Food and fibre careers on show

By Country News

Hundreds of secondary school students from across the state descended on the University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus last week.

The Food and Fibre careers day offered more than a dozen different workshops in many areas of modern agriculture, with a heavy focus on technology.

Organiser Karen Edwards said one aspect of the day involved busting myths surrounding a career in 21st-century agriculture.

‘‘Any chance we have, we talk about where technology works,’’ Ms Edwards said.

‘‘In adult terms, we talk about increasing productivity, but in kids’ terms we talk about making jobs easier and what kinds of opportunities are open to them.’’

Modern farming has moved a long way from the traditional family farm model of last century, according to Ms Edwards.

‘‘You’re not out there doing manual labour. You’re very much working with technology, working on big business decisions, working with big data,’’ she said.

The workshops on offer included hydroponics, plant science, agribusiness, transport, grains, dairy and drones.

Drone pilot and instructor John Bursill said the day’s idyllic weather had made his job so much easier.

‘‘We’ve had great weather and no wind, a beautiful day for flying,’’ he said.

Drones are evolving into an important agricultural tool according to Mr Bursill, with more and more uses being discovered every day.

Soon, checking up on pregnant stock will become much easier thanks to research being conducted at Dookie.

‘‘University of Melbourne is using thermal imaging to determine which stock are about to drop,’’ Mr Bursill said.

And while most drones are currently used for asset management, checking up on such things as troughs, fencing and stock, Mr Bursill said a much wider range of uses was coming online.

‘‘Infrared (for) looking at plant health, from there you can go to thermal, which is looking at where water density is ... where to irrigate.’’

The students also got to perform some hands-on lab work, analysing cows’ blood under the instruction of Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE’s Tanille Baily.

‘‘I’ve been awfully surprised with how well they’ve loved doing blood smears, it’s been very rewarding,’’ Dr Baily said.

‘‘It’s been very hands-on, giving them a bit of exposure to what we do in the veterinary professions.’’

Dr Baily said a few of the students had asked how to become vets themselves.

‘‘We’ve had a few people asking questions of what they have to do and how they can get into it,’’ she said.

—Myles Peterson