Local scholar learns from US citrus trip

The enormous scale of citrus operations in California and the latest industry innovations impressed Queenslander Hugh Tully when he travelled to the US as part of an emerging leaders scholarship.

Hugh Tully says he was impressed by the technology and infrastructure in California.

J-Tech Systems sponsored the scholarship, valued at approximately $10,000.

Hugh travelled with J-Tech Systems General Manager Cameron McInness for ten days. They first flew into New Orleans for the PMA Fresh Summit.

“I think there was about 20,000 people there and it showed the latest and greatest in innovation in fresh produce; packaging, packing technology, labelling, the whole gamut,” Hugh said.

Hugh and Cameron then travelled to California to visit a few packing sheds and other operations.

“I was in awe of the Wonderful Citrus’s packing sheds outside of Delano in California,” Hugh said.

“They had an 80-lane packing shed and a couple of thousand people work there.

“I’d guess the shed was the same size of our orchard.”

“And all the technology they use is cutting edge.

“It was a real eye opener for me.”

Hugh took on the role as operations manager at Ironbark Citrus at Mundubbera in Queensland four years ago.

He was working in corporate recruitment in Brisbane and his wife Alicia was keen to move back to Ironbark, which was founded and is managed by Susan and Allen Jenkin.

“To other young people considering a career in the citrus industry, I’d say do it, it’s a great industry,” he said.

“It’s not just about growing fruit, but also packing, marketing and more, there’s hundreds of different jobs in the industry and lots of offshoots from those as well.

“It’s interesting and I don’t plan on doing anything else.”

Hugh and Alicia have also bought their own block near the family’s operation.

“Since I’ve worked in citrus, I’ve been focused on growing the fruit and this trip allowed me to explore other aspects of the fresh fruit industry.

“I’m interested in learning more about marketing and business.”

The scholarship also included the intensive three-day course, PMA Australia-New Zealand Produce Development Program.

Hugh said he enjoyed the course, which taught them about strategic thinking, effective communications, presentation and other important business skills.