Growing Innovation: Issue 19, November 24, 2016
“It’s all about learning and exploring new opportunities”
Troy Richman, Almas Almonds, VIC
Coming to be involved in the almond industry was a happy twist of fate for Troy Richman, whose original background is in mechanical engineering. Today he loves the diversity of his industry, and relishes the chance to explore new technologies and opportunities through large-scale almond operation Almas Almonds, of which he is general manager.
“I spent the first 15 years of my career being involved in equipment product development for the viticulture and broad-acre industries,” Troy said. “Then I had a chance meeting with an almond industry representative who had an opportunity for me to get involved in large-scale horticultural development. So I moved to Victoria with my family in 1999, and have been directly involved in almonds ever since. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in processing, irrigation, farm management and large-scale project management, so I have a very firm grounding in the industry.”
Troy said that what he loves most about the almond industry is the people. “While large in scale, the almond industry is small in grower numbers. It also has such a diverse range of grower operations, with corporate, managed plantations and owner-operators. This means that as growers we have great collaboration with people from all across the board.”
Helping his business, and the industry, learn and grow is also high on Troy’s list. “At Almas we’re about to build a 10-acre trial site, which is exciting,” he said. “I’ve been to Spain and America over the last few years and a couple of the rootstocks that were being used have now become available commercially in Australia. One of them supports high-density planting and the other supports the replacement of existing rootstock. We’ll be trialling these – in fact in all there’s six different rootstocks we’re putting in and six different almond cultivars, including new-to-the-industry varieties and ones we haven’t grown on our orchard before. We’ll be managing them the same as we do the rest of our commercial crop to see how they grow and yield on our property and in this region.”
Though he doesn’t expect the trial to have an impact on Almas for another five or so years, Troy said the business plans to share the information that comes out of it to assist other growers, too. “We’re always happy to share our results for the betterment of the industry and growers. I believe that as a grower and part of a unified industry we can meet the challenges we face now and into the future if we work together.”
When it comes to new opportunities, Almas is also exploring uses of solar energy. “Almond growing has reasonably high inputs, so anything we can do to have a positive environmental impact that makes commercial sense, we’ll look at,” Troy said. To this end, we’ve built solar drainage systems, with one solar panel per pump – so as long as there’s sun out, water will be getting pumped out of the pits into a surface drainage system so it doesn’t have an impact on our orchard or the environment.”
The company is also looking to make use of its acres of land not suitable for planting almonds, with plans to lease it out for the establishment of a large-scale solar system that will generate energy for the benefit of the whole region. “But there’s a bit of a way to go on that one, as the project is still subject to government grants and approvals,” Troy said.
Troy is a member of the Strategic Investment Advisory Panel for almonds, and said he was looking forward to sinking his teeth into existing and proposed projects for the industry. “There’s some really important work being done in regards to the carob moth and the Carpophilus beetle, which is new to our industry and has certainly been causing us all grief,” he said. Almas has been involved in the trapping of the pest for the research, and Troy said that understanding more about the beetle and developing trapping and management systems was definitely on his radar.
“I’m also keen to see ongoing work into the development of new almond varieties and management systems associated with them. With expansion accelerating in recent years, the increased scale of production is also showing that we as an industry need to improve on post-harvest operations in storage and processing to meet future requirements,” he said. “And while a sensitive topic, irrigation water and ownership will be a challenge in the future.”