From trout farms to honey producers and more in between, the current crop of PNG participants in an innovative agribusiness course recently experienced a diverse taste of Australia – and developed new skills to apply back home.

The 25 participants in the latest Australia Awards Short Course in agribusiness recently undertook a five-week study block at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale, Australia in February-March.

As well as classwork, the participants visited agribusinesses across northern New South Wales to learn first-hand from local producers about their strategies for developing supply chains, diversification, risk management and leadership.

Site visits ranged from trout and goat farmers to honey and strawberry producers and speciality coffee roasters.

For Gertrude Andrias, Principal Trainer at Kingku Hitech Training Institute in Jiwaka Province, the Short Course has already delivered practical benefits for her Highlands business.

Gertrude founded the training institute in the early 2000s to equip women and young people with basic agricultural skills.

‘I’ve done training for more than 15 years now since 2003.  From a small start, we now have an Agribusiness Technical College providing training for school leavers and farmers,’ Gertrude explains.

Add to that Gertrude’s expanding potato business, which she started in 2018 and which now supplies Innovative Agro Industry as well as local hotels and eateries. Gertrude employs six full-time farm workers, with plans to grow based on what she has learned during the Short Course.

‘After returning to PNG, I’m planning to develop three new enterprises from my potato project, including packaged chips and a roadside restaurant to cook and sell my potatoes,’ she says.

‘Everything I’ve learned is very useful and most are new skills that I’m practising immediately such as delegation skills, book- and record-keeping and risk management.’

This photo shows Gertrude Andrias (left) and Grace Dou, who are quoted in this story

Gertrude Andrias (left) and Grace Dou in class at UNE earlier this year

Fellow awardee Grace Dou, who manages the Tara Delta Fish Farm in Southern Highlands Province, says leadership and business planning are key skills she is sharpening as she completes the Certificate IV in Agribusiness.

Grace has managed the fish farm since 2018.  The business, which employs three staff, focuses on the local Southern Highlands market and its strong demand for fresh fish.  Grace says her study experience has also motivated her to take the business to the next level.

“My experience so far has helped me develop business goals. I’m now planning to expand my supply chain from local schools and produce markets to larger supermarkets within the next six months.”

This is the fourth Australia Awards Short Course in agribusiness to be delivered by UNE and RuralBiz Training, taking the total number of participants to date to some 100, from 19 PNG provinces.  As well as formal study and site visits, participants undertake a work-based project in PNG to maximise skills sharing and impact.

Australia Awards Short Course Awards offer targeted programs tailored to develop knowledge and skills, address priority human resource development needs and build partnerships and linkages between PNG and Australian organisations, in support of the PNG-Australia Partnership.