Canterbury’s Agritech Sector Is A Foodbowl For Skills Of All Shapes And Sizes
When someone claims that the industry they’re in “honestly doesn’t feel like a job” you immediately wonder why. Especially when they didn’t mean to end up there in the first place. Ash-Leigh Campbell's journey into agribusiness with Ngāi Tahu Farming was one of re-direction that opened her eyes to a broad range of opportunities. The Canterbury food and fibre sector has the familiar area of dairy, lamb and wool, but there’s also cropping, beef, honey, aquaculture and tech too. And with environmental challenges being faced daily, the need for more skilled talent like Ash-Leigh is high.
Ash-Leigh’s relationship with farming started in her teen years when she did relief milking of 200 cows as an after school job. After graduating, she started studying towards a propery management degree at Lincoln University but soon discovered it wasn’t where her passion lay and six months in, she was drawn back to the farm. There, she worked her way up and earned while she learned, gaining valuable hands-on skills labouring while studying towards an agriculture qualification. It’s a pathway that’s incredibly viable in the sector and aligning two different learning styles had a big impact on her confidence.
Ash-Leigh Campbell - Ngāi Tahu Farming
I started from the bottom and worked my way up, one day milking cows,while studying with Primary ITO and slowly filling up both cups. I’m a big believer in continuous learning, going in at the base level and putting two types of skill sets in hand-in-hand.”
From Office To Farm
At Ngāi Tahu Farming, it’s not all traditional farm work, Ash gets thrown a bit of everything which is something she loves about her job. One day she’s in the office working with the technology, the next she’s on the tools working with the animals getting her hands dirty. She finds it hugely rewarding to be able to understand the technology and the data then take it out to show farmers how to best utilise it.
Agribusiness Is Not Without Its Challenges
It’s no secret that the sector is facing huge environmental problems — greenhouse gases, water quality, biodiversity and mahinga kai protection and enhancement. There is also a skills shortage where people from a range of industries are needed to help solve these problems. The ag sector is not just the classic ‘doing’ of farming. There are so many jobs that sit around the core function of the primary sector so a degree in agriculture is not a prerequisite. Tech specialists and engineers play pivotal roles and there is a heavy reliance on scientists and innovators to be able to make significant reductions to the impact on the environment.
Ash-Leigh says her role honestly doesn’t feel like a job and with plenty of work to be done around how to feed the world, she is fuelled by passion and purpose. Creating more environmentally friendly products with high food safety for the international consumer, while looking after Kiwi customers, is a mission that she is proud to be part of.
How Is Canterbury Helping Grow The Agritech Sector?
Canterbury is Aotearoa’s largest and most consistent high-performing agricultural region, producing one-fifth of the nation’s agricultural GDP and employing nearly 20,000 people. Other parts of the country don’t have the same amount of sub-sectors, a benefit that creates much more opportunity if you want to be a startup agritech business.
Ash-Leigh is a die-hard Cantabrian and she’d never want to farm anywhere else, a view that is as much about the lifestyle as it is about the job. With a great work/life balance and both ocean and mountains at her fingertips, Ash makes the most of all seasons in the city and out in the countryside.
With the agritech sector crying out for a diverse range of skills sets coupled with a great lifestyle, Ash-Leigh says it’s a no brainer for people to move to Christchurch to work and live.
“We get nice hot summers where we can surf, bike and hike, then winters where we get to ski and snowboard. The city is brand new with world-class facilities and it’s so easy to get everywhere. It’s a great place to settle and raise a family. My friends are all starting to raise families and they have access to all these amazing facilities and activities — they’ll have such a great upbringing.”