Studying the unexpected combination of Economics and Chemistry is opening doors for Robbie Maris.

He’s just completed a Bachelor of Business at the University of Waikato, majoring in those two subjects, and is moving on to a Master of Management Studies.

Robbie was the recipient of two University of Waikato Summer Research Scholarships, which he says gave him a good insight into research processes and a taste for where his degrees might take him in the future.

His first scholarship was with the Bay of Plenty economic development agency Priority One, based in his hometown of Tauranga, where he worked on a pilot study building a business case for seaweed farming in the Bay with the potential to expand throughout New Zealand.

In partnership with iwi and local farmers, the pilot is focused on creating a viable community model from seed to sale using a regenerative ocean farming model.

Robbie’s second Summer Research Scholarship was with DairyNZ. He was tasked with looking at dairy farm performance and efficiency.

“My focus was on farm operating profit margin, looking at what characteristics and practices on-farm improve those margins, and what drivers influence them,” he says.

“It’s something farmers are dealing with all the time, and it’s actually very easy to calculate relative to more complex theoretical models of efficiency and farm performance.

“Farmers don’t have time for those, so if they can look at their operating profit margins, compare them with industry benchmarks, they can see how changing practices can improve resilience and efficiency.”

Robbie presented his research (virtually) in February 2022 at the 66th Annual Australasian Agricultural Resource and Economic Society’s conference.

Lately he’s been based in Auckland working on what he considers a perfect fit for his study skills.

He’s been interning at EnviroStrat Ltd, a multidisciplinary organisation that brings together science, economics and commercial elements to develop impact-focused projects that deliver positive financial returns and measurable environmental improvements.

“I didn’t know something so perfect existed. It’s definitely the type of work I’d like to do in future,” Robbie says.

“I don’t know where I’ll end up, but even if I do end up doing pure economics, I’ll have had good experiences and gained different perspectives of both science and business.”

Robbie was also awarded a University of Waikato Research Masters Scholarship in 2022.

He also received funding to support his master’s study from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research to investigate ways to increase community participation in conservation.

His research will contribute to the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge and take him off campus and on the road as he meets with community groups up and down the country to see what they’re doing and what more can be done to develop programmes, policies and interventions that will lead to increased awareness and participation, and ultimately improve conservation practices.