New Zealander spreads ag message

19 Jan, 2016 01:00 AM
Precision SoilTech tech specialist in geographic information systems Vanessa Donley is enjoying the agricultural change.
Precision SoilTech tech specialist in geographic information systems Vanessa Donley is enjoying the agricultural change.

FROM the lush green pastures of New Zealand to the rough terrain of outback WA, 25-year-old Vanessa Donley has planted her feet firmly in agriculture.

"I come from a farming background, in the dairy industry in New Zealand," she said.

"I grew up on the North Island of NZ, which is very different to WA.

"Although I grew up in that industry, I didn't know much about agriculture, especially Australian agriculture."

Vanessa had ventured away from ag and completed a geology degree, but it wasn't long before she found herself in WA.

"I did my geology degree at Auckland University and once I finished I decided to go travelling," she said.

"After that I got a job with Fortescue Metals Group in mining, here in Australia," she said.

"I was working with exploration drilling for a while, but because I was always in the field I decided I wanted to swap for a more office-based job.

"So I moved over to start for Hancock Prospecting."

But as fate would have it, Vanessa found herself back in the agricultural industry.

"It was a big change, a change in environment, culture and what I was doing," she said.

"I started working for Precision SoilTech, as a tech specialist in geographic information systems in September.

"I am assisting with the soil sampling operations, I've loved it ever since I started.

"My job is so diverse, I am learning a lot, I do mainly computer-based work, as well as laboratory work and field work, which I enjoy.

"My days are so varied and I love the culture of the industry.

"In mining I used to work in the middle of nowhere, by myself with drillers, but working in the agriculture the environment is more relaxed and you get to build good relationships with the people you meet."

Vanessa said there was no comparison between the WA ag sector and NZ.

"The two are so different, it is really green and lush back home and out here it is dry and relatively barren," she said.

"Even if I studied agriculture in New Zealand, I don't think I could really apply it here, because it is so different.

"We don't have the same problems here and vice-versa."

But Vanessa said she could apply her geology skill-sets to this job.

"I can apply my previous skills, but everything else is really new," she said.

The biggest change for Vanessa in her new role is soil sampling.

She said although she is a geologist, in mining exploration she would look at the soil hundreds of metres below the surface.

"We do a lot of geophysical work in mining and in agriculture," she said.

"But I am still grasping the fact that we are looking at the first few metres of soil, because I am so used to looking at data of deep soil samples.

"Farming is just so different than mining in so many ways, but it's great to be able to learn more and more each day."

Vanessa said she understands there is still a shortage of skilled youth coming into the industry.

"I can see that there is a shortage of young people in the industry," she said.

"But there is also a lack of awareness from the general public of what's going on within the industry.

"I am the only one of my friends involved in agriculture, so when I start talking about work they don't have a clue.

"But they love it, they are really interested in what I do.

"One of my friends is now looking to study agriculture.

"She is a Perth girl and had no idea it existed.

"She didn't know before that you could study agriculture and since I started working in the industry, she has been looking into it too."

Vanessa said more education about the possibilities in agriculture would raise awareness of its career potential.

"People think if they go to university they can't study agriculture and they don't know where it can take them," she said.

"Every time someone thinks of agriculture they think of a farmer, and think that's all you can do – but that is not the case.

"I think we need a better awareness of the industry and the opportunities.

"When I was younger I thought the same, I didn't want to be a farmer.

"So I think education at school is so important."

Vanessa said her family is no longer involved in the industry, but has supported her transition back to the sector, as they see the opportunities it can bring.

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

is a senior journalist at Farm Weekly


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