Stefan Meyer's knowledge of farming terminology is gradually increasing.

Originally from Germany, Dr Meyer joined Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting company AbacusBio after completing a PhD in zoology at the University of Otago last year.

His decision to move to New Zealand happened "a little bit by accident".

He wanted to find a good place to do some science, but was keen to combine it with his passion for the environment and being outdoors. He had never  been to New Zealand before.


The contact with AbacusBio came through a friend and he figured his skill set might be useful at the business. From an ecology background, he had strong skills in statistics and population modelling.

Receiving a grant from Callaghan Innovation for his work on a dairy cow survival project was very helpful, he said.

The R&D career grant was designed to bridge the first six months of employment for new employees. AbacusBio consultant Peter Amer said the company was keen to translate the survival analysis skills Dr Meyer had from his zoology and environmental work into livestock situations.

It was hard to find people with the right balance of farming knowledge, genetics skills and advanced statistics understanding.

While Dr Meyer had no farming background, he had big-data analysis skills, a novel approach to analysing data and some experience with genetics.

The workload at AbacusBio had increased and it was great to have someone with such a skill set to absorb some of that new work.

There had been an upswing of international work linked to the establishment of an office in Edinburgh earlier this year, which was feeding work back into the whole team. Plus there had been an upsurge in domestic work as well, Dr Amer said.

Diversity was  important for a business like AbacusBio and it was great to have Dr Meyer in the team, which was very international.


Science was an interesting field as it was probably one of the most transportable professions, Dr Amer said.

Part of the company's strength was the relationship  it had with the University Otago and the ability to recruit good talent.Dr Meyer's dairy project was around whether survivability could be improved through selective breeding, saving money for farmers and having a positive impact on the environment.

It was hoped "within a year or so" to have a new genetic evaluation system for the New Zealand dairy industry for survivability and the project was on track for that, Dr Amer said. Several international clients were interested in the same space and Dr Meyer was working on a similar project involving yellow-eyed penguins.

Not only were Dr Meyer's skills being used in the livestock industry,  they were also of value to the wildlife industry, which was new ground for AbacusBio, Dr Amer said.

Dr Meyer said he was working in a really good team, within an inspiring environment, and he was enjoying it.

His partner came with him to New Zealand and  their two children had been born here and the family enjoyed living in Otago. AbacusBio was also a very family friendly and supportive company, he said.

He was in the region for the long term and keen to improve his knowledge of farming and pursue his projects, Dr Meyer said.