When Fonterra Chief Science & Technology Officer, Dr Jeremy Hill heard the news he was being recognised on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, he didn’t quite believe it.
“It was shock at first, it’s not something you usually consider. To be one of the lucky few recognised is a truly an honour and my family is very proud,” says Jeremy.
“It was a nice piece of news to share with my parents who live in the UK, it was a real boost for them. Mum was chuffed, I don’t think there is a neighbour on her street that she hasn’t already told.”
Starting his PHD in medical research at Hull University in the 1980s, Jeremy knew he was keen to travel overseas and learn and jumped at the opportunity to study at Massey University.
This role opened doors, but it was only the start. He was studying liver function at the time directly across the road from the Dairy Research Institute.
One morning over a cup of tea, a director of the Dairy Research Institute offered Jeremy a job.
“I will never forget it, someone said to me that I should start turning right instead of left in the morning.”
That decision to turn right and take on the research role led Jeremy down a path to being internationally recognised for his work in researching dairy science, sustainability and nutrition.
In 2007, Jeremy was appointed Fonterra’s Chief Science and Technology Officer, where he's worked across process and product development, food assurance and regulatory among other areas. “It has always been satisfying to work on challenging scientific problems that can make a big difference to the business and our customers.”
"I thought I would go over for a couple of years… fast forward and it's now been over 30 years working in dairy."
Jeremy Hill at IDF World Dairy Summit 2016 Rotterdam
A highlight of his career has been working with universities and science and government sectors, including his involvement in NZ’s single biggest Research and Development programme the Transformational Dairy Platform, a joint industry and Government funded programme under the Primary Growth partnership.
A programme that has helped commercialise a significant number of Fonterra’s leading products and technologies. He has also been the only New Zealander to hold the position of President and Chair of the International Dairy Federation (IDF) in its 117-year history. “I’m was very proud of my time with IDF, from being made an honouree life member through to brokering the FAO/Global Dairy Industry Declaration of Rotterdam in 2016.” This was essentially a blueprint for sustainable environmentally aware future dairy production and nutrition.
Appointed in 2018 as the Adjunct Professor, Sustainable Nutrition, Riddet Institute, Massey University, Jeremy is also passionate about his scientific research and its contribution to dairy innovation.
“A real theme to my work, is researching the true facts. From nutrition and the role dairy plays, and how our Co-operative is a leader in this, through to helping with our carbon footprint.”
Time Magazine in Stresa, Jeremy pictured with Brian Lindsay
Providing both support and advice over the years, he loves the varied and fulfilling role he has within Fonterra. “I have the best job in our Co-operative, I really think I do,” but he adds it would be nothing without the support from his family and the people that have worked alongside him.
“It has been humbling to receive well wishes, from people in the government and ag sector, as well as my colleagues within the Co-operative over the past few days.” “I’ve come to reflect on the connections I have made here in New Zealand and across the globe, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside talented people.”
Jeremy is excited to continue contributing to dairy innovation and the scientific research that really matters and is still publishing two to three pieces a year. “The latest piece of research published in January is an 8 year-long study looking at the carbon footprint of NZ dairy farms and the facts that show just how world-leading this footprint is.” “This research and it’s finding can be summarised perfectly using five words from Astronomer Carl Sagan: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”