Talent Innovation

Hectre and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) have developed a strong relationship over the past three years, with five AUT master’s graduates joining the global award-winning agtech company.


Ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world, AUT is a modern and innovative university located in the centre of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city.


There are currently three AUT students working on R&D projects for Hectre, two that have ten-week internships, and one that has just begun through a fourth Hectre-AUT pathway.

Successful Hectre interns secure a placement at double award-winner Hectre where they’ll be able to work on industry-leading technologies.

Talent Trifecta: Hectre, AUT, and Callaghan Innovation

Hectre’s relationship with AUT University goes back to 2019 when Hectre’s Head of Research and Development, Luke Butters, was a Master’s student, and Hectre’s Spectre technology was still in the early development stage. “Our Spectre products wouldn’t be what they are today without the work of AUT students and our partnership with the university,” said Butters.


Callaghan Innovation has also played an important role in Hectre’s AUT collaborations. The Callaghan Experience Grant, Callaghan Career Grant, and Callaghan Fellowship Grant have helped fund three pathways that have led to employment at Hectre.

Pathways to Hectre

There are multiple ways in which talented students can aspire to join the Hectre team. The first pathway is through the Callaghan Experience Grant, where AUT students join Hectre to work on research and development projects. 


The second pathway is through the Callaghan Career Grant, which helps fund a graduate’s salary for the first six months. A number of valued Hectre R&D team members came to Hectre through these pathways.


The third pathway is through the Callaghan Fellowship Grant, which wasn’t available in 2022, but has helped master’s students in the past work on projects for Hectre.


The latest Hectre-AUT pathway sees an AUT research assistant work on a Hectre project for ten weeks, with AUT selecting and employing them while also managing the project.

Hectre’s R&D Manager Luke Butters (with cap), mentors AUT interns working on Hectre’s AI projects.

The Right Fit

Depending on the pathway, either Hectre or AUT selects the students. “At Hectre, we look for technical capability, promising past work, the backing of the professor, and a great cultural fit when selecting a student. Having experience with fruit, farming, or orchards, would be a bonus,” said Butters.

Follow the Money

If we look at venture capital investments in AgTech, they seem to be skewed towards alternative food production. According to AgFunder’s 2021 Agri-FoodTech Investing Report, alternative proteins received over $3 billion in funding in 2020, while precision agriculture and farm management technology received just over $2 billion. While it’s clear that alternative food production has potential, it’s worth considering whether the entrepreneurs and VCs are overlooking the potential of existing agricultural systems in the rush to “create the future”.

The Benefits of Partnership

“It’s a three-way partnership between Hectre, the student, and the university. The student gets great industry experience and can practice what they’ve learned at the university on a real-world application; experience that can provide them with a pathway to employment in that specialist industry,” said Butters.

“Hectre benefits from working with and attracting exceptional talent, the specialist knowledge and resources that the university can provide, and being able to move forward with R&D projects that may have otherwise had longer timelines. The university benefits because they want to see their students transition into industry, and they also want to encourage research into cutting-edge fields, such as AI, computer vision and machine learning,” added Butters.

Currently, Hectre has AUT students working on fruit quality analysis using computer vision, helping Hectre with the exciting new products and enhancements it plans to release in 2023 and 2024.

The partnership between AUT and Hectre has a strong track record of success. The quality of the work achieved through the collaboration, and the shared vision regarding the critical impact agtech can deliver, creates a strong foundation for success.

Words to live by.

“We are the superhero. None of us individually, but all of us together.”

View current positions available at Hectre