Tom, tell us a bit about yourself…
I grew up in Berrima NSW just under 2 hours south of Sydney. My father, a wool buyer, travels daily to Sydney but wanted our family to grow up out of the city. I have always had an interest in agriculture, mainly in the sheep and wool industry. I am the Operations Manager at AuctionsPlus and have been with the company for 5 years. My role leads me to manage the commercial livestock and stud livestock teams for AuctionsPlus, working closely with livestock producers, agents and buyers. In addition to this, I also manage the wool platform for AuctionsPlus – AuctionsPlus Wool, an online bid and offer board.
Prior to starting at AuctionsPlus, I worked as a horse handler at William Inglis and Son, thoroughbred auctioneers at Randwick. I graduated from Charles Sturt University Wagga with a Bachelor of Business Studies. Since then I have also completed further study, finishing my Masters of Agricultural Business Management by distance through Charles Sturt University in 2018. Also in 2018 I completed my NSW Stock and Station Certificate of Registration.
I joined the FFN board for a couple of reasons. Firstly, when I finished university, I was unsure of where to head and what to do to work in the livestock industry. I wished I had been more proactive and sought out opportunities within organisations like FFN. So, when a chance to apply for the FFN board became available I thought this is a great opportunity to offer what I had learnt in my short time, to people leaving university. In addition to this, the current AuctionsPlus CEO Angus Street, and the previous AuctionsPlus CEO Anna Speer were both on the board. They spoke extremely highly of the people you can meet and what you can learn through sitting on the board.
Tell us a bit about your career…how did you get from high-school to where you are today?
I finished high-school in 2008, I did not study agriculture. However, throughout school I had worked with William Inglis and Son and always thought I would head into the equine industry. After a gap year in the UK in 2009, I headed down to Charles Sturt University Wagga and started my Bachelor of Business Studies. Very quickly through my studies I decided I wanted to work in agriculture and mainly livestock, which stemmed from a combination of meeting people in the industry and learning about the industry. Once I completed university, I worked as a horse handler at William Inglis and Son in 2013 before starting at AuctionsPlus in the operations team.
What do you think has shaped your career, or had significant influence over where you are today?
My career has initially been shaped by my family. Without directly pushing me into agriculture both my mother and father have always made sure that I got a “healthy dose” of the bush. Whether it was my dad teaching me about wool and getting me to bid at the wool auctions as a 10-year-old. Or about sheep on the property he grew up on, which is now being run by my uncle. Or my mother taking me out to Baradine where she grew up and learning about the sawmill my grandfather ran until 2004. From there my career was shaped when I was at university. Meeting people through Wagga Agricultural College led me to learn all the different opportunities within agriculture. There was a cross-section of people who were at the end of their working career, starting their career, starting or finishing study. Which meant I was able to learn about many different industries.
If you could go back and give your 18-year old self some career advice, what would it be?
Take every opportunity that comes your way, agriculture is only a small industry so you never know who you will meet or what you can learn from them!
What excites you about the future of agriculture in Australia?
Technology being implemented on farm has such a huge potential, and we are only tapping the surface. It could be the on-farm testing of wool to be sold online on the day of shearing; sending the hologram of a stud ram from West Australia to New South Wales so growers do not need to look at it in the flesh but can see it walk around in a life-sized form. What’s more, the cost of new technologies is cheaper each day, taking these things from ideas to the consumer level is becoming easier and easier.