Upskilling the apple of industry’s eye

Four people from across the apple and pear industry are participating in a Masterclass in Horticultural Business as they prepare themselves for a strategic future.  

The class of 28 participants visited Gazzola farms on the Mornington Peninsula during their first field trip in February. Picture: Hort Innovation

Andrew Hall, Wayne Trengove, James Peace and Nathan Vince each received scholarships via the apple and pear research and development levy managed by Hort Innovation.

The group are four of 28 Australians working in horticulture who began the Masterclass in February.

The Masterclass is being delivered by Australia’s leading horticulture university, the University of Tasmania (UTAS). In its second year, the course combines the expertise of three leading universities: UTAS, Wageningen Research Academy in the Netherlands and specialist land-based university, Lincoln, New Zealand.

Andrew Hall, orchard manager for Reid Fruits, Tasmania, said that as the company develops a new venture in Jericho, Midlands, he felt the time was right to take his knowledge to the next level.

“The course has forced us to think a bit more strategically about the future,” Andrew said.

“As we see shifts and movements in the company I wanted to move to a better understanding of business management and take advantage of the opportunities that are coming up. We’re about to do a face-to-face in Brisbane and link up what we’ve been learning about the value chain and what trends we’ve been seeing in the market, so it’s really about taking what we already know and understanding it even better.”

The course includes three face-to-face sessions, including a workshop, field trips and dinner with guest speakers. A field trip took place on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, in mid-February, and orchard manager for Tasmania’s Hansen Orchards, Wayne Trengove, said that being able to compare the approaches of different enterprises was very beneficial.

“It was great to see the different technology innovations that are coming up in the hort industry,” Wayne said.

“Every enterprise had a slightly different approach and we were able to take a good look at some of the designs and upgrades and see why those enterprises are doing so well compared to others.”

“We’re only three months in but there are bits and pieces in the course that I’m already starting to pick up and apply. My skills are already honed better, and I think I’m a better manager and horticulturalist than I was before.”

The class observed forced air cooling rooms while vising Gazzola farms. Picture: Andrew Hall

James Peace, a pre-pack manager for Jeftomson in Shepparton, said the subjects covered by the Masterclass have been valuable.

“We’re currently doing supply chain management but before that it was people and culture,” James described.

“What I find most interesting is that when you’re doing your daily work it’s easy to overlook little things that you should be doing, but the course makes you look a bit deeper and really consider their value.”

The participants have had a little time for mingling amongst their study time.

“At the casual dinner in Mornington we tended to group together with others from our industry,” James said.

“There are things that other people are doing that we could take on. Even though we’re competing companies, there was a great mutual respect for what we’re all doing for the industry.”

Applications for the 2019 course open this June, but expressions of interest are welcome at any time. Applications are screened by a panel with representatives from the University of Tasmania, Hort Innovation and industry. Scholarship recipients are selected by industry representatives.

By |May 23rd, 2018|Education, Hort Innovation, News|

About the Author:

APAL is an industry representative body and not-for-profit membership organisation that supports Australia’s commercial apple and pear growers.