Category Archives: Innovation

James, hard at work

Open Sky Office

James Stewart is the man with the plan, and as the new Federated Farmers’ Manawatu-Rangitikei Provincial President he is determined to lead his community and get New Zealanders back in touch with their farming roots.

James in the milking shed“I was tapped on the shoulder,” laughs James when discussing his selection as Federated Farmers’ newest Provincial President. “I’ve always been very passionate about the agricultural sector, having been a farmer my whole life. I was brought up on a farm, and had been in my own business for about twenty years when I got to the point where I had a little bit more time to get out in the wider industry, rather than just being on a farm.”

This wealth of experience more than proved that he was fit for the job, and James is now one of the youngest elected presidents to date, a representative of the younger generation of farmers who are now coming into their own. “The biggest qualification I need is to be a real farmer, and know the issues for farmers and represent them.”

I’ve got the best air conditioning in the country. When I talk about my office I’m talking about my farm. My office is green paddocks and a wide, open sky

James is not one to leave things up to others, and already he is making his own mark on how things are done. “When I took on this role I think my big catchphrase was engagement. I want to engage with my farmers, so that farmers get real value from what we are doing. Farmers want to farm the land and the stock. That’s why they wanted to farm. They don’t want to deal with the political stuff. That’s what we are trying to help with. We are the voice of farmers.”

WindmillEven more vital than interacting with farmers is James’ driving focus on reuniting the rural and urban communities. “I enjoy talking to urban people, going to town groups, schools, Lions Clubs, Probus. Just getting out and talking, and sharing our story, what we are doing in New Zealand and the challenges we have.

“Our country has become very urbanised; only about fourteen per cent of the population are living rurally. People are seeing less and less of farms. What I want to do is give them the chance and that’s part of the Manawatu Farm Days we are launching. Open the gate. Come and have a look. If people don’t understand what we are doing we have to show them.”

I want to engage with my farmers, so that farmers get real value from what we are doing. Farmers want to farm the land and the stock

He is also hoping to encourage other young farmers, and help those considering this field of work understand the work that is involved on a farm. “One day you can be a vet, other days you’re a plumber, and some days you’re an accountant running a business. There are a lot of different challenges that give a lot of variety.

Tractor“Farming has always been a bit of a lifestyle and that’s what probably got me into it, the lifestyle it encompasses. I’ve often said, ‘I’ve got the best air conditioning in the country.’ When I talk about my office I’m talking about my farm. My office is green paddocks and a wide, open sky. You’ve got plenty of room and space, fresh air. There is nothing better getting up in the morning and watching the sun come up. It’s just great to be out and free.”

An eye on sheep's milk

Milk of the Future

With 30 million sheep across the country, why is it that New Zealanders find the idea of milking them bizarre?

Craig PritchardMassey lecturer Craig Prichard is on a mission to promote sheep dairy as a viable form of agribusiness in New Zealand. “People from eastern and southern Europe take this as normal. I think that if New Zealand had been settled by southern Europeans rather than northern Europeans we would have had a sheep dairy industry from the beginning.”

Recently the concept of milking sheep has caught the attention of large agribusiness company, Landcorp. The state-owned enterprise purchased 2,500 East Friesian sheep last year for trial milking. It has also engaged Massey’s Riddet Institute in experimenting with sheep’s milk products such as butter and ice cream and is in discussion with FoodHQ, a collective of New Zealand’s foremost food science organisations. “We’re a lot more experimental in what we’re eating,” believes Craig, “therefore we can be more experimental with what we can potentially sell to people.”

There are a lot of lifestyle blocks on the fringes of New Zealand cities. I’d like to see us make better use of that land

Craig belongs to a group of Massey researchers called Ewe Can Dairy who support the New Zealand sheep dairy industry. In February the team ran the Ewe Milk Products and Sheep Dairying Conference. “It’s part of trying to think through issues around alternative dairy industries,” explains Craig.

Sheep milkingCraig isn’t just watching the industry’s development from the sidelines. “I milk sheep myself in a very rustic, low-budget, low-impact way,” he says.

“It’s important to understand the business at grassroots level. There’s a lot of knowledge that comes from day-to-day milking and getting involved with the sheep.”

Craig’s lifestyle block exemplifies an alternative business model for New Zealand dairy practices. “There are a lot of lifestyle blocks on the fringes of New Zealand cities. They mow them and might have a few raggedy old sheep.

We’re a lot more experimental in what we’re eating

I’d like to see us make better use of that land.” He proposes that a sheep dairy business could involve a number of small holders getting together with small flocks, which could be milked collectively.

“The challenge is to find business models that connect people to the industries. Maybe some aspects of fair and equitable trade might find their way into this kind of business. There are lots of things you can do on a small scale by connecting people to the products they consume.”

Free range sheep...As for the taste of sheep’s milk – “It was the biggest challenge to get my twelve-year-old son to eat some sheep’s milk products,” says Craig. “It’s that little reaction where people go, ‘I’m not really sure about that’. We need to attach meanings to sheep’s milk products that are positive for the industry.” Sheep’s milk has a similar flavour to cow’s milk, only much richer. With the increase in dairy product varieties in supermarkets, sheep’s milk could easily make the shelves.

Shaaanxo at home

Shaaanxo – YouTube Sensation

Almost five years ago Shannon Harris picked up a camera and started talking. With more than one million YouTube subscribers to date, she has become ingrained in the social media video blogging, or vlogging, sphere and has created for herself the household name Shaaanxo.

Tea timeWhen a hobby turns into a full-time job you know you are on to a good thing. “I didn’t even know you could make a living off YouTube,” says Shannon. “One day I got an email from YouTube saying ‘We want to start monetising your content’ and I thought, ‘Is this spam?’ I just used my vlog as a hobby to meet new people who had the same interests as me.”

Shannon’s blogs are the most subscribed and viewed online shows for fashion and beauty in New Zealand. Through her YouTube channel the Palmerston North beauty teaches anyone with an internet connection all about the world of makeup and fashion. She also lends advice on cooking, exercise and wellbeing. If this weren’t enough, she also has her own ‘xoBeauty’ business line, all of which is just in a day’s work for the 22 year old.

I don’t think YouTube is ever going to fade away, it’s taking over

The secret to her success is something even Shannon can’t quite put her finger on. “I don’t really know. I try to be myself and that comes off quite genuine I suppose, rather than trying to be scripted or professional because I’m not a professional or a makeup artist, I’m just another girl in her bedroom doing makeup. I just try to be positive and happy. I think people like seeing happiness.”

Face of success“No one else I knew really liked makeup that much, so YouTube was a good outlet. I didn’t really have any goals at first, but I guess now it’s educating people about makeup in New Zealand because it’s not really a huge thing here. I’m just trying to inspire other people.”

The constant stream of videos, photos and updates is anything but ordinary and is inspired predominantly by feedback from her followers. “I like to cover a lot of different things so that it’s interesting all the time. A lot of my ideas are from my viewers; I’ll ask them for inspiration or what they want to see. That’s a huge part because obviously you want them to watch it.”

When working from home Shannon enjoys the flexibility of being able to “do whatever I feel like doing on that day”. “On a typical day I usually go straight to my computer and answer all my business emails; I get on average about 150 a day. Then I jump into filming and try to film one or two videos. In the afternoon I like to sit back and start some editing, do some social media updates and post photos that I’ve taken.”

XO Beauty brushes“I have a separate room from where I film, which is different from my bedroom, but sometimes I’ll cart my computer out into the lounge and edit there just so it’s different, because it gets a bit hectic just working in the same area all the time.”

Her booming business, xoBeauty, is a professional brush and lash company that was developed in October 2012. “Makeup brushes are one of my favourite things because they are underrated in New Zealand. It is really hard to find good quality at a cheap price, so I thought there was a gap in the market. False eyelashes are something I just really love and I found I had so much fun designing them. It was just one of those things that came naturally to me.”

I try to be myself and that comes off quite genuine I suppose, rather than trying to be scripted or professional

At such a young age, Shaaanxo is taking her career one step at a time. “I can see myself doing what I’m doing throughout the majority of my life, but maybe not the exact same thing as what I’m doing right now. There is always room to do videos no matter where I am in life.”

At work“I also want to really focus on my business. As a hobby vlogging will always be there. I don’t think YouTube is ever going to fade away, it’s taking over. You are always going to get negative people so you’ve just really got to look past that and focus on positive people.”

Her advice to others is mainstream, but sincere. “Just follow your dreams. For me I was just your typical Palmy girl who didn’t have any special treatment or anything. I always knew I wanted my own business one day but never really knew what I wanted to do. I love makeup and doing makeup so I found an opening for my own opportunity. There is always a way.”

RKA Founders


A group of pupils at Palmerston North Boys’ High School were finding it a challenge to afford the brands they wanted without being allowed
after-school jobs. It was during an online shopping trip that George Smith and friends decided they’d make their own label – and Rapt Kid Apparel (RKA) was born.

“We were pretty rapt with the idea,” George says, hinting at the origin of the RKA’s name. “From there we just started designing our own things, making our own clothes and it all just came together.”

RAPT-2The year 13 students all met in the College House hostel as boarders, play for the school’s first XV rugby team and have been friends ever since. They are also now partners in an endeavour that’s gaining momentum.

The RKA range includes printed tees, hoodies, sweatshirts and caps, with dress-shirts and chinos recently added to the mix. The group pride themselves on sourcing New Zealand-made goods and having the apparel printed locally.

At the moment the boys sell through the school and the label’s Facebook page. They’re currently in discussions with outlet stores and surf and snow shops that are interested in stocking the range.

“We’ve made quite a few sales through school and we see those boys wearing them around, so hopefully it will catch on at other schools,” George says. “We’ve sold to a few boys at Rathkeale; they’re trying to get sales going down there.”

He says the school has been very supportive of the venture, with the commerce department guiding them along the way. “Our mentor Sean Kenzie has a vast knowledge of commerce and is definitely our secret weapon.

Our point of difference is that these are designs by us for people like us.

“When we had the designs done and printed up, we put them on Facebook and people seemed pretty interested in them. We’ve had really good support the whole way, and our business teacher approached us to ask if we wanted to enter the Young Enterprise Scheme and get ourselves some university credits. We took that on with open arms and here we are now.”

The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme is a year-long experiential business programme for years 12 and 13 pupils. Teams have the opportunity to put theory into practice by creating their own businesses, developing real products or services and making real profits or losses.

Assisted by a teacher, a regional coordinator and a business mentor, pupils experience all the challenges and triumphs associated with business ownership.

As part of RKA’s involvement in the scheme, coordinated locally through economic development agency Vision Manawatu with the Young Enterprise Trust, the boys had to front up to a
“Dragon’s Den” and pitch their idea to a panel of judges for a share of $1500 sponsorship money.

“We had to present to the judges who we were and what we were trying to do, and show them our products and stuff like that,” George says. “We had to show that we’re different from other groups – that we are different from all the other brands out there, and that we have a point of difference.”

RAPT-3The “Dragons” Lyn McCurdy, director of business agency Third Bearing, Manawatu Standard Editor Michael Cummings and UCOL Chief Financial Officer Darryl Purdy heard from each team for five minutes and each had $500 to award to the one that impressed them the most.

They awarded George’s presentation the Dragons’ share of $1000, with the remaining $500 going to a team from Wanganui Collegiate who had developed support services for people needing computer and technology advice.

“Our point of difference is that these are designs by us for people like us,” George says. “We’re trying to have more affordable prices than all the other branded gear out there and it’s something we want to stick to.

“To have people believe in our vision and buy into what we’re trying to achieve is a big motivator for us,” he says.

To have people believe in our vision and buy into what we’re trying to achieve is a big motivator for us.

And motivated they are. Turning up bright and early for their first professional photo-shoot with a full kit of gear, the boys enthusiasm took over both in front of, and behind, the camera. Keeping their loyal fans in the loop, a behind-the-scenes snapshot was uploaded to the brand’s Facebook page in no time.

The boys embrace their different walks of life, and while they’ll be venturing out into various fields such as forestry, teaching, aviation and business when they finish school, they’re committed to keeping RKA alive.

“We’re serious about this. Our goal is to establish the RKA brand as a leader in the New Zealand fashion market among some of the greats such as Federation, Huffer, RPM and Lower.”

Steve Maharey

The Man Behind the “Power House”

It has been four decades since Steve Maharey crossed the bridge across the Manawatu River from Palmerston North to enrol at Massey. Back then Steve was enjoying life, but thought becoming a student might lead to even more interesting opportunities. Today the sociology senior lecturer turned cabinet minister is in his second term as the University’s Vice-Chancellor. When Steve talks about the transformative power of education, and education as “a long-term passport not a short-term visa”, it is his personal experience he is drawing on.

As Vice-Chancellor, Steve presides over a substantial enterprise. Massey University, which this year celebrates its 50th year as an autonomous degree-granting institution, has three campuses, 3,000 staff, 35,000 students – with around 17,000 of them studying through New Zealand’s longest-established distance learning programme – and a multitude of research alliances, here and overseas.

Steve MahareyThe result, for Steve, is a life that is a whirlwind of meetings, openings, speeches and interviews, and a frequent flier’s schedule of international obligations. He makes himself determinedly available, but even so he sees himself as a transitional figure. “I try to travel to the three campuses, but eventually it will defeat someone. If the game plan comes off, Massey will become a global player.”

It will also, if Steve has his way, play a significant role in creating a better, more prosperous “new New Zealand”. Hence initiatives such as FoodHQ, which, with the support of the Palmerston North City and Manawatu District Councils, is creating a super campus comprising AgResearch, AsureQuality, Fonterra, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, the Riddet Institute and the Bio Commerce Centre.

If New Zealand is to hit the Government’s target of having food exports reach $60 billion by 2025 – trebling 2009’s result – Massey’s input as a “science power house” will be key.

FoodHQ will principally draw on the expertise held in Massey’s College of Sciences and College of Health, but Steve is also sure that the University’s Colleges of Business, Creative Arts, and Humanities and Social Sciences will have a role to play in making Massey “the engine of the new New Zealand”.

“You need an environment in which people want to constantly stretch themselves.”

As a former sociologist, Steve has a particular fondness for the humanities and social sciences. These disciplines are areas he thinks have been unfairly neglected in recent times.

“I think the humanities and social sciences have a lot to offer, informing social policy, creating effective, competent citizens in a democratic society, promoting critical thought, and helping people to live full and satisfying lives.” In late 2013 the University launched the WH Oliver Humanities Research Academy to boost research in the humanities.

Managing such a large and varied organisation is not a simple task. A commercial enterprise would allow for more direct management. In a university, things are not so simple. “Good universities pride themselves on their independent academic staff,” says Steve. “Management needs to be light-handed and
strategically focused.

Massey University“You need an environment in which people want to constantly stretch themselves,” says Steve. Once you have that, it is simply a matter of “running along behind them and
being supportive”.

Away from Massey, Steve tries to keep active. “Our dog manages to get us out of the house for a walk every day. That provides some fitness for mountain biking and tramping”.

Every year he and his wife Bette try to tick off another adventure. “I used to do one long mountain bike race or something like that, but in the past few years we’ve done the Milford, Tongariro, Queen Charlotte and other shorter tracks.”

Mountain biking was something he took up “during my midlife crisis”; tramping was at Bette’s insistence. “I have to say it is one thing I never thought I would do,
sleeping in huts. I think, you know, if there are perfectly good hotels, why are we staying in a hut? But I actually enjoy it now; I enjoy the whole camaraderie of meeting other people, cooking your food and sitting there in the dark at night time. I think it’s fantastic. I can’t believe I’ve left it so long.”