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Published: 3 Aug 2020

Hannah Cummins at her Family Farm

A new Honours project will have direct benefits for Tasmania’s emerging industrial hemp industry thanks to strong industry relationships developed during a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree at the University of Tasmania.

Fourth year agriculture student, Hannah Cummins, is working with industry to investigate the use of growth regulators on Tasmanian industrial hemp to help solve challenges facing some growers.

“Industrial hemp can grow really tall and ropey, so there is a lot of waste that can also cause damage to the machinery as it wraps around everything. If we can shorten the plant, we will have less of the fibrous stem bi product left afterwards,” Miss Cummins said.

Through relationships gain during work experience, Miss Cummins was able to partner with industry to develop her Honours project.

“I really wanted my honours project to be an industry relevant project and help bridge that gap between the growers at the grass roots of production and the continued advances in science and technology,” she said.

“Working with TP Jones during my degree has been really great as their agronomy team taught me heaps, from writing paddock notes to moisture testing and tissue testing potatoes and industrial hemp. They helped me out a lot with my Honours and supported the project, but also provided lots of advice and ideas.”

TP Jones have been a long supporter of Miss Cummins, so when given the chance to contribute to her Honours project, they quickly offered up their support.

“We’ve had Hannah work for a couple of summer breaks with us. So, when she was choosing her Honours project, we offered up our support and jumped on board,” TP Jones Branch Manager David Radeski said.

“It’s great having Hannah involved in a project that will have a lot of benefits for the industry. All of our current growers who grow industrial hemp as part of their cropping business will benefit from the research. We’ve been watching the progress and look forward to seeing the final results.”

Throughout her degree, Miss Cummins says she was encouraged by her teachers to seek out work experience which would provide invaluable connections with industry and prepare her for a career in agriculture.

“If you’re keen, there’s no shortage of people that will take you on for work experience. I worked as a research assistance on poppy research trials across the state for my first uni summer break. In my second year, I did an agribusiness placement as my elective at TP Jones, which led to them offering me some casual work over the summer,” she said.

“There’s so many opportunities to work while you’re doing your ag degree. Lots of the companies are really keen to take on students studying agriculture.”

The Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree, taught by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), has a strong focus on building career skills by focusing on hands-on experience and direct industry engagement.

Miss Cummins’ project supervisor at TIA, Sue Hinton, says that creating industry relationships whilst studying is important for student development.

“It is really valuable for a student to gain those experiences and relationships with industry while they are still a student. Hannah has done a really good job of engaging with industry and her ability to communicate with people has served her well. She is off to a very good start,” she said.

Through scholarships, Miss Cummins was able to relocate to Hobart to study and has been able to frequently travel back and forth to her hometown of Hagley without financial pressure.

“I’ve been really lucky, I’m so grateful for the support scholarships provide,” she said.

Miss Cummins received the Blundstone Scholarship for her first three years of study and this year received the Don Gaffney Scholarship for her fourth-year Honours.

Miss Cummins wants to focus on agronomy and work as a consultant in the future whilst also continuing her family’s farm as the fourth generation.

“I’d really like to work in some sort of consultancy role out in the field working with farmers. Farmers do a fantastic job so we can learn from them as well,” Miss Cummins said.

“I have a little brother as well who is doing a diesel mechanic apprenticeship. The two of us are very keen to continue the farm, so I think it will be in good hands.”

Find out more about scholarship and studying agriculture at the University of Tasmania here.

Hannah Cummins Honours project is supported by TP Jones (Nutrien Ag Solutions), Tasmanian Industrial Hemp Association, Southern Farming Systems and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture. Midlands Seed also contributed to the project.

TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.