Fledgling agri-food course whetting student appetites

Meat exporters are amongst those endorsing a new multi-disciplinary degree course taking food production beyond the farm gate and onto the world stage.

The Lincoln University course is experiencing 150 per cent growth in new enrolment numbers in only the second year it has been offered.

Developed to meet the needs of an industry decrying a lack of graduates prepared for careers in the agri-food supply chain the Bachelor of Agribusiness and Food Marketing degree (B.AFM) has gone from 20 students in 2014 to 50 students this year.

It is one of the success stories at Lincoln University’s Te Waihora campus, which has seen good growth in new student enrolments in 2015, both for New Zealand and international students.

Nic Lees, Lincoln UniversitySenior agribusiness management lecturer Nic Lees says the degree was a unique course in New Zealand, “in that it is an integrated course that includes both commerce and science papers.

“The mix of business, food quality and safety, supply chain management and marketing is what differentiates the programme.”

Lees, who is the director of Lincoln’s Agribusiness and Food Marketing programme says the degree was developed in conjunction with leading agri-food companies.

“They have been saying that there is a lack of graduates prepared for careers in the agri-food supply chain beyond the farm gate. New Zealand has traditionally been good at producing food but there is a lack of expertise in marketing and value adding.”

The degree has been endorsed by the Australian and New Zealand Produce Marketing Association and agri-food companies such as Zespri, Fonterra, Synlait Milk and meat exporters ANZCO Foods, Silver Fern Farms and Firstlight Foods.

Lees says the degree equips students with a sound applied knowledge of core business concepts and the unique commercial considerations of the international agrifood industry. Students gain a contextual understanding of the global agribusiness and food marketing sectors.

The degree is appealing to a wide range of students.

According to Lees, there are 40 domestic students and 10 international students currently enrolled with around half from urban backgrounds and two-thirds female. He expects student numbers to increase further and that the degree will become a flagship programme complementing the Lincoln Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) and Bachelor of Agricultural Science degrees.

Graduates will have career opportunities in many areas including food marketing, product development, packaging, sales, promotion, advertising, business development, retail management, brand management, global food security and transport logistics.

Agribusiness is New Zealand’s largest industry producing 66 percent of New Zealand’s exports and 18 percent of New Zealand’s GDP and the largest part of the industry is the downstream processing and value adding activities. These activities are responsible for more than 13 percent of New Zealand GDP with on farm production responsible for only five percent.

“Therefore, there are many career opportunities in agribusiness and the food supply chain outside of on farm production,” says Lees.

Many students who are choosing the degree who may have previously done a generic marketing or business degree or a degree in food and nutrition science and they see the logic in a degree that combines these, he notes.

“This is what employers are telling us. They want students who understand the technical aspects of food and things like food safety and nutrition, but also understand the marketing and commercial aspect of the food industry.”

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