Insight for growing industry
AS the only course of its kind in Australia, the Masterclass in Horticultural Business bridges an important educational gap by providing practical commercial skills for growers and managers in production horticulture.
Led by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tasmania and funded through Hort Innovation the masterclass has just started its second year with participants from around Australia, including five from Tasmania.
Last year, 18 people graduated from the first masterclass, and 28 are currently enrolled for 2018, indicating significant demand from people working in the sector.
Masterclass director at TIA, Associate Professor Alistair Gracie, said the course was supported and guided by a steering committee of leaders in the horticultural sector.
“This course was sought by the national horticultural sector, and we developed and deliver it with the intention of meeting industry needs,” he said.
The masterclass aims to have a transformative effect on the careers of people involved and their businesses, and offers a pathway to further studies.
“Experiences of the 2017 participants show that the course has a significant impact, not only for their business but at a personal level, such as deciding to continue studies at university,” he said.
Participants are selected competitively on the basis of their current involvement in a horticultural business, a demonstrated drive for excellence, and recommendations from industry players. They range in experience from school leavers to senior company managers.
“We wanted to develop a red hot course that industry would be proud of and keen to be part of, that’s accessible, and where the learnings can be directly implemented,” Assoc Prof Gracie said.
“And I think we’ve achieved that.”
“One of the most valuable components of the masterclass is the opportunity to learn directly from industry leaders and gain insights into other business models.”
The 10-month course is largely delivered online and also features three intensive face-to-face events, followed by field trips to local horticulture businesses.
Tim Reid, managing director of Reid Fruits, exports Tasmanian cherries to more than 20 countries around the world. He hosted a visit by the masterclass participants.
“There are a lot of people involved in the horticultural industries who understand a lot about production but don’t understand a lot about beyond the farm gate and opportunities for marketing and valueadding,” Mr Reid said.
“I think that’s where the course is really fantastic.”
Assoc Prof Gracie said the UTAS course also drew on international expertise.
He said it had been developed in partnership with global leaders in horticultural research at the Wageningen Academy in the Netherlands, Lincoln University of New Zealand and UTAS.
The course covers subjects such as supply chain management and logistics, financial management and law, global trends and international business, and horticultural marketing and communication.
The 2018 course has attracted 23 scholarships worth $10,000 each from the prune, nursery and vegetable industries, and for the first time from the summer fruit, apple and pear and cherry sectors.