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Angela Pattison's success story

Agricultural scientist, Angela Pattison, grew up in Sydney. Her school had a small farming plot, which sparked her interest to learn more about the agriculture industry. 

Agricultural scientist, Angela Pattison, grew up in Sydney. Her school had a small farming plot, which sparked her interest to learn more about the agriculture industry.

“There was a tiny ag plot down the back corner of the school with four sheep and some chooks plus a few beds of veggies,” Angela said. “I did agriculture at school and loved it – the combination of being outdoors and knowing I could make food for people really struck a chord with me.”

Angela went on to study agricultural science at the University of Sydney. At the end of her studies, a lecturer offered Angela a job as a technical officer in the triticale breeding program.

“I really loved the job, so I decided to do a PhD in triticale breeding and quality. Many people think I’m crazy when I say triticale makes good food – it makes very tasty biscuits and the weak gluten means it is less irritable for people with a gluten intolerance than products made with wheat flour.”

“As a city girl I had to do a fair bit on on-the-job training in heavy machinery. But I’ve found everyone to be very supportive, and even though agriculture sometimes has a ‘blokey’ image, I’ve never felt discriminated against as a female. In fact, I was once told that women make good header drivers because they tend to be more careful!”

To complete the PhD, Angela moved out of the “big smoke” and also spent five months in rural USA. She did some side study in entrepreneurial business, which increased her skills in the economic side of farming.

“For the last six months of my PhD I moved to Narrabri to use some specialist flour quality equipment. While I was there I met a local man, fell in love and decided to stay,” Angela said.

Angela got a job working for the University of Sydney in Narrabri. In her role, Angela looks for chickpeas that thrive in hot and dry conditions, and then cross breeds them with current cultivars.

“This means importing chickpea seeds from hot and dry places overseas, then testing them in the field and glasshouse at work,’ Angela said.

“Chickpeas that show promise are chosen as ‘parents’ for potential new cultivars, and we take the pollen from the male parent and dab it on the flowers of the female parent with tweezers. If a seed is formed, we take the plant through about six years of testing before concluding whether it is an improvement on what is already available.”

Angela likes that her role is active; her “outdoor office” has lots of fresh air and mountain views. Angela especially likes that her research helps to make food more available to people around the world.

“Everyone needs to eat and eat well. Many people don’t get enough food and some get too much of the wrong kinds of food. Its very satisfying to know I am increasing production of something that is essential for everyone.”
Angela has settled into the Narrabri community and is now a mum to a baby girl. In future, she would like to research Australian native food plants.

“We have a wealth of delicious foods right under our noses. I’m hoping to work more with Indigenous Australians to see the incredible foods their ancestors harvested for thousands of years, and for them to be used more in everyday diets.”

Angela’s tips to work in agricultural science:
- You must have confidence, a love of nature, physical endurance and an analytical mind.
- There’s plenty of jobs in agricultural science. If you are not from a rural background, I suggest doing a TAFE or University degree, and take every opportunity to do work experience while you are studying.
- If you are diligent and show you are willing to ‘have a go’, more than likely you will get noticed and offered a job along the way.
- Rural areas have smaller populations, so you would be competing with less people for jobs, and employers are always looking for good workers.

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