Adrian, can you tell us about your career so far. How did you end up working in extension?
I have a passion for learning about new technologies and production methods to improve the profitability and sustainability of farming businesses. After graduating from Charles Sturt University with a Bachelor of Viticulture and Wine Science, I managed my family’s vineyard near Mildura for ten years – maintaining links to industry research, development and extension through the Wine Australia Murray Valley regional extension program.
In 2015, I joined the NSW Department of Primary Industries as a Development Officer – Viticulture based at Wagga Wagga. The role involved liaising with industry, as well as developing, delivering and evaluating viticulture extension outputs and outcomes for the NSW wine industry. Working across 11 wine and viticulture regions with various regional requirements was a rewarding experience, especially when receiving feedback that projects you have been involved in have created a positive influence on growers’ production and bottom-line.
In 2020, I made the move to Hort Innovation as a Regional Extension Manager. I am excited by the diversity of the South East’s horticulture production and the opportunities for the sector.
How would you describe extension?
Extension is the most critical aspect of any RD&E investment. Horticultural production systems have dramatically changed in the past 20 years and will continue to change into the future, with research playing a key role. However, to continually improve and adopt new technology and production systems, RD&E must work hand-in-hand.
Not all farmers are the same, nor do they have similar priorities or issues, so extension involves delivering research outputs across a variety of contexts within and across industries. Relationships with growers and industry stakeholders are critical to ensure investments are targeting applied and practical outcomes – for the benefit of the industry.
Do you have any achievements from your career that you’re particularly proud of?
I am particularly proud of spending ten years in farm management including through the Millennium drought, wet vintages of 2011/12 and industry downturn. These experiences gave me a first-hand understanding of the many opportunities and challenges facing Australia’s primary producers. I am also proud of feedback from industry development and extension projects that have led to improving farm businesses and grower outcomes. And finally, I was proud to finish a Master of Business Administration in early 2021.
How does your current role differ from traditional roles in extension, such as industry development officers? What drew you to this role at Hort Innovation?
My role differs from traditional extension roles (including those of development officers) through focusing on industry development and extension program management and support. Both roles require advanced levels of industry liaison, however the Hort Innovation Regional Extension Manager looks at identifying and addressing issues that cut across regions, industries and sectors.
I find the multi-industry role at Hort Innovation a rewarding and interesting challenge. Many industries face similar challenges and opportunities but also have very different RD&E requirements. Horticulture is a very dynamic industry!
What region will you be working in? How will your work bring benefits to this region?
The South-East region reaches from the NSW mid-north coast, across to the Riverina and down to the Goulburn Valley. I will be developing a regional extension plan to identify cross-industry and regional extension priorities, as well as directly managing projects in the Turf, Processing Tomato, Vegetable, Table Grape and Mushroom industries.
What key projects are your team working on at the moment?
The Regional Extension Managers are currently working with the rest of the business on the 2021–26 Strategic Investment Plan renewal, across 33 levy industries. These plans will guide how levies are invested over the next five years and involve significant industry consultation. I will be developing a Southern Horticulture Extension network to facilitate linkages within the region for successful extension delivery.
I also represent the Horticulture sector on the AgSkilled 2.0 Steering Committee. AgSkilled is the NSW Government funded, $15 million vocational education and training package for the states agriculture sector.
What are you most looking forward to in your role in 2021?
Since starting with Hort Innovation, travel has been severely limited due to COVID-19. I am looking forward to meeting a greater number of industry stakeholders in 2021, as building relationships is crucial for successful extension delivery. I am also looking forward to assisting in the development and delivery of successful industry outcomes through my project management work.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
Weekends are taken up with a range of activities as I have three boys who enjoy riding bikes, skateboarding, golf and swimming. I enjoy motorbike riding, travelling and as a cricket tragic, watching and playing cricket with my boys.
How can growers and industry get in touch with you?
If any growers or industry stakeholders would like to contact me to discuss current or future extension project ideas, please contact me on 0427 143 709 or firstname.lastname@example.org.