Agri-business interns spread their wings

Launched last year, the AGMARDT AbacusBio international internship programme is one of those professional opportunities that is as rare as hen's teeth. Catering for two interns plucked from their day job, the 5-month programme aims to develop the skills of future agri-business leaders.


AbacusBio is a science consultancy business that straddles farming, science, strategy and technology. Their first programme recipient wasagri-business graduate, Jack Keeys of  Farmax, and in 2019 they expanded it to benefit two early-career managers. For the 2019/2020 AGMARDT Abacus Bio internship, those berths both went to Farmlanders. Leeston Business Manager, Emma Hinton, and Motueka Business Manager, Luke Fisher, were selected for their unique combination of skills and experience. The bonus being that the pair could partner up on their flagship project to deliver findings that will benefit Farmlands Co-operative and its shareholders.


"Abacus initially weren't sure about two from the same company however it has worked well with both of us being Farmlanders, as it has allowed us to tackle a bigger project than we could have done alone," Emma says.

Luke and Emma have tasked themselves with looking at ways to help Farmlands navigate the land-use changes that are starting to impact New Zealand, with a focus on regenerative farming and alternative crops. To start, the pair interned for 6 weeks in AbacusBio's Dunedin office at the end of last year. There they visited local farms utilising regenerative farming approaches, attended talks at the University of Otago and participated in the Ag@Otago symposium on the 8th and 9th of December.

"During our time in Dunedin we worked closely with Anna Campbell and Pete Fennessy to streamline our project idea, which changed several times over the 6-week period. The feedback was invaluable and has helped to identify what we will be looking at next," Emma says.


With offices in Rotorua, Dunedin and Edinburgh, AbacusBio gives the AGMARDT interns a unique opportunity to gain international experience in agri-tech, agri-food and agri-business spheres.

"We worked with people of 16 different nationalities in the Dunedin office and in March and April this year we'll head over to Edinburgh for 10 weeks to continue our internship at AbacusBio's  office there. As well as working on our project we will attend relevant conferences such as the Alltech Conference in Kentucky (USA), the Future of Food Conference in Ireland and others in Berlin, London and Milan.


"The opportunity to broaden my scope of understanding in New  Zealand agriculture and the challenges facing it – not only on a national level,  but also internationally – is what drove me to apply," Emma says. Emma has always been passionate about agriculture. She graduated in 2013 from Massey University with a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Science, majoring in Equine.  Emma worked for Animal Health Direct before joining Farmlands in Christchurch as a retail Salesperson. She has progressed to Assistant Manager and now Business Manager in Leeston.

Originally from England, Luke emigrated to New Zealand in 2011 and has spent much of his management career in the fitness industry. "The opportunity to complement my management experience and grow my skillset in a different and diverse environment spurred me to apply for this internship," Luke says.

The Farmlander will report backon the international component of Luke and Emma's AbacusBio internship later in the year. To find out more about the programme email