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Published: 19 Dec 2019

Claire McCrory in orchard

A conference presentation led to a dream collaboration for a young researcher at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.

Claire McCrory is a PhD student in the Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products, which is based at TIA. At this year’s Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGT) Conference, Ms McCrory presented her research on cherries – and her impressive performance landed her a role at FGT.

Through her new role, Ms McCrory has further built her understanding of the Tasmanian cherry industry, enabling a greater connection to those who will benefit from her research.

“Being part of the industry is helping to develop my project as I can speak directly with growers about the issues they are having,” Ms McCrory said.

Ms McCrory’s research with the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products, is aiming to extend the shelf life of sweet cherries by understanding the effects of their supply chain and figuring out what keeps them fresher for longer.

Last summer, she recorded cherry temperature through each stage of the supply chain journey and discovered significant fluctuations throughout the trip.

Using this data, Ms McCrory hopes to identify how she could help cherries stay fresh for longer and reduce cherry losses and waste across the season.

“Preliminary work suggests we can use technology to store fruit and retain good quality for up to 80 days. That would mean Tasmanian cherries are still available nationally in mid-April,” Ms McCrory said

“Tonnes of cherries are wasted each year. So, if we can extend their shelf life, we could significantly reduce waste, that’s a great result for farmers, consumers and the environment.”

Ms McCrory started her part-time role at FGT in July this year and has already made a big impression, focussing on raspberry and blackberry industries, with good prospects for a longer tenure.  FGT CEO Stuart Burgess said he was very happy to have Ms McCrory as part of the team at Fruit Growers Tas.

“She has a strong rural background and understanding of the sector, sharp mind, and a keen interest in fruit production right through the full value chain from growing to the consumer,” Mr Burgess said.

“Claire’s aptitude and can-do attitude were evident immediately. She has strong communication skills and is a great team player, and we want to retain Claire’s services to drive further development of Tasmania’s berry industry.”

Ms McCrory will continue her PhD whilst working part-time and supporting her family, including her three-year-old son with special needs.

“Support for my son from the NDIS has enabled me to get back to work to complement my PhD studies whilst sparing me the ‘maternal guilt’,” she said.

Using data collected over several seasons, Ms McCrory aims to complete her PhD thesis in November 2023.

The ARC Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products is located at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, which is a joint venture between the Tasmanian State Government and the University of Tasmania.

Project Partners

Image TOP: Claire McCrory at Hansen Orchards

Image MIDDLE: TIA PhD student & FGT Industry Development Officer, Claire McCrory with FGT Policy & Engagement Officer, Michael Tarbath