“50 years in the profession!" It all starts with influences and support, as a new graduate you cannot be expected to be fully competent and the support mechanisms and networks need to be in place to allow the graduate to earn his place. My career was greatly influenced by the support of colleagues in ADAS, SAC, the IAgrE but most of all in NIAE and SIAE, the two power houses of technical advancement. Much research was translated through the Institution Journal identifying specialists who you could talk to! As a new graduate with ADAS, it was exciting to respond to requests for help and information at the front edge, which now seem quite mundane, the cold chain, apple pickers, testing gas seals of apple stores, planning gilled pipes for glasshouse heating and new grain drier designs. They drew on basic engineering but nothing was better than to rub shoulders with the real researchers at Institution conferences, Gordon Shepperson, Martin Nellist, Peter Baillie,etc, etc.
In Scotland, our Conferences drew on these experts and made significant contributions to the IAgrE coffers with large attendances in the late 70’s. These conferences helped potato farmers for example, to make a step change from bulk to box, stone windrowing, complete harvesters and new storage designs - inevitably followed by BIG equipment! As a“mechanisation man” working with innovators was highly motivating, testing Bill Halley’s prototype raspberry harvester in 70’s and working with Brian Mitchell, who was first to use bags for baled silage and then used a hand applicator to wrap bales. Like most historical developments this is pretty main stream now with automation, but it starts somewhere and individuals like these make the changes that provide benefit throughout the world. The small development initiatives are to be applauded and reporting these has an important place in our Institution.
Over time it is interesting to see the same agricultural challenges being addressed, now it is coming down to monitoring and control, or should I say drone control! Horticulture adopted the imaging research of some 30-40 years ago which is now in the mass production growing and grading “factories” that supply food production and retail, not to mention the garden centres. Long gone are the days of “picking your stint” behind the tattie spinner, now a comfy seat in a mobile harvesting and packing unit...but still hands on the crop...come on let’s get rid of people all together..NOoooo!
Careers develop with opportunities and influences but retaining motivation to progress drives us forward. The foundations of professional networks, academic, research, knowledge application or in education are essential. My career was supported by practical knowledge and access to researchers. Positive support, direction and constructive comment greatly enhanced motivation, life achievements and personal satisfaction, and the converse - lack of constructive support and praise, was totally de-motivating. So if you manage staff, being a good, positive manager to those staff, greatly increases your strength and the team capacity – pretty obvious!
I hope in my career I have added one grain of sand to the ever moving dune that is progress, have influenced some decisions and passed on some pearls of wisdom to the many students who were unfortunate enough to be entertained by me.
History - Started as mechanisation adviser with ADAS in Somerset with Bob Falkingham (1969), before moving to ESCA with Brian Witney (1972), then moving to Auchincruive (1983) as Head of Engineering Department then as Head of Engineering for SAC. Retired 2000