1. Penny Measham, Director, Greenlife Industry Australia (Image: Penny Measham)
Penny Measham’s work has taken her from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture to Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Penny hopes to bring her horticultural skills to her new role as a Director of Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA), particularly as the association seeks to reduce biosecurity threats to and develop career pathways for industry members.
Penny grew up in Evandale in northern Tasmania where her first exposure to the greenlife industry came when she completed a Certificate III in Horticulture through TAFE. Penny then worked briefly as a landscape designer.
“It introduced me to the diversity and wonder of plant life,” says Penny of this time. “I just wanted to know more about plants and decided to go back to university as a mature age student.”
Penny completed a PhD in plant physiology in 2011 at the University of Tasmania, after receiving first class Honours in a Bachelor of Applied Science. Her PhD thesis was on ‘Rain-Induced fruit cracking in sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.)’
“I looked at the ability of perennial fruit trees to withstand excessive rain, reducing damage to plants from extreme climate events,” Penny explains, “I found there were actually two underlying mechanisms to water entry into fruit which enabled different management strategies based on those mechanisms to reduce up to 50 per cent of that damage. And I got to see industry take up some of those management strategies because they worked very closely in the research as well.”
Penny then worked as a Research Fellow with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) for several years, covering climate adaptation, post-harvest science, plant physiology, and crop production.
“My research was very broad in all aspects of crop production, including nursery stock and the influence of arbuscular mycorrhizae on root development and transplant shock,” Penny says.
As well as developing and coordinating several units for the Agricultural Science degree, Penny’s role also included industry development with a national focus.
“This work exposed me to the challenges in biosecurity that a number of industries were facing,” Penny explains, “I completed a Graduate Diploma in Plant Biosecurity, so that I could help industries navigate regulations and bring industry, government and research together in the biosecurity space. I have been working in biosecurity ever since then.”
Penny then worked for Hort Innovation for five years, starting as its Queensland Fruit Fly Area Wide Management Coordinator for the SITplus program, before becoming a Research and Development Manager and subsequently its Head of International Trade.
Penny’s next career move saw her take up a role with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Fruit Fly Research Coordination, balancing that role with a position as Senior Lecturer Sustainable Horticulture at the Queensland University of Technology.
“I really wanted the connection to industry, which made me jump into the role with the Department given its market access and fruit fly team,” Penny says, “At the same time, I wanted to get back to my roots in education and lecturing in botany, plant biology and invasion biology.”
Last month, Penny stepped into a new role as the Department’s Director of Subtropical Fruits and Genetic Improvement.
Penny’s decision to nominate for the GIA board comes at a point in her career where she would like to give back to industry.
“Industry gave me a start. I have learned a lot over 20 years, and I would like to use those skills and experiences that I have developed in a way that benefits industry,” Penny explains.
“The greenlife industry is really challenged when it comes to biosecurity, given the breadth of plants being produced,” says Penny, “I want to help growers to navigate the regulatory environment in biosecurity.”
“I am also hoping that I can contribute to good governance, and the financial management of the association,” adds Penny.
As well as managing the Hort Innovation’s Biosecurity and Market Access R&D levy investment portfolio, Penny has a Graduate Certificate in Commerce.
Penny is also hoping to share her educational experience to help GIA develop strategies for career pathways.
“I have taught at university level, and I have also undertaken a lot of volunteer work with both primary and secondary schools, teaching horticulture and agricultural science,” Penny explains.
Penny currently sits on the executive committee for the Australian Society for Horticultural Science which supports horticultural science and horticultural education.
With a busy career and four children, Penny likes to take some time for herself.
“If I read a book, I can pretty much ignore everything that is going on around me,” Penny explains, “I like all sorts of books, but my go to book is a good crime thriller”.
Given her self-professed love for plants, it is not surprising that Penny also enjoys walking, botanical gardens, flowers, and growing orchids, all of which she says bring her peace and calm. Whilst she does not have a favorite orchid, Penny says she would like to try her hand at growing vanilla.
“I just love plants, and I love flowers and fruit and I love making jam,” enthuses Penny, “Plants are amazing!”