Dairy farming and processing is one of New Zealand’s most important economic activities and contributes about 25% of our export earnings.
As well as farm managers, sharemilkers and vets, many people with technology, engineering and science skills are involved in the industry – all the way from researching how to keep soils in good condition to creating new flavours of ice cream:
- Soil scientists research how soils behave under farm conditions, including the impact of irrigation, fertiliser application and grazing, in order to make milk production more sustainable.
- Agricultural scientists study both cows and the grass they eat to improve their productivity, prevent pests and diseases and find more sustainable ways to farm.
- Process engineers and technologists design, develop and maintain efficient processes for turning raw milk into a wide range of different products.
- Environmental engineers and scientists research and design systems to minimise the impact of intensive dairy farming.
- Food technologists develop interesting new ways to use dairy products, including flavoured yoghurt, cheese, ice cream and flavoured milk drinks.
The main employers in the dairy industry include:
- Fonterra – spans the entire dairy supply chain from cow to customer, employing many process engineers and food technologists
- Food technologists also work for smaller food companies, developing new ice cream, cheese and yoghurt products
- Agricultural scientists are typically employed by Crown Research Institutes (CRIs), particularly AgResearch, but may also work for Fonterra, companies producing agriculture-related products such as seeds and fertilisers, or regional councils
- Environmental scientists may be employed by local authorities (regional and district councils) to do policy and evaluation work, by consultancy firms to do environmental assessments for resource consent applications and by companies such as fertiliser manufacturers.
Key tertiary qualifications include:
- Bachelor of Engineering, specialising in Chemical or Process Engineering
- Bachelor of Food Technology
- Bachelor of Science or Technology in Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Genetics or Molecular Biology
- Bachelor of Science or Applied Science in Biochemistry, Chemistry, Microbiology, Agricultural Science
- Master of Dairy Science & Technology
Required and recommended school subjects:
- Calculus (required for Engineering, Food Technology pathways)
- Physics (required for Engineering, Food Technology pathways)
- Chemistry (required for Process Engineering, Food Technology pathways)
- Statistics & Modelling
- Technology subjects