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‘We call a spade a spade and get on with the job’ | North West Queensland’s impact on Majella’s international ag industry career

It was on a gap year on a Julia Creek cattle station where Majella Nolan learned for the first time what it meant to travel ‘to town’, the value of community and a bit about herself and remote Australia.

Having grown up in a village in the Blue Mountains, Majella found herself driving 180km on a dirt road or diverting to a Cessna flight in the wet season for the commute to town, in what would be her first ‘real’ Australian Farm experience.

“I learnt so much about myself and remote Australia during this year. Distance from town had a whole new meaning,” Majella says.

“I fell in love with Queensland. I felt a real sense of belonging and sense of purpose which other industries don’t have.

“People that live on those remote stations really know the value of community – they are always looking out for one another and will do anything for the health of their animals and their land.”

Majella is John Deere’s Strategy Lead for Australia and New Zealand – a role which not only continues to connect her with some of these communities she was introduced to during her gap year but also deliver critical tools and resources to those industries, farms and workforces. 

Also a Board Director for the Future Farmers Network, Majella’s focus is on contributing to the industry and championing the development of young people in agriculture. Ag industry professionals Andrew Slatter, Felicity Coventry, Jo Eady, Alan Thomson and Camilla Roberts are among the mentors who support Majella’s career and development.

“I’m super excited as a women in ag for the opportunities ahead of us. The industry is already embracing diverse representation, and not just about gender, more broadly than that,” Majella said.

“It’s creating a more and more powerful force for change.”

She says the people and the opportunities which the agricultural industry represents have made a significant impact.

“The genuinely open and honest conversations which happen in the ag industry tend to be better than other industries – we call a spade a spade and get on with the job,” Majella says.

“Agriculture needs to feed and clothe a growing global population and to do this we have to do more with less.

“There’s so much innovation happening across our industry solving this challenge, this is helping to increase the diversity of our industry and opportunities for career growth.”

Majella says the industry, made up of business, workforces, markets, can prepare for these opportunities.

“Technology and digital tools are getting easier and easier to use and this will improve over time and there is no better time to start than now.

“I believe soft skills are needed to prepare for the challenges, opportunities and huge and rapid paced change ahead.

“We have plenty of tools available and in most cases people can learn how to use and maintain these.

“Leadership is the enabler of change – we need great leaders who can lead through change, take risks and innovate.

“Leadership has changed in ag and managing change is critical. Leadership skills needed today are different to those five 5 or 10 years ago.”

Majella expects data will have a significant role in the future of the agricultural industry, from biosecurity, food provenance, food safety, natural capital, carbon markets, accessing finance, insurance and market access.

“Our industry has no problem with the availability of data or technology however we do have a challenge when it comes to analysing, processing and distributing data in a safe and simple way,” Majella said.

“I also think the more data breaches we see occurring across major companies the more trust is eroded and this is a huge challenge for new agritech players as well as farmers when it comes to sharing their data.”

Outside work, Majella is a keen adventurer and makes the most of a love of the outdoors – a conscious effort to balance work and life. “It’s incredibly important for me and my wellbeing. I am very mindful with how much I take on and purposefully schedule in time to be in nature and free from technology,” Majella says.

“At the same time I am an extravert – I get my energy from being around others, collaborating and solving challenges together. I am constantly looking for learning opportunities.”

“To me, a network represents the importance placed on the people around you – colleagues, industry folk, industry stakeholders, mentors, mentees.

“Collaborating with diverse people from your network will open up opportunities never thought possible.”

Majella’s five tips to harness future opportunities:

  1. Be strategic – identify the low hanging fruit with the highest impact.
  2. Be curious, ask questions and experiment with technology.
  3. Just start – technology/ digital tools are getting easier and easier to use and this will improve over time.
  4. Set time aside to do your own research, to learn how to use the technology you have invested in, seek help from the tech providers or manufacturers.
  5. Invest for the long term – upskill or onboard new talent in the areas of data management and data analysis.

Story by Emma Clarke

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