What is your background and experience?
I grew up on a sheep and cropping farm near Colac before studying agricultural science and agribusiness at Melbourne University. My first job after university was with AWB Ltd, before I moved into horticulture. I’ve continued to study throughout my career, completing courses in commodity price risk management and the Produce Executive Program among others.
How did you come to be in this position?
I’ve held a range of portfolios within Hort Innovation over the years. I became the olive industry relationship manager around two years ago and I’ve loved getting to know the industry and what makes it tick.
What does your job as relationship manager entail?
As Relationship Manager my role is to develop a sound understanding of the industry including any opportunities or risks that face the sector, as well as the drivers of profitability for growers. I then work closely with growers and the broader industry, through the Strategic Investment Advisory panel, to ensure we invest levy funds and funds from the Australian Government into the areas that are deemed to be the highest priority for the industry. My role is also to form a key link between growers and these strategic levy investments.
What do you most enjoy about the job?
My family sold our farm a few years ago, apart from a small block, and I really miss farm life so I love getting out onto farms, speaking to growers and seeing what I can do to help the industry prosper.
What are the key issues for the olive industry?
Right now there’s good demand for olives and olive oil but it’s important to always be strengthening the product and the industry’s position in the minds of our consumers, so we are working on a range of projects to support this. Equally, the industry must continue to strive to improve its productivity when it comes to producing the high quality product that we produce here in Australia. We have invested in a range of projects to help large, medium and small growers to achieve this.
What is the most common feedback you receive from growers?
That depends a bit on the grower of course, but probably the most common issues we hear about from growers are production related. That said, we also have plenty of discussions with the industry about risk management (food safety, biosecurity etc) and stimulating demand.
What do you hope to achieve in your work with the olive industry?
Our business, Hort Innovation, wants to deliver R&D programs that make a real difference for growers and my primary objective is to help ensure that happens by working closely and collaboratively with growers, the Australian Olive Association, R&D delivery partners and internal stakeholders.
What’s are the key opportunities/positives for the olive industry?
The industry’s greatest strength is its product but there are plenty of consumers out there that are either bewitched by the latest fad or simply don’t understand olive oil well enough. In addition, many consumers have no idea that we have a strong olive industry here in Australia. There’s a great opportunity to build support for the Australian industry and increase consumer understanding of the benefits of olive oil. There are a number of projects and non-levy funded activities in place to do this and we are all eager to get results.
Why should growers contact you? What is the best way to do this?
We want to hear from growers all the time as it helps us to ensure we are investing in the right way and it’s a crucial feedback mechanism for us. Whilst we have a range of options for seeking advice from growers the one-on-one interactions we have are invaluable. By staying in touch with Hort Innovation, growers will also be staying in touch with the latest R&D results and projects. I’m always available by phone or email to talk (see contact details below).
To contact Will phone 0427 920 924 or email [email protected]