Chocolate milk, pie-filler and taking time-out

Wade Harrison

While most students are neck-deep in essays, Bachelor of Food Technology student Wade Harrison is currently going through the process of making flavoured-milk.

The second-year student says studying food technology is a lot of chemistry, engineering and processes, but when he tells people what he’s studying, he often gets the same reaction.

“Most of them say ‘oh so you’re going to be a chef?, but it’s more to do with mathematics, processes and how you make things. A lot of the time I say it’s more like chemical engineering, which allows them to associate it more with science.”

So, how does a kid from the Bay of Plenty who loved science, physics and mathematics at Otumoetai College, end up in Palmerston North?

“Mum and Dad were a bit shocked because I hadn’t known what I wanted to do and suddenly I was off to Palmerston North. But I went to see the school’s careers adviser. I told her what I was good at and she was really keen to show me food technology at Massey and it did stand out to me, so I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’

“I knew I wanted to do engineering in some way. I’ve always like problem solving and that’s really want engineering is,” Wade says.

Getting into the swing of things

“First year was good. It was a jump from high school, but not too much. There were a lot of little tests on each topic as you went along, which I enjoyed as you could do the work, but also have time to get used to student life and enjoy it.”

Wade is an active member of Techensoc, the engineering students’ social club. The club organises participation in quizzes, an annual ball, and most importantly, and frequently, offers free food or food trials to participate in. Wade hopes to gain a place on the executive team next year as its treasurer.

“It’s a really tight-knit degree. We all know each other and end up being really close. It’s good to be able to balance out study and a social life as well. I think it’s really important to find the time to get away from work and take breaks. You can’t work 24/7.”

Wade working on a milk-project.


Wade says second year has been a step up.

“It’s certainly more report based and you really have to apply yourself a lot more, but that comes with interesting projects and other things, so it’s good in a way as well. I quite like the physics and mathematics side of food technology; not so much the creative side, but that’s just me. Others excel in different areas.”

As part of second year, students go through the various stages of product development. Wade’s project is looking at a Kiwi favourite – pies – more specifically, the stuff within pies. 

“We are looking at everything from the ingredients to how it is sold in the supermarket. I enjoy working in teams. From an engineering perspective, working in a group is exactly what you do when you get out of university into the workforce so it’s quite good to start doing it now.” 

They have most recently been working on flavoured milk project. 

“It’s not like we are trying to make the next Lewis Road Creamery product, we are learning about the processes involved. Homogenising the milk, making its shelf life stable, all the processes that go into making a product like that.”

This work might come in handy when Wade begins a summer internship over the road from Massey at Fonterra’s Research and Development facility. Practicums are part of the degree, so each student must complete three over the four-year degree.

“The second and third practicums are when we aim to find jobs such as research projects for companies where we can apply our knowledge. This year I’ve managed to get work at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre where I’ll be completing a project for them over the summer.”

For his first-year practicum, Wade worked at Sanfords, a fish processing company.

“This job exposed me to processes and general practices such as hygiene in the food industry, which provided me with valuable experience going forward.

“In the future, I’d really like to work for a company with a good culture. Obviously Fonterra would be amazing – a dairy giant, but if I was working for an ice cream company or brewing company or something else I would be happy as well. It would be a lot of fun to build something from the ground up.” 


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