Avoco provides $5000 to one worthy tertiary student each year to encourage research and study in subjects that could benefit New Zealand’s avocado industry. The recipient of the 2021 Avoco scholarship is Kazi Talaska.

Kazi is in her final semester of a three-year undergraduate degree at Massey University in Palmerston North, where she is studying a Bachelor of Horticultural Science. The 22-year-old moved to New Zealand from Indonesia in July 2018 to pursue her interests in plant production, research and technical extension work with growers.

With her sights firmly fixed on graduating mid-year thanks to financial support from Avoco, Kazi hopes to work in New Zealand’s horticulture industry and apply her skills to solve some its biggest challenges.

“With all the disruption caused by COVID-19, the world is still a volatile place. Although nothing is certain, I’d love to stay in New Zealand and work in a research, extension or project management role and be on the front line of all the exciting things happening in horticulture right now.”

Kazi got a glimpse of what a career in horticulture and the avocado industry could look like when she worked as a summer intern for Tauranga’s PlantTech Research Institute. Her project was designed to support NZ Avocado and research being carried out that examines management practices in New Zealand avocado orchards.

She prepared and administered a grower survey to help the industry body better understand the practices that contribute to an orchard’s success.

“To improve national crop production, NZ Avocado needs to identify the best management practices and also look at what other factors contribute to productivity as well. I really enjoyed the project because it enabled me to connect with the avocado industry while learning from other experienced researchers and scientists.”

“The horticulture industry, in general, is really tight-knit and supportive and that creates a really nice environment to step into after graduating.”

As well as excelling academically, Kazi is also an active member of Massey University’s Horticulture Society, the Indonesian Student Association and Caretakers of the Environment International (CEI), a global organisation that educates young people on responsible food production as a sustainable development goal.

With COVID-19 making international travel difficult in the short term, Kazi counts herself lucky to have experienced life overseas – both growing up with her family in Indonesia, as well as travelling with fellow university students after being selected for the Prime Minister’s Scholarship to Asia in 2019. As part of the agribusiness immersion programme, she spent time touring South Korea, returning to New Zealand in December that year before COVID-19 became a major international health crisis.

“I’ve learned so much about horticulture and life in New Zealand, but always in my peripheral vision, I have my experiences of living in Asia where a lot of New Zealand’s high-value produce is exported.

“All my education and international experiences combine to help me understand the bigger global picture of why growing sustainably is so important to New Zealand’s export story.

“When I’m doing research in a paddock or orchard in New Zealand, I know I’m working to improve practices that help New Zealand growers and exporters market their food globally, while also demonstrating how sustainable farming practices can feed the world.”

Previous Avoco scholarship recipients include Caitlin McCulloch and Alex Tomkins.