A levy will help modernise the $35 million strawberry industry, says Michael Ahern, executive manager of Strawberry Growers NZ Inc.
This is being considered by the Universities New Zealand committee on university academic programmes and an announcement is expected soon.
Plans for the new degree were announced as part of the official opening of the 4ha orchard at Massey, which has the latest planting methods and world leading export varieties including the new Dazzleapple and the globally successful T&G variety Envy.
The orchard is sponsored by the NZ apple and pear industry.
Massey’s pro vice-chancellor for science, Professor Ray Geor, says while Massey has always worked closely with industry, the community and students, it has been challenging itself to find innovative and productive ways to do it better -- to deliver even better results to benefit industry and New Zealand.
“The rapid growth and developments within industry means they need more graduates with an excellent knowledge of science, technology and the horticultural businesses. It will become an integral part of student learning and research including a project exploring how sensors and robotics may be used to automate care of the trees,” says Geor.
The innovation orchard is supported by T&G, NZ Apples & Pears and Fruitcraft -- a collaboration of Mr Apple, Bostock NZ and Freshmax.
NZ Apples & Pears capability manager Erin Simpson said the new partnership represents an opportunity for the horticultural industry to gain the capability to grow into the future and to stay at the forefront of innovative food production globally.
“By working together with Massey University our industry sees significant benefits by enhancing education pathways and programmes in horticulture leading to exciting careers and new job opportunities for graduates.”
Simpson says the phenomenal success of NZ’s apple and pear industry, which is ranked the best in the world for international competitiveness, has seen growers and exporters calling for an industry-specific education pathway that delivers tangible results.
He says NZ’s $800 million apple industry has been experiencing year-on-year record seasons and export returns.
“To keep earning and retaining our world-leading status we need to attract the best young minds to join us in growing and exporting the best apples and pears for the world.”