Ballarat district potato growers can advance their skills in Australia`s first potato production diploma. The diploma has been created in a bid to address the gap in management-level training specifically for the potato industry.
Among the first group of students completing the diploma is Newlyn potato grower Kain Richardson.
He joins fellow south-west farmer, Colac`s David Scott, in the industry-first initiative.
The industry-endorsed horticulture diploma specialises in potato production, and is delivered by ECG McMillan.
ViCSPA, which owns and runs the largest certified seed scheme in the Australian potato industry, has played a big role in bringing the course to fruition.
ViCSPA`s Russell Bell said for the first time, Australian growers could use the training to advance their skills at management level in potato production.
`The course aims to assist managers to improve production processes, assisting them to develop strategies, programs and policies for their farm or workplace,` Mr Bell said.
Course facilitator Tony Pitt said that while there had been a resurgence in Victoria`s potato industry recently, producers faced challenges including drought and competing global markets.
`An increasing number of potato farmers are reaching retirement and it is critical for the industry that a higher level learning pathway be available to increase the knowledge-base of the next generation of farm managers,` he said.
Mr Richardson, who has worked on his Newlyn family property for 10 years, said his family had been trialling a number of different irrigation technologies to maximise water efficiency, with smarter production `the way of the future`.
`This course is an opportunity to increase my knowledge in sustainable land use, plant and soil health, occupational health and safety management, as well as production and marketing to give our farm and edge,` Mr Richardson said.
Students complete an on-campus component in five-day block modules, then do their assessment tasks on the farm.