Originally from Bulgaria, Dr Elena Garnevska has found herself in New Zealand immersed in the academia world of agribusiness. The sector has provided opportunities that have taken her around the world researching and teaching in an area that she is passionate about. Elena provides an interesting insight into another direction in the agri space we believe needed to be shared.

Elena balances her career alongside her husband and their two children based out of Palmerston North. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Agribusiness at Massey University where she is involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and supervision of Masters and PHD students. She is also the leader and co-leader of a range of research projects for both New Zealand and international cooperatives in the agri-food chain.

Elena’s career began after attending University of National and World Economics in Sofia, where she completed a BSc/Masters degree in Agricultural Economics. She then spent time at Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium where she completed a post-graduate course and practical placement in agri-marketing and agri-management at fruit auction in Sint Katelijne-Waver, Belgium. Her foray in to academia began at the Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom back in 1998 where she completed a PHD Degree. While here she also had the opportunity to become a part time lecturer on statistics and a part time research assistant for the market research group.

In 2004 a position at Massey University bought her to NZ. Teaching and research forms a big part of her role where the course she takes courses focused on agribusiness management, international agribusiness and marketing, food and agribusiness strategies and cooperatives. Receiving a Harvard Business School (HBS) training opportunity allowed Elena to introduce and apply an innovative teaching approach using HBS case studies for discussion.

”For me it is important that we have a strong emphasis on real-life practical examples, problem solving cases with a strong international agribusiness theme. This teaching approach provides interactive and stimulating environment with an impact beyond the University.”

She has also been involved in coaching teams from Massey University for the international case study competition held at the annual International Food and Agribusiness Management conference. A highlight that she remembers well was the students that she coached in 2016 won the competition in which universities from all around the world compete.

Research is another important aspect of her role as an academic. Current research has included the importance of the New Zealand (NZ) Co-operative economy where Elena led the research team of academics from Massey University and the University of Auckland.

“Although I was aware of the dominance of co-operative ownership in the agri-food sector here in New Zealand, I was surprised to find its importance in New Zealand was more than twice that worldwide.”

Another area of interest is sustainability in agribusiness where she has investigated the adopting of environmental sustainability initiatives and Life Cycle Management practices in the NZ primary sector.

Her expertise is regularly called upon as a speaker at conferences such as the Cooperative Business NZ Leaders Forum, attended by CEOs and Directors of leading cooperatives and an international agribusiness conference in Asia. She also has a role as an international reviewer of a research project related to cooperatives for the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an invitation to become a member of a COPAC/ILO international technical group working on cooperative statistics and a review of a book on cooperatives in developing countries.

Elena you are one talented woman whose expertise and knowledge along with hard work is providing the future generations of our sector the agribusiness skills they require to be successful.