EVER since he was a child, 25-year-old Alex Davies had his sights set on being a research agronomist.
He idolised agronomists for being able to help farmers and fix problems with their soils and crops and aspired to have a job where he could work one-on-one with producers.
“Growing up on the farm, I admired how agronomists would come to the farm, see what we have going on, work out what needed to be done and help sort any issues out for us,” Alex said.
At the end of 2013, Alex graduated from Curtin University with a an agribusiness degree.
His first position as a research agronomist was with Eurofins, York, where he worked for two years before moving on to Living Farm, York, where he has been for three years.
In the past five years, Alex has grown personally and professionally which has enabled him to take on more responsibility at Living Farm, including managing the National Variety Trial program for the Northern Wheatbelt region, which includes about 60 trials from York to Binnu/Northampton and out east towards Southern Cross.
“This season will be my third season managing the northern trials which has been a huge achievement for me in my three years here at Living Farm,” Alex said.
“I am often speaking at field days in front of groups of farmers which has been a major accomplishment for me.
“I never thought I would be in a position to pass on my knowledge to people within such a short time working in the industry.”
As well as excelling in his role at Living Farm, Alex has also become more involved with his family’s farm, Hillgate Nominees, at Talbot.
Working alongside his father Kevin, uncle Graham and close friend James Cassidy, the four own and operate a mixed-farming enterprise, comprising about 70 per cent cropping of wheat, barley, canola and lupins and the remaining 30pc being sheep for prime lamb production and Merino wool.
Alex said his work as a farmer and a research agronomist kept him busy and allowed him to be continually learning new things.
“The season can have all sorts of possibilities for a business and you’ve got to be able to adjust and capitalise on good opportunities,” he said.
“Working for Living Farm as well as on my home farm has allowed me to appreciate that and everywhere I look there is an opportunity to learn.
“I am lucky to be able to work in both roles – the diversity of both jobs keeps it exciting and every day is different.
“One day I might be travelling up to Northampton to sow 10 different trials and the next I might be picking rocks or servicing machinery on the farm – I wouldn’t get that sort of exposure being just at home or probably even in another role.
“Being a research agronomist, I get to give back to the farmer which is rewarding.”
Alex’s interest in the research side of agronomy was sparked when he worked as a casual employee at Living Farm during his gap year after high school.
Research agronomy seems to be a perfect fit for Alex as he said he likes to give farmers advice based on science.
Being a farmer himself, Alex has a good understanding of farmers and their needs and aims to give them the same service he would expect from an agronomist – genuine, honest advice.
“With research agronomy, it is solely up to me as to what I can learn and what I take back to a farmer, that way I’m not influenced by marketing and I don’t have to promote something that I don’t believe in or don’t find any benefit from.
“Having the opportunity to use a variety of products side-by-side I have the ability to see exactly how things work and I can then form an honest understanding of the way they perform and can confidently introduce them into our own farming system.”
Looking into the future, Alex believes the biggest challenge will be trying to grow the family farm.
He said farmers were developing bigger parcels but land prices didn’t reflect the yield values of tonnes per hectare.
Alex said the family was considering how to expand the farm.
“Historically the family farm would grow by buying more land to continue the expansion through size, but I would like to move away from the traditional ways of growing the farm and I am always looking for new opportunities to increase quality or tapping into niche markets,” he said.
“We need to consider whether we buy more land and put more effort into it to make more money, or do we work the same land we have, but look at alternative ways of increasing profitability?
“There are so many advancements occurring in agriculture and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can bring to drive growth in our business.”
Alex’s dad, Kevin and his boss at Living Farm Richard Devlin have been his key mentors throughout his career and Alex also hopes to leave his stamp on WA’s agricultural industry.
“Dad and Richard have created very successful businesses and have instilled in me the motivation to achieve something of similar success,” he said.
“I would like to start something of my own and grow it to be a similar level to what they have both been able to achieve.”