Christian Patterson regularly travels around Australia to different potato growing regions in a role that is vital to the long-term success and viability of the country’s potato industry.
As a Relationship Manager at Hort Innovation, Christian’s role is to ensure that the nation’s growers are aware of developments in both the fresh and processed potato industries, as well as the sweetpotato industry and the Consumer Alignment strategic investment pillar of the vegetable industry.
Christian entered the horticulture industry more than eight years ago, joining Woolworths in its Primary Freight Division. He then moved into the role of Category Manager with Perfection Fresh and Fresh Produce Group, before accepting the role of Relationship Manager at Hort Innovation 16 months ago.
A primary focus
Currently, Christian is working closely with the fresh and processed potato industry Strategic Investment Advisory Panels (SIAPs) to develop the next potato Strategic Investment Plan, which aims to accurately reflect the industry’s R&D funding priorities over the next five years.
“The involvement of these panels is critical to the success of the funding of various projects, as they are the voice of the greater industry and represent a cross-section of industry experts – growers, suppliers and the like,” Christian said. “That’s allowing us a varied, experienced group to form views and offer advice as to what areas of investment are most important and critical to their respective industry.”
One valuable aspect of Christian’s role as Relationship Manager is the ability to visit Australia’s potato growers, who are spread out across the nation. “My best work as a Relationship Manager is done face-to-face with the growers, and the relationships between those who I do manage to go and see are very strong and robust,” he said.
“I like to take a personal involvement with as many potato growers as possible outside of the SIAPs. These vary from something as simple as a phone call to a road trip, ensuring that I’m touching base at the ground level with our levy payers. Sometimes the best advice and industry information is gathered when you’re standing in the field with a grower and understanding the issues at their level.”
He added that Hort Innovation plays a significant role in the adoption of R&D on-farm in the potato industry. “As the body that invests the levies collected, we’re responsible (along with the SIAPs) to ensure we’re protecting industry, building strong succession plans and supporting industry in its growth and delivering results along the way,” he esaid. “Whether it be from a seed grower to an end-product grower, these are all important spokes in the wheel. The adoption of the R&D that is developed is very important and has been made possible in conjunction with industry, the SIAPs and Hort Innovation to benefit the industry.”
Christian believes there is great potential for growth in the Australian potato industry, with exporting on the radar for many in the industry. Providing support for younger potato growers is also a priority.
“Personally, I think the biggest opportunity for growth is in exports, as long as we can ensure all the checks and balances that are required are in place,” Christian said. “I also see an opportunity with the younger growers forging their way into the industry. Supporting these younger growers along the way is vital – there’s a lot to learn from these guys and they also need our support from the ground up.”
Australia’s potato growers are able to contact Christian should they require assistance, or need advice on any industry issues. Reach him on 0433 896 753 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. If they’re not already, growers are also encouraged to become members of Hort Innovation to be updated with regular advancements in R&D (sign up for free here).
“I want potato growers to be able to contact me at any time and be safe in the knowledge that they are being heard and that I am also actioning their requests in a timely manner. That is my ultimate goal.”
This profile first appeared in the February/March 2017 edition of Potatoes Australia magazine. The magazine is produced by AUSVEG under Hort Innovation project ‘Potato industry communication program 2016-18’ (PT15007), described above. Visit the AUSVEG website here to see all issues of Potatoes Australia.