Kiwifruit PhD project - refrigeration

PhD Project Title: A Physical Model for Studying Airflow and Temperature Control in Refrigerated Reefer Containers with Pallets

Palmerston North, New Zealand
3 Years
$30,000 per year (fees also covered)
Application due:
January 31st 2019
Master's Degree with a B result and/or Bachelor's Degree with 2nd class div I honours.
Additional Information:
Dr. Jamal Olatunji (
Prof. Andrew East (


Kiwifruit exports from New Zealand exceeded NZD $1.7B in 2016, with an intention to grow to NZD $4.5B by 2025. As a result, exporting large volumes of kiwifruit will increasingly rely on refrigerated reefer containers. A shipping container is an insulated rectangular cuboid with a refrigeration unit on one end, and end doors on the other for loading product.
Depending on the destination, fruit can spend weeks or months in this stage of the cold chain, and maintaining the quality of the fruit en route can be dependent on the distribution of refrigerated air throughout the container. Inefficiencies in airflow distribution can produce temperature heterogeneity within the palletised produce, a leading cause of losses via chilling injury and senescence. Optimising the airflow around and through pallets inside of a container is therefore vital.
With funding and support from Zespri International, the Massey AgriTech Partnership seeks a PhD candidate to create a scale physical model of a reefer container, to study airflow distribution and temperature control within a container, as effected by pallet loading and package design. This will enable identification of pallet loading causes for poor temperature control to improve product outcomes from the supply chain. Massey University has a substantial history in studying horticultural cold-chain operations. The successful candidate will join a team of 3 professors, 10 young academics and 10+ PhD students working at the forefront of agricultural technology. The role will be based in Massey University's Manawatu campus in Palmerston North.


In order to be eligible for this project, the applicants must:
* Hold an appropriate Master's (B or higher result) or Honours (2nd class div I) degree in a relevant discipline. Relevant disciples include Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or Agricultural Engineering. Other similar disciplines will be considered.
* Be capable of constructing and executing large scale laboratory and industry experiments.
* Be capable of collecting and analysing large sets of data.
* Have an understanding of engineering physics (heat transfer, mass transfer, momentum transfer, etc.).
* Be capable of presenting research results in both written and oral format, for both scientific and industrial audiences.

Other competencies which would be seen favourably by the selection team include:
* Previous experience with the horticulture industry.
* Physical fitness and tolerance of low temperature environments.
* A driver's licence.

The successful candidate will receive a stipend of $30,000 NZD per year for a three year period. Annual tuition fees will also be included with the scholarship. The successful
candidate will spend a majority of their time on the Manawatu campus, supervised by Prof. Andrew East and Dr. Jamal Olatunji. The student will also spend a substantial amount of time
in Tauranga at New Zealand's largest seaport, working with industry innovation leader Dr. David Tanner. The successful candidate is expected to travel internationally for conferences,
and/or to collaborate with international research groups.

Interested candidates that are currently completing their degree may be considered, under the consideration that the position is to be filled by April 2019. Interested applicants should send
their C.V. and a cover letter to Dr. Jamal Olatunji ( An additional one page essay on how the candidate would suggest tackling the research problem should also be provided. Potential candidates are welcome to contact Dr. Olatunji by email with any further questions.

horticultural cold-chain
Palmerston North (New Zealand)