As I write this I have mixed feelings. It seems an age ago that I started the fellowship program and for most of it I was so busy growing the crop, learning, reading up on techniques and generally soaking up the experience that there was limited time to think about what would come next. However, as the project draws to a close, not only is the fellowship coming to an end but so is my degree. It will soon be time for the next step into another phase of my career.
The degree has enabled me to build on my practical skills and provided an introduction to the wide range of production techniques used in the industry. Science and the biological mechanisms controlling growth and postharvest of crops has also been another key aspect of the course, providing essential and interesting knowledge for my future.
The fellowship, on the other hand, has presented exposure and development in areas that the degree has not and in some cases cannot cover: running a research greenhouse for new product development, whilst simultaneously growing a commercial crop for sale to the public. It has also given me insights into business operations on a large scale and what is required to deal with large retailers and bring new products to market.
Taking on both tasks at the same time has placed a large demand on my time and at points left me feeling pretty stretched and juggling multiple tasks. Dedication to one task might have produced better results but until I graduate it's hard to say whether taking on both will have any impact on my final grades. However, you can't learn everything from books and ultimately it's the knowledge and experience that makes a person and not a grade on a piece of paper. This is an aspect I did consider before I began the fellowship and I think it was the right choice.
Since starting both, I have been exposed to a lot of interesting information, people and potential career avenues to pursue, as well as encountering exciting ideas in research articles and formulating a few of my own. So it's hard to say exactly what's in store for me next. As I'm sure you all know, much of life is down to being in the right place at the right time and dependent upon what opportunities present themselves.
Although what I do know is, this is a great and challenging time to be graduating into this field: great because there are many opportunities in the sector, however those opportunities are connected to challenges that ultimately face us all, whether we are inside or outside the industry. Finite supplies of key fossil fertilisers and rising energy prices lead to higher production costs, squeezing profit margins and food prices, whilst population growth and erratic weather from climate change puts increasing pressure on harvests and food security. However, some of these factors can be mitigated, through greenhouse growing, intensive production and technological advances, which in my humble opinion is one of the ways towards a stable and green future.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing my thoughts and reflections and maybe you'll hear more from me again in the future. Yours sincerely, Richard Killian.