With heavy rainfall and some of the highest production costs in Australia, growing potatoes – and remaining profitable – in Tasmania is challenging, so it’s good that Stuart Millwood, State Agronomy Manager for Roberts, loves a challenge.
Working with a team of six specialty agronomists, Stuart advises over 60 seed and processing potato growers, equating to 1,600 ha across Tasmania.
“Potatoes are a complex, but rewarding crop and I welcome the challenges they bring. I also continue to challenge myself in leading my clients towards profitability and sustainability,” he said.
Stuart helps his clients to produce 100,000 tonnes of processing potatoes and 3,000 tonnes of certified seed potatoes annually.
Amongst his peers, Stuart is recognised as one of the top potato agronomists in Australia; and has dedicated his professional life to providing the highest quality agronomic advice through educating and understanding his clients and their land capabilities.
Stuart is a firm believer in the saying: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
It is this belief that drives Stuart to innovate and has allowed him to embrace modern agricultural technology and deliver proven and effective direction to his clients. In fact, Stuart has helped increase his clients’ top line growth (t/ha) by an average of 20 per cent over the last 15 years.
It is this achievement that has recently led Stuart to become the only regional winner from Tasmania for the 2016 Syngenta Growth Awards – an awards program that recognises agriculture professionals for their outstanding contributions to the industry. Stuart is a regional winner in the Productivity category for his dedication to improving return and driving productivity gains for his clients, and will advance to the next round of the Awards where the title of Australasian Productivity Winner is up for grabs.
On top of providing sound management advice, Stuart is passionate about research and strongly believes in educating and sharing information with clients, peers, and the wider agricultural community, in order to achieve positive results for the industry.
He leads numerous research and development trials each year, the results of which deliver real dollar value figures for growers; and he also ensures validity of the trials by establishing and identifying trends before recommending them broadly to his clients.
In addition, Stuart founded the annual Roberts Potato Industry Forum four years ago to share and communicate the latest industry information, such as trial results, new biology or chemistry, and emerging technology. Each year, Stuart invites around six agriculture professionals to present at the forum and share their ideas. Presenters could be anyone from researchers to product representatives to innovative farmers. The event consistently draws over a hundred industry members, some travelling over three hours to attend.
“The idea behind the potato industry forum is to share the latest industry innovations and trial results with the wider community so they can then use the information to improve their operations,” said Stuart.
“Connecting the community is essential in our industry and events like the Potato Forum serve as an incubator for ideas.”
At the end of the day, Stuart sees his clients’ success as his own, and his agronomic strategy and educational approach have led to substantial increases in productivity in the Tasmanian potato industry. But Stuart doesn’t want it to stop there.
As Stuart advances to the next stage of the Syngenta Growth Awards, he may win the opportunity to participate in an international study tour in 2017, which would see him travel to Syngenta’s world-leading research facilities in England to learn about new technology and farm inputs.
Stuart is excited about the possibility of attending this tour as he sees it as an opportunity to not only extend his own knowledge and network, but improve the global agriculture industry as a whole.
“Participating in the Syngenta study tour would allow me to meet other like-minded professionals and bring ideas, solutions and information back to Tasmania. Sharing information is a two way street, and connecting with other networks internationally would allow a valuable exchange that can only help to improve the broader farming community,” said Stuart.
The Syngenta Growth Awards winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Sydney on 1 December, 2016. To find out more about the awards and read more about Stuart and other regional winners go to www.syngenta.com.au.
Syngenta is a leading agriculture company helping to improve global food security by enabling millions of farmers to make better use of available resources. Through world class science and innovative crop solutions, our 28,000 people in over 90 countries are working to transform how crops are grown. We are committed to rescuing land from degradation, enhancing biodiversity and revitalizing rural communities. To learn more visit www.syngenta.com and www.goodgrowthplan.com. Follow us on Twitter® at www.twitter.com/Syngenta