Regional Winner | Productivity category
Dale Abbott is an adviser at Bowen Crop Monitoring Services and a 2020 Growth Awards Regional Winner in the Productivity category. While Dale was nominated for the Innovator category, through the judging process it was clear his contributions to agriculture, rural and regional Australia more closely aligns with our Productivity category. Read on to learn more about Dale.
What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
The greatest career highlight would be the introduction of beneficial insects to the Bowen area 10 years ago, where I was a leading force in making this happen. Integrated Pest Management has been in the area for more than 30 years but this was an introduction of biological control agents as a specialised part of IPM.
One of the examples of beneficial insects was the introduction of several species especially for the control of silver leaf white fly in tomatoes, eggplants and melon production. It was a huge success and well accepted and now is an integrated part of the growers’ overall control process in growing those crops and ensuring natural means of crop protection.
How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
I am a big believer in face-to-face communication with our grower clients, who prefer to see us in person, and I’d certainly be sharing all the information I get with them. While it may not be at a seminar or a meeting, that doesn’t mean the information doesn’t get out. I feel like the best learning comes when we can sit down in a relaxed environment and talk. Some of our growers are extremely busy people and don’t have time to go to seminars or meetings and I think they have a greater capacity to learn and ask questions when you are with them face-to-face when you visit their farms.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
I would like to see our business expand into other growth areas away from vegetable production and that will involve work in tree crops. In the past, we have mainly been involved in vegetables but we are doing an increasing amount of work in mangoes. There is growing demand overseas for mangoes with exports increasing to China, Korea and the USA. With an increasing demand for services to assist mango production, we will expand our business to service those growers.
What is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the next 12 months?
The success of our business is largely dependent on the success of our clients and growers. We are operating in a very different environment at the moment with public health and who knows how this will play out in terms of labour supply and even the market for goods. Our growers have been lucky so far in this production area, in that we haven’t had to deal with a COVID-19 situation crisis, but something like that would put a great strain on our workforce and that of our grower clients. At the moment, there is talk of reduced people around for the summer picking which is causing concern and could impact on the success of the industries we service. Our success goes hand in hand with the success of our growers – if we have happy clients then I am a happy consultant.
What is the biggest challenge Australian Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
Agriculture has a major challenge to make consumers understand the importance of locally grown (Australian) produce. With this realisation should come the halting of importation of fresh produce which is killing domestic production. When I started 30 years ago, there were more than 50 tomato growers and now we are back to 10. Those 10 growers may have higher production levels but the longer importation goes on, the greater the loss of existing horticultural production in Australia. There is a corresponding loss of knowledge that cannot be replaced. COVID-19 may have given some insight to consumers about the importance of domestic production, but our governments should be looking at preserving key industries and primary production should be one of them.