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Agribusiness course provides skills for strategic business growth

The University of Tasmania’s Agribusiness course offers participants immersive study that will ultimately make them a better businessperson.

The diploma equips current and future farm managers, owners and employers with the agribusiness skills and capabilities required to run profitable and sustainable farm businesses.

Offered through the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) and developed in partnership with some of the world’s leading names in horticulture, including New Zealand’s Lincoln University, the Wageningen Research Academy in the Netherlands, and Hort Innovation, the course is delivered online, with face-to-face learning and networking opportunities.

NSW businesswoman, Sonja Cameron enrolled in the course in 2017 and, as a member of the steering committee, Sonja is more than happy to champion the diploma that has been embraced by industry participants.

Sonja and her husband Andy have overseen Cameron’s Nursery, in Arcadia, in NSW’s Hills District region since they “boot strapped” the fledgling business with a $4000 investment in 1992.

But it was a damaging hailstorm in mid-October 2020, that saw Sonja summon management skills gleaned from the diploma that could have otherwise seen the business collapse.

We had 12 hours to decide what our plan of attack was going to be and how we were going to save the 30 staff we had. We had to be strong leaders to decide what are we doing, what is our plan of action and how are we getting out of this

Sonja’s strategy saw her marshal her staff into teams and prioritise what could be saved.

“We had the nursery back up and running within three weeks and selling plants again because we had a plan.

“It’s tough to get up the next day and see your entire livelihood shredded, but it is what it is, and you can’t change it. I always say to my staff you need tools in your toolbelt, and you need a bit of resilience.

And it all goes back to the idea of having a plan.  Whether that is a business plan, or a plan overall, or a plan for that moment, or a plan for an employee, it’s all the same.

The course is designed for people who are working in the horticultural industry to increase their agribusiness skills and gain a formal qualification.

This degree has helped professionals from across the country turn their business ideas into actionable business plans, so that they’re ready to overcome challenges and reach their full potential as one of the many success stories of the Australian horticulture industry.

“Ultimately what came out of that year is a brilliant business plan,” Sonja said.

The nursery is soon to take delivery of a $300,000 potting machine – an outcome of the business plan devised in the course, that was funded through a bank loan that also owed much to her newly developed business planning skills.

“I presented my bank manager with a 31-page document as to why we should buy this potting machine and why they should give me the money for the infrastructure to go around it. Because if you go to the bank and ask for half a million dollars, you will need to give solid financials and the reason why you want the money.”

The course presents an opportunity to formalise qualifications and encourages business owners and managers to work on the business, not only in the business.

“Because of all the background work we had to do, what popped out at the end was a really meaningful paper which we have stuck to, and we are now in the last 6 months of,” Sonja said.

We have a plan and we have been able to strategically place things that needed to happen to get us to where we are today because of that business plan.

The Graduate Diploma in Agribusiness (Horticultural Business) is designed to equip current and future farm managers, owners and employers with the agribusiness skills and capabilities required to run profitable and sustainable farm business, the course is delivered through a mix of flexible online and face-to-face learning.

The units are typically delivered over an 18-month period with individual flexible study plans allowing participants to study during periods of seasonal workload and around personal circumstances.

For further information and details on how to apply visit: Graduate Diploma in Agribusiness (Horticultural Business) | Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (