Growing Innovation – April 2017 edition

Helping attract the next generation of employees in horticulture + opportunities for businesses to get involved

The first university student to be employed under Hort Innovation’s new $3.9 million internship program for horticulture says she’ll certainly be letting her fellow graduates know about the opportunities available in the industry.


Lisa Huynh has been working at Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs as part of a pilot program, spending 12 weeks as an intern. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Agriculture from the University of Melbourne mid-year, before returning to the company to complete the second, 12-month phase of the program.


Lisa says it’s been very rewarding to apply her university knowledge and food science skills in an industry that’s not a traditional choice for ag students.


“Most of the 200 students in my cohort are from farming families and they look for jobs in agribusiness or traditional agricultural industries such as cropping, livestock and dairy. I don’t think a lot of my friends and young people in general realise how much opportunity exists within the horticultural industry,” she said.


The internship program is co-funded by Hort Innovation, the Australian Government and the partnering businesses, with additional funding contributed by the nursery and vegetable industries to provide levy-paying businesses with some assistance.


Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the program aims to provide for the future and strengthen the industry by attracting the next generation of employees, placing more than 50 leading interns in horticultural businesses over the next five years.


“As well as being an experience highly valued by intern participants, it’s providing Australia’s horticulture growers and associated business operators a rare opportunity to tap into some of the nation’s brightest minds while gaining new resources for their operations,” he said.


Lisa’s employer, Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs, was established in 2008 and has grown from producing 2000 bunches of basil per week to supplying more than 180,000 bunches, pots, and punnets across more than 50 varieties each week.


Employing more than 80 staff across its two sites south east of Melbourne, Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs supplies major retailers, independent supermarkets, green grocers, and wholesale distributors throughout Australia and South East Asia.


Since January, Lisa has experienced each area of operation in the business, spending time with the horticulture, farming, production, dispatch, and quality teams.


She’s currently working to produce growing and specification charts for all Fresh Leaf products, and assisting with preparations for an internal audit, and says she finds it “stimulating work”.


Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs supervisor Sharon Coutts has appreciated being part of the pilot internship program and says she’d certainly recommend it to other nursery businesses.


“Our company’s executive director, Jan Vydra, was a 2016 Nuffield Scholar and travelling overseas he saw the same thing again and again – an ageing industry that needs innovation and technology to supply a global population.


“As a young, expanding company, it’s fantastic to work with organisations such as Hort Innovation to develop our graduate program and promote the opportunities that exist within our industry,” Sharon said. “Lisa has fitted in really well into the company. Her scientific knowledge and ability to work effectively with her peers, managers, and directors have been beneficial in building up her skills and contribution to the business.”


Sharon says the company will be seeking an IT graduate in the next round of internships, to add to the food technology skills that Lisa has brought to the business.



Following the success of the pilot program, recruiting for 10 horticulture internships is now underway – and the hunt is on for both interns across the country and businesses interested in hosting them.

If you are a business looking to host an intern, learn more by contacting Rimfire Resources at

For students looking to take part, information on the Hort Innovation Internship Program, and application forms, are available through GradLink, a dedicated online graduate recruitment portal specific for agribusiness available here.