Enablers of change: A day in the life of a Regional Extension Manager
Adrian Englefield intimately understands the value of relationships. A third-generation wine grape grower and Regional Extension Manager at Hort Innovation, Adrian has spent the last two years navigating virtual mediums – and he’s ready to get back in the field, literally.
“One of the remits of my role is to identify regional priorities in the south-east of NSW and to look to develop multi- and cross-industry collaborations to address those regional issues,” explained Adrian.
“We get to spend a lot of time on farms and with growers. COVID-19 has been a really big challenge with that, pivoting towards online meetings and zooms and webinars … face-to-face workshopping and networking is really important. It’s something I’m really looking forward to getting back to.”
Adrian’s work takes him across the mid-north coast of NSW, to the Riverina around Griffith in central NSW, down into northern Victoria and the Goulburn Valley, and the south-east region of NSW. His diverse portfolio includes extension projects in processing tomatoes, table grapes, vegetables, and turf and mushroom industries. As an extension manager, Adrian works to enhance support for existing networks, and provide collaboration opportunities to help improve the extension capability and skills of growers.
In essence, extension is the process of helping people gain the knowledge and confidence and providing support to ensure research and development (R&D) outcomes are implemented effectively.
Extensionists help translate R&D information into accessible content – factsheets or demonstration sites, workshops, podcasts or one-on-one grower support – to “allow the transfer of that information into growers’ production systems, or for adoption and commercialisation”.
"Extensionists understand what’s happening in the field – in the coalface of industry – and they can use that information and feed it back to help shape and co-design future extension and R&D projects"
Among its tasks, the Hort Innovation extension team is currently working with VegNet 3, a $14.1 million five-year extension program delivered by AUSVEG through Hort Innovation using vegetable industry levies and funds from the Australian government. A network of ten regional development officers are working in partnership with AUSVEG and growers to implement regional strategies and work plans. A network of ten regional development officers are working in partnership with AUSVEG and growers to implement regional strategies and work plans.
The locations and delivery partners for VegNET include:
- New South Wales through the Local Land Services NSW
- Northern Territory through NT Farmers
- Queensland (Bowen-Gumlu and Far North Queensland) through Bowen-Gumlu Growers Association
- Queensland (Bundaberg) through Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers
- Queensland (SEQ including Lockyer Valley, Granite Belt and Darling Downs) through Lockyer Valley Growers
- South Australia through AUSVEG SA
- Tasmania through RM Consulting Group
- Victoria (Gippsland) through Food and Fibre Gippsland
- Victoria (Northern, Southern and Western) through AUSVEG
- Western Australia through vegetablesWA
Harnessing agritech for the future
Adrian encourages his delivery partners to use growAG. during the planning stage, to “be aware of what is happening in their region, across Australia and internationally”.
“That’s where I think, at a regional level, growAG. can be a really useful resource, but also nationally and internationally: for our delivery partners to scan and see what’s happening outside of their industry. In the horticulture industry, if they wanted to see what the latest tech is available, say, within irrigation, you can search that in growAG. and there might be a technology in the dairy industry or the sugarcane industry that they may be interested in doing a demonstration of or creating awareness for their growers. It’s part of the toolkit to encourage that cross-industry collaboration.”
“The sooner you’re aware of what’s happening and the more information you can gather, the better work plan you can put together that involves the latest technologies, the latest R&D and the latest insights as to what’s happening in other industries,” Adrian said. “growAG. is a great one-stop shop for everything that’s happening here in Australia.”
Prior to Hort Innovation, Adrian worked with the NSW Department of Primary Industries as a development officer. He sees a variety of ongoing challenges for horticulture, including irrigation and water-use efficiency, nutrient management, waste and plastic reduction, reduced labour, demand for training, and adaptation to future agritech opportunities. “Exposure to innovation, collaboration and world-leading R&D through growAG. bodes well for the sector,” he added.
Labour demands and opportunities for efficient agritech solutions
“Encouraging the next generation of people to join horticulture is something that is mentioned in just about every industry, and one way to do that is to demonstrate that there is a profitable, sustainable future for the next generation and for people to come and work and have successful horticulture careers.”
“It’s important to stay ahead of the game in horticulture and there’s a lot happening in the agritech space. growAG. coupled with evokeAG. are both key parts of that messaging to industry. There is a lot happening in this space and the current production systems and methodologies will no doubt change in the future for the better. growAG. is one platform to increase awareness of that adoption and commercialisation.”
Adrian believes workforce challenges will create demand for increased labour-efficient production systems and opportunities for farm automation. “There is no doubt new technology is upon the agriculture sector and growAG. has a major role in sharing information and insights,” he said.
When he was growing up on the family vineyard in north-west Victoria, the internet was “terrible” and there was no mobile phone coverage. Access to new agritech was “very, very limited”.
“When I have a look at what’s available now I think, ‘Geez, I would love to be able to farm with the top technologies available today’, but who knows what it will be like in another 10, or 15 or 20 years,” Adrian said. “I suspect it will be very different again.”
Learn more about Hort Innovation’s research projects and commercialisation opportunities, here.
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