Alana Wallace was brought up farming, both Dairy and Sheep and Beef, near Te Awamutu in the Waikato. She comes from a strong farming family, where uncles, aunties and grandparents are all a part of the industry. And as the eldest of three daughters that didn’t deter Alana from wanting go into agriculture either.
After high school Alana knew that she wanted to go into the agriculture sector, but was unsure where exactly. She headed off to Lincoln University and studied a Bachelor of Science, majoring in plants and horticulture. At that stage she had no desire to move into horticulture.
Alana spent three summers and a full year working at PGG Wrightson’s Research facility, Kimihia in Lincoln, doing trial work and assisting plant breeders, mainly in the grain division. She then travelled overseas, where the job at Kimihia lead to several summer job opportunities in the UK and Switzerland in between working in central London for 18 months.
After two years overseas, Alana came back to New Zealand knowing that she wanted to get back in to working outdoors. After a year back in New Zealand Alana came into her current role, she didn’t even know what the job was or what it entailed, but on a whim she applied for it and ended up getting it. This was her first taste of Horticulture and staff management, and she is loving it.
"I am part of a nation-wide crop monitoring team within the Technical division of PGG Wrightson/Fruitfed. I coordinate a team of six scouts over two key vege producing areas. My area covers from Pukekohe down to Taupo and Ohakune, including the greater Waikato Region. We monitor all kinds of human consumption vegetable (onions, potatoes, cucumbers) and fruit (avocados, berries, citrus) crops as well as some forage crops for pests and diseases. Training the scouts to be the best in the industry is a key part of my role."
Alana loves knowing that she is contributing to the production of good quality food in New Zealand, which, with urban sprawl, increased exotic pest pressure from overseas and more extreme weather patterns, is making doing so increasingly hard. The increase in biological controls (beneficial insects), and reduction of pesticide use are big drivers of their service, all part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme.
"Being a female in a heavily male dominated sector gives an added challenge, but having a strong and supportive boss and colleagues behind me makes the job 10x easier. I am also a Future Intech ambassador, I promote science in Horticulture and Ag to high school students in Auckland. Being able to give students a tiny glimpse into the industry and letting them know what I do and where their food comes from is a fantastic feeling."
Sometimes it pays to put yourself out there and ask questions later! We love how you have ended up working in the horticulture sector, Alana. It is fantastic that you are out and about promoting it to our younger generations.