Agricultural career choice has already provided a vast and varied journey
A keen interest in science and learning – coupled with working directly with people who benefit from your endeavours – has been a driving force behind Peracto Study Director, Kate Allen’s, career.1. What projects are you currently involved in?
I am directly involved with crop residue studies, which generate residue data under a quality system called GLP (Good Laboratory Practice). The data collected in these studies is generally used to set Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for registration, or offlabel minor-use permits issued by the APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority). We conduct this work for several agrochemical companies and industry funded bodies. Our teams work in a range of locations across Australia and are involved in a variety of crops ranging from almonds to sugarcane, sunflowers to hydroponic tomatoes. Our GLP recognition with NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) was recently expanded to include environmental toxicity studies on aquatic and terrestrial organisms.2. What attracted you to a career in agricultural science?
I didn’t come from a farming background and when I was growing up I actually wanted to be a vet. I had a general interest in science and learning, and the school I attended had a good agricultural science program so I was able to get a feel for what I enjoyed. I liked Agricultural career choice has already provided a vast and varied journey the idea of being able to work outdoors, and the physical aspect of agricultural work, combined with problem solving and working in a team environment.3. How has your career progressed to date?
When I started my agricultural science degree I wasn’t sure what field I wanted to work in. We covered a diverse range of units before I had to make any significant decisions about what area I should specialise in. In my final year I chose to focus my Honours research project on a viticulture topic, and my first job when I left uni was at a winery. My next job was with a viticulturist as an assistant where I gained valuable experience in the vineyard and developed other skills in coordination of harvesting, communication and liaising with clients. I left this industry to gain a broader knowledge of other aspects of agriculture and worked for one year as a trainee agronomist. I then moved into research as I wanted to understand more about the scientific principles behind agrochemicals and decisions associated with their use. In my first years with Peracto I was a Research Officer involved with efficacy and GLP residue field trial work, spraying trials, doing assessments and writing reports. A Study Director role became available in the GLP unit and I pursued this opportunity to work more in the area of coordinating and monitoring trials, and collating data and reporting. I am currently one of five Study Directors with Peracto. The position involves close liaison with existing and new external clients, field operators and analytical labs. My responsibilities include training staff, initiating improvements to our internal GLP systems and procedures, and supervising trials to ensure that field studies comply with GLP principles.4. What are some of the opportunities/highlights you have enjoyed along the way?
I have really enjoyed working with a variety of people from different areas of expertise across a diverse range of crops. No day is exactly the same. Peracto also has offices across Australia so I’ve had the opportunity to travel to different regions to work.5. What’s the best thing about working in the industry?
You get a real buzz when you know the work you do is directly benefitting those who need it most. The people are down to earth and genuine. “I get the chance to help farmers by giving them improved crop protection options and it’s great to see the results first hand in many instances.” It’s also an industry where you have the chance to really get to know your client, forming invaluable and important relationships, which go a long way in helping to provide the best outcomes.»