Olivia Ryan is a 21-year-old Agronomist from McCain Foods in Ballarat, Victoria. We profiled her in the October/November 2017 edition of Potatoes Australia magazine.

Fast facts

Name: Olivia Ryan
Location: Ballarat, VIC
Works: McCain Foods
Role: Agronomist

How did you first become involved in the potato industry?

I first became involved in the potato industry with McCain in June 2016. Prior to this I had completed industry placement during my time at Longerenong Agricultural College in Victoria with local agronomists who worked with potato growers and found this very interesting. When I saw the job advertised at McCain I did not hesitate once about applying for it and have never looked back. Coming from a sheep and cattle property and studying mainly broad acre cropping, then getting a job in the potato industry was a massive step for me in my career and I have loved every day of it.

What does your role as an agronomist at McCain involve, and what are your responsibilities?

  • Communicating with all McCain growers in Victoria and South Australia to help deliver the best quality raw product to the factory.
  • Helping with variety trials and product trials.

What do you enjoy most about working in the potato industry and how do you maintain your enthusiasm?

I enjoy working in the potato industry as it is a challenge for me and it is something that I am pretty new to. I hope that I can meet and exceed any goals set for me by McCain and the growers.

What are the biggest challenges you face working in the industry, and how do you overcome them?

During my time at McCain I haven’t faced any really big challenges so far, it has been very easy to step into my role as the growers have been very easy to get along with and to work alongside.

Where do you receive your on-farm practice advice and information from?

I receive help and advice from my colleagues at McCain as well as other local agronomists. Also I have completed training through McCain.

What did you learn from your studies at Longerenong Agricultural College and how has this helped you in current role?

During my time at Longerenong College I completed an Advanced Diploma in Agriculture and a Diploma in Agronomy. During this I learnt numerous things that helped me to achieve what I have today. As Longy isn’t your typical university-type learning, I felt it suited me very well as it was more of a practical, ‘hands-on’ type learning. As it is in the heart of the Wimmera, we never learnt about potatoes and it was mostly broad acre cropping enterprises and some livestock. The basic background knowledge of soil health and nutrition, as well as other areas of study, are very similar to that of growing potatoes which has helped give me a good base to step into the potato industry.

In your opinion, what areas of research are important to the potato industry and your business?

Research is extremely important in the potato industry. To McCain, research into new varieties is very important as this comes with a lot of other benefits such as disease resistance, improved quality and lower inputs.

What new innovations, research and/or practices has your business implemented recently?

At McCain we are always looking for and trialling new and different ways to help increase quality and efficiencies with our growers.

You recently travelled to China and earlier this year to New Zealand as a McCain representative. What was the purpose of these trips, and what did you learn as a result?

During my trip to New Zealand in February, I was taken around with other McCain agronomists and looked at how they harvest, trials and also the tomato potato psyllid in the field.

During my visit to China, I helped with their raw potato testing/grading before storage and learnt about what issues they face compared to Australia and how these are overcome and if we can implement anything from China back in Australia.

Where do you see opportunities for growth in the Australian potato industry?

The main growth in the potato industry will come from research and development into varieties, products and technology, and will help growers to produce a more efficiently grown potato to the standards that are required.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

At McCain in the same role I am in today as I thoroughly enjoy it. I hope to learn as much as I can about the industry to help McCain growers perform to their best ability.

How do you think more young people could be encouraged to study and take up jobs in the potato industry?

I think the key point here is exposure to the potato industry as it is a smaller industry in Australia compared to grain production etc. I think a lot of people don’t understand how much is involved in growing and producing potatoes as they are not aware of how many tonnes are actually produced here in Australia. It is a very specialised industry with plenty of room for growth in Australia.

This grower profile first appeared in the leading magazine for the Australian potato industry, Potatoes Australia. If you’d like to subscribe to receive a new edition of Potatoes Australia in your mailbox every two months, use our online subscription form!