A cannery is not your usual academic internship for ecology students, so it's fair to say two American students were expecting the worst when Massey University placed them at Wattie's in Hastings.

Thankfully the reality was much, much better.

"There is a huge misconception with Wattie's because when you think of Wattie's you think of canning," said Californian ecology student Sylvia Felix. "Obviously they do that, but they do so much more."

Along with fellow American ecology student Maddie Raine, Felix gained credits for her course by planning a riparian planting along a Karamū Stream tributary, which borders a Wattie's peach orchard in Hastings.

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"We've been helping to plan it and today we've been getting our hands dirty and doing some of the actual work planting," Raine said.

Their practical planning was to assess how many people would be needed for the main planting day on July 17.

The opportunity to take part in the riparian planting was offered as a prize to Wattie's staff.

"It's an environment that will be good fun for people who are normally used to working in the factory - come out in the sunshine and it's all go," Wattie's Hastings agricultural manager Bruce Mackay said.

"We are doing this in consultation with the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, recognising that this is part of their long-term vision for improving waterways in the Heretaunga Plains."

Mackay said he was optimistic riparian plantings would continue at Wattie's, with South Island staff travelling to take part and learn from the Hastings planting.

Despite any initial misgivings, the American students said Wattie's and its agriculture team were "awesome".

"They really are a great bunch of people," Felix said.

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