Professor excited about new role

Professor Claire Massey's new role as director of agrifood business at Massey University brings together her interest in entrepreneurship and her agricultural background.

And it is a job that she could not be happier about. "I'm so excited about it, I really, really am," she told the Otago Daily Times recently.

Brought up on a dairy farm at Karaka, near Auckland, she is also the great-granddaughter of former prime minister William Ferguson Massey, and the university's namesake.

She reckoned her great-grandfather, also known as Farmer Bill, who was prime minister from 1912 to 1925, would be "quite chuffed" about the appointment.

Prof Massey had always been interested in the notion of "turning a product into something we could eat and sell and do stuff with" since a young age.

She recalled visiting a local dairy factory with her father when she was a child and being fascinated with the yoghurt-making process.

Her tertiary education began at Massey when she started studying for a degree in agricultural economics but she found it "deadly dull".

She completed a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and then started a clothing design company, joking that the only skill she had was being able to spell.

She developed an interest in business and did a business degree.

Prof Massey was the first chief executive of the Palmerston North Enterprise Board, a past president of the Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand, and a former senior vice-president of the International Council for Small Business.

She also has a strong research record, with more than 30 refereed journal articles and four books. She received her PhD in management from Massey in 2000.

Prof Massey has been a lecturer at the university since 1993 and head of the school of management since 2006.

She is also a professor of enterprise development and was the founding director of the university's Centre For Small and Medium Enterprise Research.

Growing good food and good fish was something that New Zealand did "extremely well" and there were opportunities to be realised.

There was a huge need for what the country was very good at - feeding people, she said.

There were great people in the industry, some fantastic science at the university and some good industry structures.

There was a great challenge to match the people with the agri - the production, plus the food science plus the business.

Prof Massey said she had a "pretty clear sense" of what could be done better, at both national, regional and institutional levels.

"You cannot farm successfully without being an entrepreneur.

And that same attitude of enterprise and innovation is crucial to developing a successful agrifood sector.

"Massey is well positioned to lead the way, and I want to make the university a major international hub for agrifood research and partnerships with industry."

In announcing Prof Massey's appointment, vice-chancellor Steve Maharey said New Zealand's economic growth was dependent on innovation and value-added food production and the university was ready to play its part.



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