Monday, 14 September 2020 09:31

Opportunities aplenty in hort

Written by  Peter Kemp
Massey University’s Peter Kemp. Massey University’s Peter Kemp.

Now is the time for you to set yourself up for a career in horticulture, explains Peter Kemp, Head of the Institute of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University.

The popular media focus on fruit picker shortages, but the future of the horticulture industry rests on more people with science, management and technical qualifications. The sector’s future is with the innovators and entrepreneurs that drive New Zealand horticulture to be a world leader. People who will solve the need for fruit pickers with robotics and artificial intelligence. People who will ensure we continue to grow the best quality fruit and vegetables, and who know how to package, store, transport and market fruit and vegetables to the world.

There is such a shortage of qualified people in the booming horticultural industry that Horticulture NZ has a team of liaison officers encouraging students and others to study for qualifications the industry desperately needs. That a booming industry producing wholesome food can’t find sufficient employees in New Zealand beggars belief. 

There is a job at every level you aspire to in horticulture. The jobs are well paid, and the major horticultural regions have great weather and towns and cities. And the continuing Covid-19 crisis reminds us all of the sustainability of careers in the food producing industries.

So seize the opportunity to do a horticultural science degree, or some other qualification that will take your career into the future. Once you have learnt about how quality fruit and vegetables are produced, stored and marketed you can get involved in jobs like managing staff on orchards, providing technical and science advice on how to optimise fruit or vegetable production, or become a producer yourself. 

Then there are all the jobs along the chain such as running packing sheds and marketing. The industry is full of people happy to talk to you about what they do and help you get a start, just give them a call or start by going to https://gohorticulture.co.nz/ and watch videos of people talking about their jobs and how they got into them. 

• Professor Peter Kemp is the Head of Institute of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University.

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Wine courses prepare for vintage 2021

Covid-19 is creating “amazing opportunities” for wine and viticulture students, says the head of Hawke’s Bay’s viticulture and wine science school. Sue Blackmore, from Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), says closed borders will make wine students far more valuable to companies during vintage, and vintage experience more valuable for students. “We have to enable these students to get out into industry as soon as possible… to hit the ground running.”

The school has been working with wine companies in Hawke’s Bay to ascertain needs for the 2021 vintage, and has responded with two additional fees-free programmes, including a basic cellar operations course, which will give students enough knowledge to kick off their first vintage, undertaken as part of the qualification. The school has also made plans to enable more students in its wine and viticulture programmes - including all but the first year of its degree course - to work a full vintage. The students will provide a premium resource to wineries short of experienced cellar staff, and the students will have invaluable opportunities to build contacts and experience, says Sue.

EIT will launch its fees-free Certificate in Cellar Operations (Level 3) in January, with the hands-on one-semester programme culminating in vintage at a Hawke’s Bay winery. “We are basically trying to help people get into the industry who want a taste of it without doing a degree,” says Sue. “Hawke’s Bay wine companies are very keen to be part of it.” The new programmes join the existing fees-free Graduate Diploma in Oenology, for those who already have a science-related qualification or industry experience, and Graduate Diploma in Viticulture (Level 7), both available online or on campus.

Covid-19 has seen enrolments boosted, as people out of work look to a career change, says Sue. “Before the courses were fully announced, we were getting enquiries.” She’s also seeing more interest from school leavers and careers advisors, who thought it was “amazing” to have a paid vintage amid the study. “It’s not only fees-free, but they will get paid and get instant hands-on experience.”

Meanwhile, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), has developed a new delivery of cellar hand training which includes condensed training options in January to ensure skilled students are on hand for vintage 2021.

From now on, the Level 3 and Level 4 Cellar Operations programmes will enable more trainees to study while they work within industry. Classes will pause for up to eight weeks of vintage, and students will be assisted in finding a paid practical vintage placement. Pam Wood, NMIT’s Curriculum Manager for Primary Industries, says that gives the students excellent hands-on experience and offers support to vineyards and wineries. NMIT also offer an online delivery of Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking, Level 7, which allows students nationwide to study from the wine region they work in, she says.

Wine Marlborough Advocacy Manager Vance Kerslake says the evolving courses are evidence of necessity breeding invention. “Wine schools like NMIT are working hand in hand with wine companies, for the good of the students and the industry - which can really do with their help.”

Lincoln University is also working to address the labour crisis affecting all New Zealand’s primary industries, including wine, says Practical Work Coordinator Barbara Nicholson.

Teaching times for third-year students can be rearranged so they can complete their academic requirements and their practical work by starting the semester a month early, she says. “This means that they can have an extra-long break and go and work on a vintage, then come back and complete their academic work.”

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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