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Study and scholarships lead to global exchanges and experience for Massey graduate

Caitlyn Poole and Graeme Jacobson on top of the clarifiers at Fonterra

Caitlyn Poole and Graeme Jacobson, Senior Environmental Operator stand above the clarifiers at Fonterra's Te Awamutu site.

Tree planting at Fonterra's Brightwater site in 2020

Caitlyn and Fonterra staff planting trees on the Brightwater site in 2020.

Caitlyn Poole, partner Ben and dog Lincoln

Ben, Caitlyn and their dog Lincoln.

Caitlyn and ben in China

Caitlyn and Ben travelled through China during their breaks.

Growing up on a dairy farm, Caitlyn Poole always knew she wanted to work in the agriculture industry.

The 28-year-old holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a Master of Science (Animal Science) from Massey University’s Manawatū campus.

Throughout her studies she was awarded multiple scholarships which took her to China and Brazil before she returned home to New Zealand and began working for Fonterra.

“I was lucky enough to receive two DairyNZ scholarships during my studies. The support was amazing, especially from my master’s supervisor and mentor Dr John Roche.”

Massey was a natural choice for Caitlyn, with a good reputation for all things agriculture, and three of her siblings had studied there.

She’s now studying via distance toward a Postgraduate Diploma in Environmental Management and is employed as an Environmental Manager based at Fonterra’s Te Awamutu site. Caitlyn has taken a break from her studies this semester to focus on her management role but is looking to pick it up again next year.

“My team manage the Biological Wastewater Treatment System for the site and ensure our final discharge is within our resource consent limits before it is discharged to the environment. Unlike many Fonterra sites, we don’t irrigate our treated wastewater. We have a major multi-million-dollar upgrade to our plant happening at the moment, so in a year, our discharge will be even more pristine than it currently is - it’s an exciting time for us! The upgrade will ensure we meet our new tighter Resource Consent limits.”

Caitlyn manages the environmental management system at the site, to ensure it meets international standards.

“This involves identifying and reviewing environmental aspects and impacts and ensuring the implementation of suitable operational controls. I’m a member of the Te Awamutu site leadership team and drive sustainability improvements on site. We aim to make year-on-year reductions in water, energy use and our carbon footprint as well as reduce the waste we send to landfill and are working to build our relationships with iwi.

“It’s been great to get experience from a manufacturing perspective - a change from the on-farm focus I studied. It’s pretty cool how under the right conditions, bacteria are able to break down the contaminants in our wastewater – a natural process can make it so clean! And it’s amazing to see how my team – Sinkie, Graeme and Sam, manage to keep these bacteria healthy on a daily basis.”


During her second year at Massey, Caitlyn took part in a student exchange, which saw her move to the island of Florianópolis, in southern Brazil.

“It was the best year. I lived with a really amazing Brazilian family who had kids my age. Many of the papers I studied were cross credited to my AgriScience degree, so if I had come back as planned, I would have finished uni at the same time as everyone else. I stayed on a while longer and moved to Rio de Janeiro where I focused on Portuguese language studies for four months, graduating about six months after my peers.”

But the travelling, and love of learning new languages, didn’t stop there.


“I moved to Chengdu in China after completing my masters and interned for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in the New Zealand Consulate for six months. This was made possible by an Asia New Zealand Foundation Business Internship Scholarship.

“After that I joined my partner Ben at Chengdu University and we studied Mandarin for six months. We were both fortunate to receive the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia which funded this study.”

A key aim of the Prime Minister's Scholarship for Asia is to strengthen New Zealand's ability to engage with key Asian trading partners. Caitlyn’s interest in China and learning Mandarin was sparked by many discussions about China as an export market for New Zealand dairy products.

And home again

On her return to New Zealand, Caitlyn’s first roles with Fonterra were South Island based, and while it was an “awesome experience”, she’s enjoying being back on the family farm in Pirongia in the Waikato with Ben, and their pets – dog Lincoln and cat Steve.

“We love travelling around New Zealand – but during these lockdowns I’ve gotten into cycling around the Pirongia Mountain hills.”

Caitlyn’s looking forward to learning more at Fonterra. “We’ve got lots going on with the upgrade, and that will keep me challenged for the next few years. I’m really fortunate to work with a really cool team at the Te Awamutu site who have supported me so much already in the short time that I’ve been here. I’ve been able to learn from a few wastewater legends namely Ron Hamilton and Marc Carney and the Plant Operators Sinclair Watson and Graeme Jacobsen who are always there when we need them and keep things in control on a day-to-day basis.”

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