Danni van der Heijden

Tell us about your background.

I studied Biology and Chemistry at Waikato University. After graduating, I worked briefly as a casual sampling technician for Watercare whilst searching for a career. I then took on a position in the research team at New Zealand Avocado where I worked for two years before being offered a role at Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool providing technical support to their avocado growers and their new nursery operation. After this, I was offered a role at AVOCO.

What’s the best thing about your role?

The variability – every day is different, which keeps it fresh and exciting.

Do you travel much for the role ?

I travel overseas a few times each season, to provide technical support to the handlers or importers of New Zealand avocados in the Australian and Asian markets.

Did you require any specific education or training for this role?

A science degree, and experience; with avocados and research.

As a woman involved in horticulture is there anything that you would like to see change that would make your life/role better?

I am very lucky in that I work with brilliant, supportive people both at AVOCO and in the wider avocado industry in New Zealand. However, I believe this is not the case for all areas of horticulture. I do believe there needs to be more representation of women across all aspects of horticulture. This could come in the form of showcasing women in horticulture as is being done, and also regulations across companies, industries and boards which encourage more even gender balances.

Have you received any awards? Can you tell us a little about them

2018 BOP Young Fruit Grower, and 2018 Young Grower of the Year. The Young Grower Competition was a fantastic experience. It encouraged me to learn about aspects of horticulture that I had not experienced previously. It put me in contact with others in the wider horticultural industry I would not have otherwise met. And it gave me the chance to take learnings from other more established industries which could be applied to avocados.

What do you do now?

Quality and Export Systems Manager for AVOCO. I provide technical support and run research projects across the avocado supply chain.

How did you get that role? What was the pathway to that?

I was first employed at AVOCO as a technical representative. Over time, I became more focused on fruit quality and was offered the role of Quality and Export Systems Manager.

Do you have any qualifications?

BSc in Biology and Chemistry. Within my BSc, I also included Mathematics (statistics and algebra) and Physics papers which have also been extremely useful.

If you had your time again would you do anything different?

I would have taken horticulture in high school, and more horticulture papers at University. These weren’t essential for my roles as I believe the papers I took and reading and experience are sufficient. However I believe I would have enjoyed studying more aspects of horticulture.

Do you have any advice/tips for other women wanting a role like yours?

I would suggest reading a lot (books and research journals) about the topics you are interested in, study what you are interested in (as you will be prepared to put in more work if you enjoy what you are doing), and keep an open mind to new ideas.

Are you on any Boards? If so which ones

No, although I would like to be in the future.