In coming issues of ‘In A Nutshell’ Editor Jo Pippos will spend 5 minutes with different industry personalities, from the growers with boots on the ground, the industry stalwarts, those who work behind the scenes –
the people who make our industry so diverse and unique. We have some pretty amazing people with many backgrounds and personalities who have a real passion for what they do.
What better way to start the article series than with the ABA’s newest employee, Andrew Downs.
Q: Andrew, tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am originally from Brisbane, but spent some time growing up on the Yorke Peninsula that sparked my interest in agriculture. Since completing university, I have had a variety of roles working across the southern half of Australia.
A lot of my work has concentrated on irrigated horticulture, mainly winegrapes and stonefruit, from Echuca to Mildura. I have spent most of the last 10 years living in the Barossa Valley working in crop protection, and then with the Phylloxera Board (now Vinehealth Australia).
Q: What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
To contribute to the profitability of farmers/producers with the flow on effects hopefully contributing to the sustainability of the rural communities that we operate in. It disappoints me to see rural communities lose facilities and services.
Q: What are you most excited or passionate about – personally and professionally?
Sport and travel. Plenty of overseas trips to do. Workwise, finding solutions to problems especially around production based issues in the agriculture sector.
Q: What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work? Not so much the goals that are in your job description, but the goals you hold personally?
To contribute to an industry that grows in a sustainable fashion – increasing profit, adopting innovative solutions and increasing production whilst optimising inputs.
Q: I want to understand how and why you ended up at the ABA, what led you to this job? What attracted you to work for the ABA?
One of the big attractions was the opportunity to join a collaborative industry in the growth phase. It’s very exciting to be involved with the development of the Almond Centre of Excellence. The role brings together a lot of my previous experience and provides a great opportunity for further professional development.
Q: Where and what did you study? What led you to choosing that area of study? Have you done any further study since then?
I graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Agricultural Economics. After spending part of my childhood growing up on a broadacre farm on the Yorke Peninsula, something clicked and rural production became my passion. I have since completed a Graduate Diploma in Wine Business and completed the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (SA) program.
Q: Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?
There are a lot of people who I have learnt snippets from, with two main influencers being an old farming friend of my parents – Frosty and my father. When posed with this question, it was interesting to realise that neither of them came from farming backgrounds but they both had similar modus operandis – they always challenged the norm. Of all the farmers within our community, Frosty and Dad always asked questions to understand why and not simply accept the practice because ‘their fathers did it’!
Q: Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today?
Growing up on the Yorke Peninsula – the freedom, the farm work and the people which was a stark contrast from life growing up in Brisbane.
Q: When you think of the future of the work you will be undertaking with the almond industry, what excites you?
The collaboration amongst the industry and the learnings of how to get the most out of the orchards. The combination of cultivars (from the breeding program), the new rootstocks, pruning and irrigation and fertilizer to generate a whole of orchard proposal is challenging and extremely exciting.
Q: What are you looking forward to within your role as Industry Development Manager?
Getting to know the members, researchers and visiting orchards across the regions. Delivering on the strategic objectives of the industry, seeing the adoption of research and development recommendations and the Centre of Excellence established.