Students from across the Bay of Plenty have learned the biosecurity threat to horticulture is very real.

Last week 240 students visited Trevelyan's Pack and Cool in the culmination of a three-month long programme on integrated pest management.

They ran around a kiwifruit block looking for (not real) brown marmorated stink bugs, heard about the role of technology, including drones, in pest management, and about the quality control and biohazard identification processes in the packhouse.

"We are trying to get students to see there is more than just picking involved or pruning involved, there's a whole science industry behind it."

SCION and Tauranga's House of Science put together the programme with funding from the Government's Unlocking Curious Minds initiative.


House of Science CEO Chris Duggan says the organisation developed a resource kit on plants, pests and produce that went out to 20 schools across the greater Bay of Plenty area.

"It is based around integrated pest management and caters for 5 to 12-year-olds," she says.

Most of the schools are low-decile, with a high percentage of Māori pupils.

"Students used the resource kits and following that, a couple of scientists from SCION went into the schools and did a whole day of hands-on activities."

She says the whole programme is aimed at raising students' awareness about the science involved in primary industries.

"The majority of schools were rural schools, but even in the non-rural ones, they were all familiar with growing kiwifruit and growing avocados and familiar with primary industries being part of the economy and also as a [potential]career pathway.

"We are trying to get students to see there is more than just picking involved or pruning involved, there's a whole science industry behind it."

The issue of pests and the impact they could have on the country was also an important part of the initiative.


"There would obviously be an impact on the country, but it could also mean they were not able to eat their kiwifruit which is something that's almost taken for granted."

The kits will now be available as an ongoing resource, alongside many others, to other regions.

"We can can easily tweak the contents of the resource," says Chris.

"At the moment it is kiwifruit and avocado-based, but we could easily change it and add in things for other regional crops such as apples or grapes or even stone fruit, so it's a resource that will be available for a long time."

SCION's research leader, entomology, Steve Pawson, says the scientists who visited the schools were able to show students the latest cyborg technologies and how to use the iNaturalist and myrtle rust reporter apps.

A dedicated project was set up on iNaturalist called BOP Moth Counters which provided a platform for classes to record three invasive moth species caught in traps on their schools' grounds: brown headed leafroller, green headed leaf roller and light brown apple moth.

The final field trip at Trevelyan's gave students a practical insight into identifying and dealing with biopests.

The programme was sponsored by Avocados New Zealand, Heli Resources, Trevelyan's and Hort NZ.

Unlocking Curious Minds is a contestable fund supporting projects that excite and engage New Zealanders who have fewer opportunities to experience and connect with science and technology.