Young, driven and ready for a career in agribusiness

At 22 years of age, Elizabeth Ward spends most of her working week among grape vines and under almond trees in one of South Australia’s picturesque food and wine regions, McLaren Vale.

Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador is in her final year of an agricultural science degree at the University of Adelaide and has scored an internship with independent agricultural consultancy DJ’s Growers, where she is learning about the world of agronomy.

Elizabeth has few doubts about her future and securing full-time work in SA’s agribusiness industry, with her university course’s webpage stating “there are five jobs for every one graduate”.

“One of the key selling points for students looking at studying ag science is the opportunity for graduates,” she says.

“I think people are pretty confident that there are jobs out there, and I’ve found from speaking to people in the industry that there are jobs to be filled.

“So I think SA is really cool in that there are many jobs in agriculture.”

Working for three days a week for DJ’s Growers in vineyards across McLaren Vale, the soon-to-be university graduate has already got her foot in the door of the state’s agribusiness sector.

I Choose SA for Agribusiness ambassador Elizabeth Ward is undertaking a paid internship at local agronomy consultancy DJ’s Growers. Photo by James Knowler/JKTP.

The business’s consultants and agronomists are in charge of regularly monitoring vines and crops, providing technical advice to producers of winegrapes, orchard fruits, potatoes, horticulture crops, pasture and broad-acre crops.

Agronomists help detect pests and diseases before suggesting and monitoring appropriate controls to help reduce economic damage to crops. They also monitor soil quality and salinity, and give advice on the right tools to improve produce quality.

Elizabeth is one of three internship participants currently monitoring vine health in large-scale and boutique vineyards prior to the harvest season in early 2019.

“We use an app called Agworld Scout to record and monitor the growth stage of the vines, then we report back to our agronomist, who reports back to the grower, who can then decide on the management of their crop,” she says.

“It’s wonderful working outside, I love it. McLaren Vale a great spot to work and I really enjoy working with such beautiful crops as well.

“The growth of them is so quick. In the past six weeks we’ve seen them go from being pretty much bare to really gorgeous canopies.”

DJ’s Growers intern and I Choose SA ambassador Elizabeth Ward monitors vine and crop health in preparation for harvest. Photo by James Knowler/JKTP.

Elizabeth’s curiosity about the world of food production and a passion for the state’s abundance of high-quality produce was all it took to spark a desire to pursue a career in agribusiness.

Studying for three years between the University of Adelaide’s North Terrace, Waite and Roseworthy campuses, she says her studies have exposed her to crop, livestock and soil sciences, biology, biochemistry, genetics, and soil and animal health.

Students also access the latest research and technology and build practical skills through a number of work experience opportunities, with 91% of the university’s ag science graduates finding full-time employment within months of finishing their degree.

Elizabeth also spent a semester on an agricultural science exchange at the University of Guelph in Canada.

Viticultural agronomist Joe Siebert completed the agronomist internship in 2016 before transitioning into a full-time role at DJ’s Growers.

Servicing soil moisture monitoring equipment installed in 200 vineyards across Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, and Barossa Valley, he also provides technical support and knowledge for winegrape growers.

Joe’s work involves regular monitoring of vineyards for pests and diseases, assessing the quality of the vine and crop, and advising on the appropriate use of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides when needed.

Photo: PIRSA.

DJ’s Growers takes pride in its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, which involves more environmentally sensitive methods for controlling pests, rather than the use of chemicals and insecticides.

An example of IPM is the use and fostering of ‘beneficial insects’ released into strawberry crops or hot-house environments to control unwanted insects.

Joe also provides services on mapping, canopy measurements, soil and plant nutrition, irrigation water quality and irrigation advice.

He says DJ’s Growers is an independent and unbiased agronomy business that places paramount importance on the needs of local growers and their crops.

“Our primary focus is to provide good technical advice that improves crops and returns to the grower. We try and look at it from the perspective of ‘how can we make sure they are still doing business in 10 years’ time?’

“We are very much tailored to every grower’s needs.”

DJ’s Growers is currently supporting more than 100 producers growing a number of crops including winegrapes, potatoes, strawberries, cherries, almonds, olives, onions, garlic, broad-acre crops and salad greens, just to name a few.

DJ’s also stocks its own line of organic and conventional fertilisers designed for local conditions to combat problems such as low yields and build ups of high soil salinity.

Industry in focus: Agribusiness

Throughout the month of October, the state’s agribusiness industry will be under the magnifying glass as part of I Choose SA.

South Australian farmers, producers, agricultural researchers and biosecurity workers are the lifeblood of our country communities and are big players in the state’s overall economic welfare. Read more stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Top Note launches red and rare sweet drop

Kuitpo couple Nick and Cate Foskett have backgrounds as far from winemaking as you can get – opera singing and IT – but their latest winemaking pursuit has struck a rare chord.

The Fosketts, who are behind Top Note Vineyard, are pouring a new release of a dessert wine made from the rare red semillon (also known as semillon rose) grape.

Top Note is one of the few places where the pink-berried variety is planted separately, as it’s usually scattered among one in every 30 or so white semillon vines.

The 2017 Noble Rose dessert wine is “less sweet” than past vintages due to a later than average harvest last year.

The Fosketts say the drop shows “orange blossom, jasmine and white tea on the nose with touches of lime”.

“The wine is delicate and has a good balance between acidity and sweetness with honey, citrus and nougat flavours on the palate,” says Cate, who has built a career in opera singing both in South Australia and overseas.

The 2017 Noble Rose.

The new release is named Noble Rose in reference to both the semillon rose variety and the ‘noble rot’, botrytis.

Botrytis is a bunch rot that can occur in grapes and is responsible for making dessert wine so sweet.

The rot draws moisture from the berry, concentrating sugars and therefore increasing sweetness and flavour of the fruit.

“Semillon is the queen of dessert wine grapes and we wanted to do something special with these gorgeous, fat, pink grapes,” Cate says.

“We thought we’d try to cane cut it and raisin the grapes on the vine, while allowing any natural botrytis development to add complexity to the wine.”

The Fosketts first released a red semillon drop in 2013.

Prominent five-star Sydney restaurant Aria bought 25% of the vintage and matched it to desserts on their degustation menu for six months.

Other fancy establishments also took a liking to it, including Restaurant Orana, Mount Lofty House and Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island.

So what makes red semillon so special?

Nick and Cate Foskett. PHOTO: Brian Kowald Photography.

A occurring mutation of the white semillon variety, red semillon is widely found in France and South Africa and was first planted in the Barossa Valley in the 1930s.

In 1995, prominent SA viticulturist and winemaker Neville Falkenberg transplanted canes from the red berry vines to three cool climate vineyards.

“He planted these canes as rows of just the pink on our vineyard, with white semillon right next to it,” Cate says.

Cate and Nick Foskett bought the Kuitpo property in 2011.

Cate had been based in London for more than a decade before returning to Adelaide to perform in State Opera of SA shows, among others.

She met Nick, a computer chip designer who had worked in Silicon Valley.

A curiosity for winemaking took charge, with the pair studying the craft at university.

The 2017 Noble Rose will officially launch at a sold out garden party on February 11.

Top Note’s cellar door is at 558 Peters Creek Road, Kuitpo, and is open on weekends and public holidays from 11am­–4pm.

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New flavours of the Hills at Longview Vineyard

Adelaide Hills wine lovers might have heard whispers along the grapevine that Pound Road in Macclesfield is worth a stop for a tipple or two.

Except now the whispers aren’t so secret, as family-owned Longview Vineyard has set the bar for new winery experiences in the region.

If there was ever a time to venture to the cool climate, single vineyard that lies 2.5km past Macclesfield’s Crystal Lake it’s now.

Longview has revealed two new rustic tasting venues and a Sunday long lunch offering.


Since breaking ground in the summer of 2015, brothers Peter and Mark Saturno have overseen renovations to the cellar door, kitchen and office, with a new handcrafted tasting room and vista room.

The tasting room replaces the function of its existing “quaint and pokey” cellar door.

Visitors can undertake a wine tasting ($5, redeemable on any purchase) or indulge in the premium and Nebbiolo experiences ($15) to sample some of the top shelf drops.

A new menu of light, seasonal Italian fare will satisfy the nibblers with the family’s own panini and cured meats.

A new, more exclusive Della Casa Sunday feast has also been launched, allowing diners to relax and enjoy the fare while overlooking the vines.

For $55 diners are treated to a multi-course offering of traditional and modern Italian appetisers, mains, sweets and cheese.

The new vista room is a private wining and dining area, seating about 20 people and offering a sense of exclusivity.

The overhaul was driven by vineyard property manager Ian Leiblich who ensured the works were undertaken by local tradesmen.

The new tasting room features a rustic-chic design.

The new tasting room features a rustic-chic design.

Recycled materials are featured throughout the space, as is the unique Macclesfield pink sandstone.

Co-owner Peter Saturno says the renovations help build upon the Hills’ sense of discovery as visitors can stumble across new flavours and wine varieties.

He runs the show at Longview alongside his actor brother Mark, who has spent time in New York and stars in the State Theatre Company’s production Vale until December 3.

While Mark’s passion lies between the vines and the stage, Peter says he has also long held an appreciation for art – something Longview features strongly throughout the property.

In January 2018, hundreds of people will flock to the vineyard for the annual Crush Festival and Piece Project, sipping wine while watching four street artists create a piece from scratch.

“We have both had a great appreciation for graffiti art from a very young age,” says Peter.

“2018 will be our eighth Crush festival … people love coming up here and we get a crowd number of about 1300-1400 each time.”

Mark, front, and Peter Saturno. PHOTO: Amanda Davenport

Mark, front, and Peter Saturno. PHOTO: Amanda Davenport.

At next year’s Crush, Longview will welcome highly respected DJ Norman Jay MBE to spin some tunes.

Longview also offers a range of accommodation, including a country homestead and a range of suites overlooking the vines.

Peter says the Adelaide Hills is punching above its weight in terms of unique food and wine offerings and experiences.

“I think we still have a long way to go but the offerings in the Hills are as good as they have ever been,” he says.

“There are lots of exciting things happening here and it’s certainly one of the most exciting wine regions in the country.

“Restaurateurs and wine buyers are loving hills wines because they are made well.”

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