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]
Our YouTube channel has videos from all our champions:
Tom Searle talks about the job opportunities available in seafood production and some of the things he likes most about being the Operations Manager at Leigh Fisheries.
Shay Wright discusses the education enterprise Te Whare Hukahuka that he and Travis O'Keefe co-founded in conjunction with The Icehouse business hub. He talks about how entrepreneurship, innovation, education and indigenous knowledge can strengthen New Zealand’s primary industries.
Sonia and Rob Waddell
Sonia and Rob Waddell discuss working with thoroughbred horses as co-owners of Riverdale Farm. Learn about their commitment to sustainability and the range of opportunities available in the primary industries.
Emily Tasker, Chief Executive of Flatpak discusses how she started her own company, opportunities she's found in primary industries and gives advice for other young entrepreneurs.
Dave Maslen discusses his role as Global Partnerships Manager for NZ Merino and what it takes for New Zealand’s primary industries to compete in international markets.
Greig and Rachel Alexander
Greig and Rachel Alexander talk about some of the opportunities available in farming. Rachel and Greig are the Northland Supreme Winners for the 2015 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
Gabi Michael talks about the challenges of growing barley in Canterbury and building Gladfield Malt.
Holly Tonkin, owner of an avocado contracting business in Northland, talks about why she likes her career.
Professor Philip Hulme of Lincoln University and the Bio-Protection Research Centre discusses the importance of finding solutions to protect New Zealand's biodiversity and our primary industries from invasive pests.
Caleb Dennis talks about what he does in his role as Group Technical Officer at Craggy Range Winery. Caleb was Young Horticulturist and Young Viticulturist of the Year 2015.
Food Chemistry Scientist Ellen Ashmore of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research talks about the science behind food safety and research she’s involved in that supports New Zealand’s primary industries.
The FoodBowl Chief Executive Alexandra Allan talks about encouraging an innovation culture in New Zealand food and beverage companies.
AgriOptics chief executive and arable farmer Craige Mackenzie talks about precision agriculture and how innovation is shaping New Zealand’s primary industries.
Hannah Wallace and Jeremy Bright
In 2015, Hannah Wallace became the first woman to win the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Sheep and Beef Farmer of the Year. She and her partner Jeremy are sheep and beef farmers in Hawke's Bay.
Associate Professor Cather Simpson of the University of Auckland and Director of the Photon Factory talks about the importance of connecting the primary industries with cutting-edge innovation and research.
Matthew Bell and Samantha Porter
Young Farmer of the Year (2015) Matthew Bell and his partner Samantha Porter talk about opportunities in the primary industries.
Erica van Reenen
Consultant Erica van Reenen talks about her work connecting agricultural and environmental outcomes for the industry and government.
Growing our future together
University of Canterbury PhD student Katie Collins, Professor Jon Harding and arable farmer Graeme Harris talk about important research work being carried out as part of the Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment (CAREX).
Find out more
- The Enterprising Primary Industries Careers (EPIC) challenge
- Working for MPI and job vacancies
- MPI's Graduate Development Programme
- Open a door into the primary industries – GrowingNZ website
- Careers in the primary industries – Get Ahead website
- Types of jobs in the primary industries – Careers New Zealand website