Catching up with… Ashley Zamek
Works at: Hort Innovation (R&D Manager)
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Hi Ashley, thank you for speaking to us!
Firstly, can you please give us a brief overview of Hort Innovation?
Hort Innovation is the Research and Development Corporation that works on behalf of horticultural growers to invest their levy and Commonwealth funds into research programs to improve farmgate profitability. This is done in areas such as production, breeding, Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM), and even marketing.
As a R&D Manager, what does your role involve?
My role involves the developing and understanding the research questions behind issues that growers face and then scoping, procuring, and managing the project.
I have a portfolio, or ‘themes’, of work that I manage, and these include pollination, postharvest and some IPDM work. I work with all the industries that are members of Hort Innovation and work closely with growers involved in our project reference groups (PRG) that help direct projects once they are up and running.
What are you working on at the moment?
It is still business as usual for us, which means scoping out projects and managing the ones we have.
It has been a busy season for Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) meetings, where we take investment ideas to receive industry feedback. I have also been involved in developing some extension videos for World Bee Day and National Science Week to showcase projects and increase the network we have.
You can check all this out and more on Hort Innovation’s LinkedIn page.
How has COVID-19 impacted your activities? What changes have you made to accommodate the current restrictions?
COVID-19 has meant that we have moved to working from home until it is safe to go back to the office. This has meant that we also travel less and engaging with industry in different ways – mostly using Zoom.
We are also reviewing all our projects now to understand the impact of COVID-19 on activities and outcomes to industry. Some projects have been impacted by state border closures, closing of laboratory facilities, and limitation of employees able to travel.
We are working closely with our delivery partners to make changes to projects to accommodate these, such as time extensions, finding alternate field sites or partnering with other companies who can do the work.
Tell us a little bit about yourself – how did you get to where you are today?
I was a born and bred city girl that fell into agriculture through my studies and ended up doing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. I majored in entomology and have worked in fields such as diamondback moth and BT cotton, plant biosecurity and now horticulture R&D.
I am passionate about the horticultural industry and I am proud to be involved in ensuring healthy food ends up on our plates.
What do you enjoy most about your job and working in the horticulture industry?
I love getting out there and seeing research in action, and meeting the growers who make it all happen.
One last thing – where can we find out more about Hort Innovation and the Hort Frontiers Pollination Fund? How can growers get in touch?
*An update on Pollination Fund activities can be found here, and will be published in the spring 2020 edition of Vegetables Australia.
Each week, the Weekly Update will be featuring a member of the vegetable industry. Whether you are a grower, a researcher or work in the supply chain, this is a chance to showcase the different roles and areas within horticulture. If you – or someone you know – would like to be involved, please email Michelle De’Lisle at email@example.com.