Regional Winner | Productivity category
Tim Walker is an adviser at Walker Ag Consultancy and a 2020 Growth Awards Regional Winner in the Productivity category. Read on to learn more about Tim.
What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
About three years ago, I made the decision to leave the corporate world and start my own consultancy business. I had bought the family property and having my own farm, I know how important the right advice is. I was a lot more comfortable selling my knowledge than selling products.
I could see the need for truly independent advice, and I can practise what I preach on the farm, and it gave extra credibility I think to the clients I am working for. It has also allowed me to try different things on my own property and test them out.
The one concern I did have when I went out on my own is that I would lose touch with the industry but it’s actually been the opposite. I have good relationships with chemical representatives and probably even better than I did when I was in the corporate world, as they are keen to keep me in the loop with developments so I can pass on information to my clients. They know that if I understand the benefits of what they have, I will pass that on.
How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
It would be possible to share information in several ways. I am really lucky in that I spend time with my farmer clients regularly, both on a one-to-one basis and also in informal groups where we get together and talk about issues and opportunities.
Last year, we held the Walker Ag Consultancy vegetable industry forum and had up to 100 growers and advisers in the one room. We would have done it again this year, but we couldn’t because of COVID-19 but hopefully we can again next year. It is a great way to present information to a large number of people, but at the same time, there is merit in the one-to-one discussions you have with clients where you can pass industry knowledge on.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
The biggest opportunity will be to take the next step with the business and employ another person. It’s a big move but I have to be able to service the clients’ needs and the business is growing rapidly. When I went out on my own three years ago, I guess the dream was there to employ someone else and expand but it has happened quite quickly and without us advertising – word of mouth has increased our client base to a point where that extra person is needed.
We had a client approach us from the mainland at Gippsland where we did work last year, and this year, we have needed to be nimble due to COVID-19 and so have serviced that client through Facetime and photos. We don’t particularly want a large clientele on the mainland and would love to focus our business in north-west Tasmania but there is merit in having outside clients for broadening our knowledge horizons.
What is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the next 12 months?
Finding the right person for the role will be a barrier. A lot of people go through university, but it has to be someone who has the same philosophy as me. They will also need to be more than an agronomist and be able to help out in our farm business too, so it will need to be the right person.
We also want someone who has the right personality – our clients become like friends and so they need to be a person clients feel comfortable with. It is terrifying in some ways, but I would rather keep working by myself than employ someone who is not the right fit for the business. The right person is out there, and I have a few people in mind but it may be that I have to poach someone.
What is the biggest challenge Australian Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
If you had asked me six months ago, I would have had a different answer but it’s the fallout from COVID-19 which will impact on agriculture for probably the next decade.
The impact is on several fronts. The immediate impacts will be seen in the lack of labour to harvest crops. Then there are the flow on effects of the hospitality trade and the failure of businesses within this. I know of a Kipfler potato grower who normally sells his potatoes for more than $2000/tonne and this year they were stock feed. He had a niche market, and it is now gone.
I really think the rebuild from where we sat 12 months ago is going to take a decade. It’s about the ability to get our produce to market initially and the lack of labour, but then the lack of demand for the products which will also hit home.