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Growing talent in the horticultural industry

Growing talent in the horticultural industry

Growing talent in the horticultural industry

With the breadth of fruit and vegetable crops grown in New Zealand, each with its own varieties and technical aspects to growing, horticulture provided the diversity Josh Mitchell was looking for as a career path.

Josh joined Fruitfed Supplies in 2016 as a Customer Service Representative at the Te Puke store. From there, he wanted to further his career and identified PGG Wrightson’s Trainee Technical Horticultural Representative (THR) Programme as a logical step. Participants in the programme gain a National Certificate in Rural Servicing through the Primary Industry Training Organisation upon completion.

The trainee programme provided him with a greater understanding of horticulture. “I was given the opportunity to meet customers and visit orchards growing a variety of crops. I got an understanding of how these businesses operated and what the decisions were involved in running them daily,” Josh says.

Mentoring and input from the Fruitfed Supplies technical team provide trainees with a solid foundation in which to begin their careers as a THR. As Milton Munro, PGG Wrightson’s Technical Team Manager explains, “Our Technical Specialists are involved in the trainee programme providing a level of support and education designed to increase a trainee’s technical knowledge. Our trainees also gain practical on-orchard experience, working closely with a customer to identify a production issue and develop a solution, communicating to the customer both the associated costs and the production benefits.”

Mentoring with an experienced THR is an important aspect of the training too. As Josh says, “Spending time with THRs throughout the Bay of Plenty visiting customers helped me immensely. I learnt first-hand how we supported and assisted growers of avocados, kiwifruit and berry crops on a daily basis. Each grower has a different philosophy to growing, so I soon understood there are many ways to grow the same crop.”

Having completed his THR trainee programme 18 months ago, Josh is now a full-time THR is based in the PGG Wrightson/Frutifed Supplies Whakatane store. He visits his customers who are located from Whakatane to Opotiki.

Fruitfed Supplies’ technical team continues to be a source of support, conducting field days to show current product trial sites and present the findings at the conclusion of a trial to THRs. As well as providing information on new products released to the market, Josh says the technical team is only a phone call away when he has fielded a question he is unable to answer.

Josh gets a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment from watching crops grow successfully from planting to harvest as well as increasing his understanding of the different growing techniques used by growers. From growing fruit and vegetables to winemaking, horticulture has many avenues open to people interested in developing a career in horticulture.