Beyond the farm gate: introducing agribusiness

Issue: Volume 96, Number 11

Posted: 26 June 2017
Reference #: 1H9dLC

New agribusiness achievement standards are being trialled in 10 secondary schools this year, and will be available for every school from next year. Education Gazette talks to deputy headmaster Peter Hampton, who has been behind the new subject from the start.

A new agribusiness programme aims to encourage high-achieving students into primary industry careers.

Hamilton independent school St Paul’s Collegiate has worked closely with NZQA, the Ministry of Education and representatives from the private sector to design a set of new NCEA achievement standards.

These standards are currently being trialled by 10 lead schools across the country, but will be available to all secondary schools from 2018.

St Paul’s Collegiate School deputy headmaster and science teacher Peter Hampton has been heavily involved with the initiative, which had its genesis three years ago.

Peter says the new subject is a multi-disciplinary programme aimed at high-achieving students who are interested in pursuing ‘beyond the farm gate’ career pathways in science, technology and business, and exposes them to the huge range of skills and knowledge required in each.

“By 2025, New Zealand’s primary industries will need 50,000 more people. We have a shortage of graduates and so the intent behind this new programme is to address that. There was a gap in the curriculum framework that needed to be filled,” he says.

The agribusiness achievement standards have been designed to encompass all the primary industries, from aquaculture to forestry, food production to insect protein. An important aspect of the subject is its flexibility.

“The idea is that the subject could be tailored to suit the strengths of a particular school community. For example, students in the Bay of Plenty might study the kiwifruit industry, while a school in Tokoroa might focus on forestry,” explains Peter.

Close connections

The creation of strong links with business is proving a hugely important element of this new curriculum area, and Peter says it is an opportunity to showcase true collaboration between industry, schools, tertiary partners and community.

With significant support from a range of private partners such as DairyNZ, BNZ, Tetrapak and a number of other major companies, Peter and St Paul’s Collegiate headmaster Grant Lander have developed and championed a teaching and learning programme to support the new achievement standards.

“These businesses have wanted to get young people into their sector and they see it as ‘sector good’ to be investing time and resources into education,” says Peter.

Another benefit for the sector and indeed New Zealand’s economic future is the potential for improved understanding and collaboration between the rural and urban population.

“I think there is a disconnect and a tension between the rural and urban sectors around some primary industry issues such as water quality and pollution,” says Peter.

“By introducing agribusiness as a secondary school programme, we can encourage our best and brightest students to tackle these problems together from a ‘specialist’ mindset. Half of the students in the programme come from the city and half from the country. There’s no need to be from a farming background – it’s more about using knowledge and skills to work together.”

Current position

Peter and his team had to show the Ministry of Education and NZQA that their proposed new standards represented actual gaps in the NCEA framework that could not be taught through the re-contextualising of existing achievement standards. They succeeded in this, and seven new achievement standards are being trialled.

One hundred students are currently enrolled in NCEA Level 2 and 3 agribusiness at St Paul’s, and there are 300 students altogether among the 10 trial schools.

The programme makes good use of industry visits, virtual visits, and guest speakers from within the agricultural science and business sectors, where students can engage in authentic learning.

The achievement standards are grouped under four distinct strands:

  • Agri-technology (drones, precision farming, etc)
  • Agri-science (how we use organisms in farming – insect protein, etc)
  • Agri-management, finance and marketing (growing value in products, future-proofing New Zealand’s value)
  • Sustainability

At St Paul’s Collegiate, the subject is being taught by a team of teachers, rather than just one practitioner per class, something that Peter says has revitalised staff.

“It’s organised so that teachers collaborate with each other – each teaches a part of the programme related to a specific standard, according to their expertise, and sometimes they team-teach a class, depending on what they are learning. Of course we’ve had to undertake specialised PLD – and this has so far been funded by our agribusiness partners.”

It is planned to list the new NCEA Level 2 and 3 achievement standards on the Qualifications Framework in December this year, following feedback from the trials. By 2018 the achievement standards and a teaching and learning guide will be freely available to all schools on TKI.

“By next year we’d like to get 50–100 schools on board,” says Peter.

“This should result in several thousand young people with skills in the primary industry pathways – and these are well-paid careers they can aspire to.”

Peter and his team are liaising with universities to ensure close links between secondary and tertiary agribusiness programmes.

The initiative is also the subject of a Waikato University longitudinal study, which is currently tracking agribusiness students in order to collect data on their education and career pathways.

Peter says that helping to develop and deliver the new subject along with his colleagues at St Paul’s has been a career highlight.

“In our view, this programme is a game changer for New Zealand’s economic future and wellbeing, in that it will encourage young people to proactively select career pathways in the agribusiness sector.”

Former Prime Minister John Key and Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy at National Fieldays 2016 in the Innovations Centre, with students from St Paul's Collegiate

Next steps

Interested schools should in the first instance visit for more information and to contact their nearest lead school. Contact Peter by emailing

The Agribusiness in Schools Conference

St Paul’s Collegiate School recently hosted the inaugural National Agribusiness Conference for New Zealand schools. The conference was attended by staff from 56 secondary schools, and opened by the Minister for Economic Development 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 capable young people into the sector to meet our export targets.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:00 am, 26 June 2017

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