Caitlin McCulloch is the inaugural recipient of the Avoco Tertiary Scholarship worth $5000.
The daughter of Te Puke avocado growers, Caitlin has been studying for a Bachelor of Science with a major in horticulture at Lincoln University.
The 20-year-old will complete her third and final year of advanced study at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, where she’s looking forward to extending her knowledge.
“Whereas Lincoln University has given me a strong science base, it unfortunately doesn’t give students the chance to major in horticulture,” says Caitlin.
“Fortunately, I can do that at Guelph – which is a partner university of Lincoln and one that has a solid reputation for sustainability and the use of modern technology.”
Her first semester courses start on January 7 when she will explore a full range of horticultural subjects, including propagation, apiculture, medicinal plant management and organic horticulture.
“I’m really interested in pursuing integrated pest management and bio-control more,” says Caitlin.
“There’s a general push for a much greater understanding about how we can manage pests in our orchards in a more sustainable way. It seems more people want to take a holistic view in the growing of crops.”
Growing up on an avocado orchard in Te Puke, Caitlin says she was always hands-on with her family, tagging along with parents Andrina and Greg to help when needed. Being surrounded by gardens and various fruit trees sparked an interest in horticulture but it was only later at Lincoln that Caitlin says she seriously considered the idea of pursing it as a career option.
“I attended two different high schools and horticulture was offered but it was not taken seriously by students. Most of those who took it were generally there to fool around.
“That put me off, but I’m a curious person and the more I looked into plant sciences at Lincoln, the more I realised how many opportunities there are to apply my interest in science to the horticulture industry.
“Horticulture suits me well because I enjoy the practical side of research and being able to apply the science in a very hands-on way to make a difference is something that really appeals.”
Caitlin hopes the scholarship will open doors for her after she graduates and says a career in the avocado industry “is one that would tick lots of boxes”.
“Definitely avocados are in my mind for a future career but I’d like to immerse myself in any one industry and get stuck in with all the practical stuff.
“I like how the avocado industry is still growing and there are still opportunities to influence how it develops.”
It also helps that she understands how avocado growers tick. Like many orchardists, Caitlin says her parents are hungry for knowledge about how to improve their orchard productivity.
“They’ve always been open-minded to trying new things and they can definitely see the benefits of how further scientific research will support them becoming more productive in the long-run.
“Naturally, Mum and Dad supported my study choice and have always been interested to hear what I’ve been learning; and I’ve enjoyed sharing with them the science behind a lot of the practical stuff that they do.”
She’s incredibly grateful to Avoco and its community of growers for offering the scholarship, which will help her complete her studies.
“It’s exciting to be the inaugural recipient and I can’t wait to just get stuck in to my studies.”
With more than 800 growers, Avoco is New Zealand’s largest avocado export company. It launched the annual Tertiary Scholarship to encourage research into subjects that could benefit NZ’s avocado industry.