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Rabobank FoodX programme showcases career opportunities in the agri sector

Twenty high school students from across the South Island have recently completed a four-day live-in programme to learn about career pathways in the food production supply chain.

Held last week, the all-expenses-paid educational camp was attended by students from 11 high schools across the Canterbury, Otago and West Coast regions. The programme took in visits to a range of agribusiness operations across the Canterbury region including sheep and beef, cropping and dairy farms, Food and Arable Research (FAR), Fonterra, Lincoln New World, Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables and the New Zealand Merino company.

This was the second Rabobank FoodX to be held, with the inaugural programme having taken place in 2019. The initial idea for the programme was developed by the Rabobank Upper South Island Client Council – a group of Rabobank clients who work with the bank to address key agricultural industry challenges – after they identified a need for more promotion of agri industry careers among secondary school students.

Both the 2019 FoodX event and this year’s programme were run in conjunction with land-based education specialist Te Whare Wānaka o Aoraki Lincoln University.

Rabobank Upper South Island Client Council Chair Robin Oakley said attracting high calibre young people into agri careers was an on-going challenge for the sector.


FoodX participants at Kowhai Farm

“The Client Council identified improved promotion of agri careers as one of its key focus areas way back in 2012 when the group was first set up. And we’ve been working closely alongside Lincoln University for a number of years to shine a light on the array of employment opportunities within the sector,” he said.

“The first Rabobank FoodX received some fantastic feedback from attendees, and it was great to get the programme back up and running this year after an extended break due to Covid.

“It was also really rewarding to have the students visit my own vegetable-growing business (Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables) and to tell them a bit more about what we do and who we sell our produce to.”

Programme participant Lily Saunders, a year 12 student from Christchurch Girls’ High School, said she went into the programme with very limited knowledge of the agricultural industry.

“I’m from Christchurch and I’m very much a townie,” she said. “My aunty and uncle from Palmerston North do own a farm, but I don’t really know much about it and, if I’m honest, I went into the programme with a bit of a negative perception of the industry due to some of the stories I’d seen in the media.”

I saw some information promoting the programme and thought it might be a good chance to find out more, so I emailed my career adviser and after discussion with her, I decided to sign up.”

Lily said her experiences at FoodX had completely changed her perception of the industry, and she was now seriously considering a career in the sector.

“I was surprised by just how big the sector is and really impressed by all the things farmers and others working in the industry are doing to create a more sustainable food production system,” she said.

“I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about what happens on farm and, in particular, how farmers look after their soil by using fertiliser and rotating crops. I also thought it was really cool looking inside some of the big agribusiness operations like Fonterra and NZ Merino Company and seeing how they use some pretty sophisticated automation to do different jobs.”

“I went into the week thinking I’d study environmental science once I finish up at school, but I’ve come away thinking I’d now like to do a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Lincoln University.”

Lily said the vast number of opportunities within the agribusiness sector, as well as the variety of tasks within individual agri roles, were further factors which had moved her towards consideration of an agri career.

“We heard from a bunch of people across the week who all had different roles, and a lot of them talked about how they spend time in their job out on farm getting their hands dirty, as well as time in the office,” she said.

“And this mix of different tasks within the one role is something that really appeals to me.”

Lincoln University Domestic Liaison Team Leader Lucy Grubb joined the students on the four-day programme and said, like Lily, many of the students were surprised by the range of jobs connected to the sector, which were highlighted throughout the week.

“Coming into the programme, a lot of the students associated roles in the agribusiness sector with on-farm positions, but they didn’t necessarily have a good grasp of all the other positions that are linked into the sector,” she said.

“So it was a bit of an eye opener for some of them to learn about all the potential career paths connected to the sector in areas like marketing, research and development and logistics.”

Ms Grubb said the FoodX programme was one of a host of initiatives now being targeted at secondary school students with the aim of improving understanding of the agribusiness sector and the career opportunities within it.

“Going back just 10 years, there weren’t many schools offering agribusiness as a study option. But initiatives like FoodX and the Agribusiness in Schools programme have helped change all this, and agribusiness is now much more prominent in secondary schools around the country,” she said.

“This has led to greater numbers of students looking to undertake tertiary education in the agribusiness arena, and we’ve seen this here at Lincoln University with student numbers up strongly on recent years.”


Rabobank New Zealand is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 120 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 40 countries, servicing the needs of about 10 million clients worldwide through a network of close to 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank New Zealand is one of the country's leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the New Zealand food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 32 offices throughout New Zealand.

Media contacts:

David Johnston
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank New Zealand
Phone: 04 819 2711 or 027 477 8153
Email: david.johnston@rabobank.com

Denise Shaw
Head of Media Relations 
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: +612 8115 2744 or +61 2 439 603 525 
Email: denise.shaw@rabobank.com