Unveiling “The Cultures”: A recap of Priority One’s Instep Principals’ Day Out


Priority One’s Instep program recently hosted its annual Principals’ Day Out, themed around “The Cultures.” The day provided an exclusive opportunity for the principals to gain some behind-the-scenes insights into various local businesses operating in the Bay’s thriving primary sector, offering a closer look at the diverse career pathways available.

Hill Laboratories

The morning kicked off at Hill Laboratories, a 100% New Zealand-based, owned and operated company, specialising in environmental, agricultural, and food testing. Brad Stevens (Branch Manager), Shaheena Khalil (Maturity Testing Team Leader), and John Reeve (Section Manager Fruit Maturity) hosted the principals, delivering a comprehensive overview of company’s role in testing the taste and quality of kiwifruit – a meticulous process that ensures compliance with the high standards set by Zespri before the fruits are exported to global markets. 

Some friendly competition broke out between the principals when they were tasked with carrying out the testing cycle themselves – A challenge that emphasised Hill Lab’s crucial role in ensuring the safety, quality, and sustainability of New Zealand’s environment, agriculture, and food production. 

Who knew how much work went into testing kiwifruit before it could go to market – no other fruit gets this much attention!

Ballance Agri-nutrients

The next stop was Ballance Agri-Nutrients, where attendees got a snapshot into the world of Agriculture. Aimee Driscoll, Head of Communications, provided insights into Ballance’s role as a farmer-owned co-operative, dedicated to producing fertiliser that supports sustainable and innovative food production in New Zealand. Principals had the privilege of hearing from staff members Ruby Sealey-Lawson, a Geospatial Analyst, and George Hyauiason, a Farm Sustainability Consultant, who shared their experiences in fostering innovation and guiding farmers through their environmental journey. 

Data scientist, Tim Grenside, emphasised the significance of automation in agriculture and showcased a farming game designed for STEMFest to help illustrate the role of digital technology in the industry. While Mark Rouse, Acid Plant Production Manager, provided an overview of the company’s manufacturing operations, highlighting their on-site electricity generation process and the specialisation in Super Phosphate fertiliser — acknowledged as New Zealand’s most sustainable form of phosphate and sulphur. 

Key global trends, such as the push for more sustainable food sources and green energy, underscored the company’s commitment to addressing future challenges. Coupled with insights into the impact of Ballance’s crucial role in the global food supply chain, the principals could gain a holistic understanding of Ballance’s significant contributions to the agriculture sector as a whole.

Ballance is at the beginning of a long supply chain ending on dinner plates across the world, with a predicted global population 9.7 billion in 2050!

Kakariki Orchard

The day concluded with a special tour to Kakariki Orchard supported by NZ Avocado’s Phillip West. The orchard, specialising in Avocado and Kiwifruit, was chosen to highlight the crucial role of bees in pollination.

Orchard owners, Bridget and Lee Crawshaw, passionately shared insights into the job itself, including the practice of rearing their own queen bees, and the current challenges of fluctuating fuel prices and cost of sugar – the latter being a key ingredient crucial for sustaining beehives.

Interestingly, Kiwifruit relies on bees for approximately 10 days for pollination, while avocados require their efforts for approximately 6 weeks.

The Horticulture and Agriculture sector is expansive, with a diverse range of disciplines that extend beyond the orchards and farms. The sectors offer a multitude of career opportunities, catering to individuals seeking vocational paths as well as those pursuing higher education at the university level. The variety of roles ensures that individuals with different skill sets and aspirations can find fulfilling and meaningful career paths in one of New Zealand’s biggest export industries. 

There’s a job for everyone!