Te Puke Student’s Passion for Agriculture Rewarded

Despite experiencing the PSA outbreak first-hand growing up, Animal and Plant Health scholarship winner Sarah Wilson said deciding to study agribusiness was the best decision of her life.

The 19-year-old attributes her enthusiasm to “an awesome ag school teacher, people working in the sector, and growing up in the heart of horticulture” in Te Puke - where her family has strong connections with the kiwifruit industry, and she’s seen people in her part of the world “do cool things”.

The outbreak of the bacterial kiwifruit vine disease in 2011 gave her an appreciation of the tools needed to protect crops from harmful pests and diseases. The “sickening hum of chainsaws” echoed in the district as orchardists “chopped down their vines and consequently livelihoods”, said Wilson - who is now in the third year of an agribusiness degree at Massey University.

“It is important that consumers understand the value of agrichemicals and the effort that the industry goes to in order to keep consumers safe,” says Wilson.

“Each product has been thoroughly researched and industry bodies are always looking at how they can use agrichemicals more efficiently”. Their value spans far beyond the orchard gate. “If we cannot get our products to market due to pest and disease incursions, we have the potential for economic collapse.”

The $2,500 win will go towards next year’s study costs.

When she isn’t studying, Wilson leads the Massey Horticultural Society and works as a social media guru for Grassroots Media. She also completed a summer internship at Zespri, as part of the Quality Assurance team, analysing product issue notifications from world markets.

“In this role, I gained great insight into how a world leading company utilises the innovation, research and development of the agrichemicals sector to produce a quality product in a sustainable manner.”

As President of the Horticultural Society, she organises events that connect industry leaders to the students who might one day work with them.

“I believe the events play an important role in encouraging Massey students to work in the industry where there is both a labour and skills deficit,” she said.

The student enjoys helping her local community by volunteering at the Te Puke food bank – something her grandmother helped set up as a community hub.

Animal and Plant Health NZ Chief Executive, Mark Ross, said the association is pleased to contribute to the future of someone with so much enthusiasm for the primary industries.

“We were impressed with Sarah’s drive and the commitment she showed to enhancing the primary industries. It’s clear that she will be an asset to the industry, and we wish her well with her career.”

Animal and Plant Health NZ offers two scholarships a year to support education and raise awareness of careers in related industries.

The scholarships are an example of industry initiatives led by Animal and Plant Health NZ to provide safe and sustainable animal health and crop protection technology and educate the community about the industry’s contribution.