Coming from the urban coastal region of Perth, Western Australia to the regional dry-tropical climate of Ayr, Nikala has found herself a long way from home.
Nikala has an interest in food production and preserving natural assets. After majoring in environmental studies and soil science (Hons.) at the University of Western Australia, Nikala thought of no better way to apply her skillset than in the realm of agriculture.
“Coming out of study and looking for full-time work was a challenge, especially when nothing really ignited the flame. I applied for the graduate program because I wanted a change of scenery and a chance to build my knowledge of Australian farming systems,” Nikala said.
Pic: Nikala amongst Indian Mustard at the Burdekin CRCNA trial site.
Nikala was placed with Farmacist (Burdekin office) through the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program. Farmacist is a precision agronomy firm that provides client and project services to largely sugarcane farming systems across the Great Barrier Reef catchment area (GBRCA).
“The QFF program and the team at Farmacist have invested in my development. I have been afforded the flexibility to align my interests and professional goals with my work and I have had a breadth of on ground experience that you just can’t get at university,” Nikala said.
Nikala’s placement with Farmacist has given her the opportunity to explore the expansive nature of extension through grower consultation, extension workshops, conferences, and field days. Nikala has been able to build her capacity as a young agronomist and learn fundamental lessons along the way.
“I’ve worked with a diversity of growers, researchers, and industry personnel, and these connections have deepened my understanding of the industry. Sugarcane farmers are under a fair bit of scrutiny in the media when it comes to their impact on the reef, and this experience has opened my eyes to the humility of farming. These business owners care for the reef and the land just as much as anyone else, and to minimise their impact, some are willing to change fundamental principles that have driven their businesses for decades; to me, that kind of courage is commendable,” Nikala said.
The program highlight for Nikala was assisting with industry development trials in the Burdekin. Farmacist partnered with the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRNA) to design and manage various oilseed field research sites across the GBRCA.
“Being part of something new and innovative is what I really enjoy about agriculture. It’s the constant push towards something better and striving to find what’s good for our growers and our environment. I look forward to what’s instore in the future,” Nikala said.
The Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program is delivered by the Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance (led by QFF) and funded by the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Program.