Experienced and well travelled, Celia van Sprang is Staphyt Australasia’s newest Technical Manager

Meet our staff – This month, we introduce our newest Technical Manager, Celia van Sprang.

Starting with Staphyt as a Research Officer in August 2020, Celia quickly progressed into the role of a Technical Manager later that year. At Staphyt, a Technical Manager oversees the management portfolio of trials across the country, assisting the team with any operational and agronomic queries and working closely with our clients.  This role is pivotal in ensuring all our teams are well equipped with as much information as possible to deliver quality.  A typical day involves writing protocols for new trials, researching different crops and pests, uploading info and files to the Staphyt data management system, data checks, and report reviews.

Celia’s Agricultural career began with graduating with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science Degree from La Trobe University in 2010. During this study time, Celia had the opportunity to travel to Southern India for an AgriBusiness module and then to Canada to study abroad for a term at the University of Guelph.

We asked Celia where her study and career had taken her.

“Having worked various jobs mainly in the horticulture sector as a farmhand and Technical Sales Representative, before deciding to expand my career towards research. In 2013 I moved to the UK to complete a Master of Sustainable Agriculture at Harper Adams University. I then had the opportunity to work as a Graduate Research Consultant for ADAS UK for 2 years. Here I was able to gain valuable experience working in different farming systems that had both similar and different operations to Australia.”

“Returning to Australia in 2017, I landed in Queensland as a Team Leader for a seedling propagation farm and Lab Demonstrator for first-year Bio students before moving to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for 3 years with the Vegetable Production Systems team. This role focussed on evaluating different precision agriculture technologies in Vegetable production and investigating the possibility of yield prediction using satellite NDVI imagery in sweetcorn and carrots. This allowed me to travel across the country and work with growers and researchers in the Vegetable and Precision Agriculture sectors. During my time there, I was also involved with a project that evaluated the application of biofumigant crops as break crops.  The focus was providing growers with another option to manage some soil-borne diseases, as well as using them to provide protection against topsoil runoff during Queensland’s wet season.”

“Being a part of different aspects of farming and research has been a valuable asset to my day-to-day work and career. Agriculture is a dynamic industry, and I am always learning something new.“

What brings you the greatest satisfaction in your work / What do you love about working in agricultural science?

“I was, and still am, always interested with how things worked, and where our food and fibre come from, how the whole soil-plant-environment system worked. So agricultural science turned out to be a good choice of career! I am interested in both the production and research side of agriculture, so working in an industry where I can experience both is very satisfying. I am enthusiastic about applying research results to the agricultural industry, where progress in creating solutions for efficient and sustainable methods of farming can ensure our society and the agroecosystem can work together effectively and without significant impact to the environment.”

What do you think will be the biggest challenges in your job?

“Some of the main challenges of my job involve searching for the more elusive pests. Sometimes we are tasked to carry out trials at certain times of the season, but the pest pressure may be seasonal and not high enough. Other challenges might be weather, where we must delay trials because of rain. To get around this, we put out a call out to the rest of the field team to find the pest/crop target in their region (if the client is happy to relocate the trial). We are lucky to have such a large team that spans the country, allowing us to work in different areas and climates.”

How has the business of agricultural research changed during your time in Agriculture?

“Since graduating, I have been lucky enough to work in a few different research organisations, both academic and regulatory, where the focus tends to align in some areas.  Crop Protection and IPM will always be a significant topic to be involved with, as new chemistry, cultural methods and crop varieties are released for evaluation. There is an increasing focus on environmental stewardship and the awareness of protecting pollinators, topsoil, carbon capture and the introduction of riparian strips, to name a few.”

“AgTech is a dynamic area of the sector’s growth, with drones, AI and robotics being demonstrated in different applications to make agriculture more up to date and efficient.  It is also interesting to see crop genetics and breeding progress, providing growers with more options for growing crops in changing environmental conditions.”

What do you like to do to relax outside of work?

“I like to read and enjoy listening to and playing music. When the world opens after Covid restrictions, I would like to travel again.”