Diversification is the name of the game with new courses being introduced by UCOL in August.

The university is introducing courses focusing on establishing and maintaining beehives and turning gardens into productive urban farms, with courses run through its trades and technology centre. These are called the "sustainable production" programmes.

UCOL will offer a certificate in horticulture with strand in outdoor vegetable production, the certificate in apiculture, and the diploma in agribusiness.

UCOL is the first institute in New Zealand to offer the programmes leading to the new qualifications, which are suitable for a diverse range of students.

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Dr Nicky van der Bergh, UCOL executive dean of trades and technology, said the programmes focused on "sound, sustainable and organic principles" and would interest town-dwellers and farmers alike.

"Whether you're interested in healthy living, seeking a career in horticulture or beekeeping, or looking to diversify your farming there is something for everyone in these new programmes." The programmes will be offered partly online and via webinars and block courses.

Both the horticulture and apiculture programmes will be offered "fees free" through the regional growth strategy scholarship.

Jake Schultz, a lecturer on the horticulture and apiculture programmes, said the opportunities in the sector were huge.

"It's really coming out of its shell and I want to help students understand that you don't need a huge farm and investment to become viable.

"That said, a huge farm with an investment can also be just as economically and environmentally viable with these systems too," Mr Schultz said.

Dr Van der Bergh said UCOL was setting up a Centre of Learning for Sustainable Production to run out of the faculty of trades and technology, and would next year look to offer an advanced organic farming and an advanced beekeeping programme.

"Looking even further forward, we would like to offer other sustainable production programmes.

"More students are coming through the trades and technology faculty with a stewardship mentality, and we can support and develop that."

Enrolments are open now for the programmes starting August at UCOL across the Manawatu, Whanganui and Wairarapa regions, subject to approval and accreditation.