Published: 6 Sep 2019
Improving agriculture isn’t always just done in laboratories or classrooms.
Real World Learning, also known as Authentic Learning, brings together students, researchers, growers, agronomists and communities for practical results.
The success of that collaborative approach and shared responsibility is especially evident in Tasmania’s berry industry.
A meteoric rise in berry production over the last few years has led to more demand for research and ag graduates. These groups came together this week to share the latest developments in plant disease, pests, harvesting and more.
The Fruit Growers Tasmania Berry Industry seminar brought together researchers, students and the Tasmanian berry sector in Launceston on Thursday.
Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) Graduate Research Coordinator Dr Karen Barry said that student engagement on research benefits both industry and education.
“We’re getting students out of the classroom and into the real world. They connect with industry, gain independence and confidence and get a real insight into how research benefits people day-to-day.”
TIA’s Dr Steve Quarrell has been working with blackberry growers on pest issues. Dr Quarrell notes that industry-embedded projects provide unique advantages for agricultural students.
“When they work with growers, students get fresh perspective and often see a problem from a different angle.
“Having them on board our industry research projects helps them take on more responsibility and gain invaluable skills for their future careers, whether in the berry industry or another field.”
Agricultural Science students in Tasmania are well supported by industry. Companies like Costa Group and Driscoll’s offer generous scholarships, work placement opportunities and mentoring on individual student research projects.
TIA honours student Olivia Cripps says the Costa scholarship has made a real difference to her studies.
“The scholarship has been super helpful with travel and time off work because I am living in the North West and travelling to Hobart,” Ms Cripps said.
“It feels like industry is backing you up.”
Another TIA honours agricultural student, Oliver ‘Ollie’ Gales, presented findings from his industry-supported research at this week’s berry seminar.
In a collaboration with Derwent Valley-based Westerway Raspberry Farm, Ollie is investigating novel technology for determining the optimum harvest time for raspberries, focusing on machine harvesting for the juice and frozen fruit market.
Ollie said that a $5,000 scholarship from Fruit Growers Tasmania also helped support his work.
“The scholarship has given me the time to really focus on the scope of my project and ensure it is relevant for the raspberry sector.”
There’s no single way to improve an entire industry. The challenges each producer faces can be so specific that a tailored approach may be required. Whether it’s research for berries or dairy, water or wine, a combined effort between researchers, students and industry generates outstanding results.