Young grower profile: Matt Cunzolo
Matt Cunzolo is a 29-year-old grower from Cunzolo Farms in Tolga, Queensland. We profiled him in the October 2019 edition of Potatoes Australia magazine.
Name: Matt Cunzolo
Location: Tolga, QLD
Works: Cunzolo Farms
How did you first become involved in the potato industry?
My grandfather started growing potatoes in the early 1960s, so I grew up on a potato farm. I did an apprenticeship as a diesel fitter before deciding to come back to the farm to help the family.
What does your role in the business involve, and what are your responsibilities?
I have been self-employed for eight years. I have all the responsibilities of forward planning and meeting my projected budgets from planting to growing and then harvest. Plus, I’m involved in the day-to-day things that need doing to achieve quality produce.
What do you enjoy most about working in the potato industry and how do you maintain your enthusiasm?
My parents were growing potatoes for Snack Brands Australia and doing well from it. Because of that, I focused on securing long-term contracts with Smith’s Chips. Dealing with Smith’s Chips, I find them to be very innovative with trialling new varieties that they have coming through their system and working out what grows best in my growing window as well as achieving good results, with the ability to increase my production as I expand.
What are the biggest challenges you face working in the industry, and how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I have had is matching varieties for my growing window. I have been buying seed from Dowling AgriTech and have found that they make my job easier with their broad knowledge and a real understanding of timing, so I can achieve the best outcome.
"The biggest challenge I have had is matching varieties for my growing window. "
Where do you receive your practice advice and information from?
My family has been growing potatoes for 50-plus years. I never hesitate to get advice from Dad, but generally I try and work it out myself.
What new innovations, research and/or practices has your business implemented recently? What are you doing differently to other grower operations?
In far-north Queensland, we have a lot of unpredictable weather conditions throughout the year. Therefore, I have learnt how to read weather forecast charts which allows me to spray the right fungicides and nutrient products with a computerised spray rig. We also have high maintenance on our harvesting equipment to ensure there is no down time and every load is on time.
What areas of research are important to the potato industry?
I think there should be more research undertaken in plant diseases such as potato virus Y and zebra chip. Preventing the spread of these diseases is important for the future of the potato industry.
Where do you see opportunities for growth in the Australian potato industry?
I think the potato industry is on the right track, with the new varieties being developed to increase yields as well as being a better product for consumers.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I hope to have doubled my production and keep up with the new technology to make farming easier.
It’s good to look what other growers use in technology both overseas and Australia. There are always new things out that can make farming easier and more cost-effective.
How do you think more young people could be encouraged to study and take up jobs in the potato industry?
With the new technology coming into the farming operations every year, I think that young people could find a real passion in the potato industry; particularly in learning the agronomy side all the way through to developing new varieties.