end point to science, it’s something that’s constantly evolving and we’re developing our understanding and deepening our knowledge. We do the same thing both with mātauranga and also the relationship between the two and how we can use them.

Traci Houpapa, Chair of the Federation of Māori Authorities and Landcorp New Zealand: Uplift and performance, productivity and profitability is going to come from research and technology, is going to come from innovation.

Dr Mark Harris, Global Marketing Manager, Gallagher: Innovation has become part of our culture. So everyone who works here knows that what we do is we redefine the future. We try and improve the lives of our customers, you know, so we’re constantly trying to change the way farmers use our technology.

Aaron Gunn, Technical and Resource Manager, Port Blakely NZ: There’s so much more complexity to the forestry sector. It’s not just a person on chainsaw or cutting a tree down. Our field operations are changing so much. We’ve got robotics coming in. We’ve got UAVs. We’ve got laser technologies that we use from the sky. It’s a constantly changing world and it’s just so fascinating.

Lucy Griffiths, Marketing Consultant and Owner of Innov8 Aotearoa: You can be working with you know the Callaghan Institutes and the Riddetts and be creating products that are high value and branding those – and then carrying them to the world with our New Zealand imagery.

Ian Proudfoot, Global Head of Agribusiness, KPMG: We’ve got this challenge – we’re not local, but we can use technology to make ourselves local and that’s a huge opportunity for us to reposition where we sit in the supply chain.

Dr Ian Ferguson, Departmental Science Advisor, MPI: There’s a lot of areas where science is used now. And I think what I would want to see – and hope that young people want to see – is that this is somewhere they can develop a passion.

[End of Transcript]

Champion videos

Our YouTube channel has videos from all our champions:

Helen Mussely

Helen Mussely, General Manager Science – Seafood Technologies at Plant & Food Research

Helen Mussely talks about her work as General Manager Science – Seafood Technologies at Plant & Food Research. She also discusses the role applied science can play in helping industry to become more economically and environmentally sustainable.

Watch Helen's video (2:32)

Chris Wenden

Chris Wenden, Trainee Team Leader at Juken New Zealand

Chris Wenden discusses the opportunities he’s been given in his role as Trainee Team Leader at Juken New Zealand.

Watch Chris' video (2:12)



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