A NEW GENERATION - How Delta Ag’s graduate agronomy program is proving a prime training ground
Article I Lucy Moore
Photography I Jessica Schmierer
Delta Agribusiness is leading the way with its agronomy training program, having developed the course to enhance the skills of graduate agronomists/consultants who join the network.
Whilst the graduate agronomy program was first established when Delta Ag opened its doors in 2006, the content has evolved to give participants more contact with senior advisors and includes exercises that involves investigating case studies, covers enhancing presentation skills, communication skills, extension methodology theories, and technical training.
Delta Ag Executive Director and Group Advisory Manager Chris Duff says the program has been a particularly important component of training agronomists with less industry-led opportunities available.
“We believe our training program is important for the future of the advisory business in ensuring we keep people interested and integrated within our wider team,” Chris says.
“Whilst they are provided with agricultural skills and knowledge after completing their university course, we also focus on specific agronomy training in soils, a broader knowledge of pre-emergent herbicides and farm management practices.
“We encourage the graduates to develop relationships within the industry and broaden their contacts, while also focusing on their organisational skills and giving them insight into understanding client responsibility.”
Chris says the graduates are supported by a senior advisor who works within their region and these mentors check to ensure that milestones are being completed and assist the graduates with gaining particular skills throughout the process.
“Investing in the right training and with cross-industry experiences to develop their skills early will ensure graduates can be the best they can be.”
Holly Pender who recently completed the Grad program and who is based at Delta’s northern NSW region says growing up on a cattle station in outback Queensland ensconced a passion and energy to be involved in the agricultural industry even during her childhood.
Holly believes her childhood experiences have contributed to a development of resilience and an appreciation for hard work – both attributes that have carried her through university into her current role.
The transition from beef to cropping occurred quite organically for Holly, studying agronomy at the University of Queensland and accepting cotton checking work throughout the course of her studies.
Holly spent a period of time abroad in Canada before returning to Australia and entering the Delta Ag graduate program, which she explains has already shaped her future in the industry.
“My decision to pursue a career with Delta was based on the experience I knew I would receive through the graduate program,” Holly says, starting the program in July 2020 after time away from the industry. It’s set up in such a way that the team gives you as much exposure as they can from the paddock to the in-house branch work.
“I was able to familiarise myself with the ag chemistry side of things and also become involved in the back end of the business, where understanding pricing structures tied in with the advice I am able to offer clients.”
Holly says the graduate position provided the opportunity to work with three other agronomists between the Wee Waa, Narrabri and Gunnedah branches.
“I spent a couple of days each week at each branch, which worked well as the crops in each region were usually at different stages or of different varieties, mainly due to variations in seasonal conditions,” she explains.
During the summer season Holly’s work was primarily at Wee Waa with cotton crops, and at Gunnedah she gained experience in working with both sorghum and cotton. The winter months were dominated by the growth of cereal crops around Narrabri and into areas further west.
Holly gained her own clients within 12 months of starting in her graduate position and her dedication has now led to a full-time position as a fully qualified agronomist.
“My career has transitioned from cotton checking at St George and Mungindi, and then on to Griffith after university, which was a long way from home and all things familiar to me. The solo move into NSW opened me up to being flexible and seeking out as much exposure as possible,” she says.
“For example, you might think you’re going to specialise in one particular crop - for me, cotton - but I’ve had experience in multiple cropping industries now and that is invaluable as an agronomist moving forward. Delta does a great job of reinforcing the importance of connection and the value of sharing ideas in order to build successful careers.”
Chris explains there are nine graduates completing the program with three new advisors having joined the team in spring.
“We really are committed to ensuring that we are providing our advisory team with the best knowledge and skills that encompasses the most up-to-date technical information they can then present to growers in the paddock,” Chris says.