What is one of the best ways to learn about careers in agriculture?
Many would probably answer “Visit a farm and talk to industry people”.
Proudly supported by the DemoDairy Foundation (DDF), the Deakin Agribusiness Field Day was held on 4-5 May 2021 to provide agriculture’s next-gen an opportunity to gain hands-on experience of the dairy industry and engage with leading agricultural industry experts, particularly in South West Victoria.
DDF Director Chloe Brown in her opening remarks highlighted that this support from the DDF demonstrates its commitment to support education and research relating to agriculture particularly dairy management in order to advance the dairy industry in South West Victoria.
The field day was attended by Deakin University students undertaking Bachelor of Commerce program majoring in Food and Agribusiness including those from Burwood and Geelong campuses, as well as agricultural students from SW TAFE making the event one of the first initiatives to foster further collaborative opportunities between the two educational institutions in this region.
Dr Risti Permani, Senior Lecturer in Agribusiness at Deakin University who coordinated the field day noted “many of the participating students from Melbourne had never experienced Warrnambool, so the Field Day was an excellent opportunity to not only improve South West Victoria’s reputation among these young people as an agricultural hub but also introducing them what this region can offer them in terms of lifestyle and employment opportunity.”
Day 1: Farm visit
Day 1 of the Field Day focused on getting an improved understanding of dairy agribusiness in South West Victoria. Participants had the opportunity to visit Ocean Road Pastoral in Nirranda and were briefed by Andrea and Bruce Vallance as well as equity partner, Issac Fynn. Andrea and Bruce highlighted the importance of being ‘a globally efficient farm business’ by utilizing the available resources of soil, water and pasture to efficiently convert feed into milk.
The Vallances shared their extensive experience of managing farm resources from feed, water and livestock management and a focus on ‘working smarter, not harder’, promoting energy efficiency, the importance of sustainability through adoption of multispecies forage crops for carbon sequestration and seaweed trials. In addition to technical knowledge, participants also benefitted from discussions on the use of technology to monitor resources and save labour and farm business management topics such as succession planning and partnership models. The range of issues discussed during the farm visit clearly points out the need for farm businesses to attract ‘big picture thinkers’, hence opportunity for university and TAFE graduates to contribute to the dairy sector.
Day 2: Industry presentations
On Day 2, participants had the opportunity to engage with agricultural industry experts in South West Victoria to better understand the opportunity in South West Victoria’s agriculture sector.
Georgina Rubbins, Chair of Food and Fibre Great South Coast, highlighted that $2.3 billion in agricultural output is produced in the Great South Coast annually, the highest of any region in Victoria. However, the region is facing a shortage of food and fibre workers with a previous research showing that there will be 30% growth in food and fibre jobs by 2035. About 39% of these jobs will require a vocational qualification and 19% require a university degree.
One potential area requiring skilled workers is ‘agtech’ or the agriculture technology sector, which is critical to assist Australian agriculture to be the country’s next $100 billion industry. Sam Baulch of Australian Mapping talked to participants about the significance of tools such as farm records and farm maps for farm business management and regulatory compliance, and how the use of technology such as farm management app becomes essential to ensure efficient and accurate record keeping, and, therefore, informed business decision.
Participants also had the opportunity to hear from a recent Deakin University graduate, Jack Guthrie about his career in agribusiness. Jack earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree with majors in Food and Agribusiness and Accounting in 2020, and currently works for Australian Consolidated Milk. In line with earlier presenters, Jack highlighted data analytics as an essential set of skills that agribusiness graduates must have.
The Deakin Agribusiness Field Day activities also included photo and short essay competition for participants. Taken by Deakin students, Teegan, Caitlin and Alexis, the winning photo showcases the stars of our show, the pretty cows!