When Jack Keeys first walked into AbacusBio's Dunedin office, he could not believe his eyes.

Whenever he had previously applied for scholarships, he used the tagline that he wanted to bridge business and science.

As he walked in, he discovered that was exactly the mantra of the agribusiness consulting company.

Mr Keeys is in Dunedin for the AbacusBio-AGMARDT international internship, a new six-month programme for successful applicants to gain international exposure to agri-business, agri-food and agri-tech sectors.


The programme is focused on developing core and transferable skills that can be practically applied in their role.

Those skills are intended to help interns progress from their current roles to higher positions as the industry's future decision-makers.

Not from a rural background, Mr Keeys originally wanted to be either an accountant or a scientist, so studied both business and science degrees at the University of Waikato.

But then he took a paper by Jacqueline Rowarth, the inaugural professor of agribusiness at the university who became the first chief scientist of the Environmental Protection Authority.

It changed his focus and he majored in agribusiness in his bachelor of management degree studies, along with biological studies for his bachelor of science degree.

Since graduating about a year ago, he has been working at Farmax, a Hamilton-based computer software company with a forecasting tool for both feed and financial budgeting.

Commercially launched in 1993, Farmax was developed by AgResearch and was born out of 20 years of research.

Mr Keeys was involved with various projects within the Farmax team, including co-ordinating Farmax UK, accreditation and software development, and running training sessions with farmers around the country. It had been an "awesome" year which included two trips to the UK, he said. He enjoyed the breadth of the role, which ranged from overall industry level projects through to working on one farm system on an individual farm.


Mr Keeys said the first few weeks based at AbacusBio had been "absolutely brilliant". There was a collaborative culture at the firm and he felt he was "sitting in a very fortunate place".

The programme involved a mix of workshops and project work conducted internally at AbacusBio, before he headed to the company's Edinburgh office in March.

AbacusBio opened the office last year in the Roslin Innovation Centre on the University of Edinburgh's Easter Bush campus.

During both stints, he was predominantly working on projects for Farmax and his core project was in the sheep and beef sector. Once the internship was over, he would return to Farmax, he said.

Mr Keeys had no regrets about moving into the agricultural sector. He also did a lot of work with young people, particularly around encouraging them to pursue careers in the sector.

At the moment, he was happy being a "generalist", and on the side he was involved in a couple of agriculture-related startups.

He said he was enjoying what he was doing and building foundations, his knowledge and leadership skills.