Brooke-Barnett founded AUSVEG SA four years ago as the representative body for South Australia’s $700 million vegetable industry.
Since then, AUSVEG SA has grown from one staff member to five and fought local government rate increases as well as successfully lobbying for access to the $150 million Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme.
Brooke-Barnett says his aim is to continue working closely with industry to manage the rising costs of doing business and ensure that South Australia’s vegetable sector remains competitive.
In June, he was named as one of InDaily’s 40 Under 40, which recognises the best and brightest young business people in South Australia.
What is the single most important lesson you have learnt in your business career so far?
To build a strong team and network around me to support in all my business and personal goals. There is only so much you can achieve on your own and having people around me helps to amplify my individual and organisational work and achieve results.
In advocacy work, I often deal with large and complex issues, so achieving results means bringing multiple interests and personalities to the table and negotiating outcomes for industry.
In the past two years, I have spent significant time fine-tuning our AUSVEG SA board to bring on the commercial, industry and administrative expertise necessary to grow our organisation’s impact.
In addition, it is very important I stay in tune with what is happening at the grassroots within industry to ensure our organisation fully understands and is able to respond to issues on behalf of SA farmers. Building relationships and networks has been key to achieving results and has supported my career growth to date.
What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?
South Australia has a big country town feel where I have had the opportunity to meet and spend time with industry and governmental leaders, which is important to the work I do with AUSVEG SA.
Often issues in my business are solved through relationships and networks, therefore it is great to have the opportunity to get to know people throughout the business community and government, which is more of a challenge in other states.
At an industry level, we are very tight knit and I have the opportunity to stay close to our grassroots growers while working and collaborating closely with government. The South Australian business and government community tends to be smaller than interstate counterparts, but is very supportive to up-and-coming leaders.
What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?
South Australia faces challenges in that, while there are strong industry networks to support young leaders, there tends to be greater opportunities interstate due to the scale of industry. It is always a challenge for young people coming back.
Many of the ready-made career and business and career opportunities are not as abundant as on the east coast. As a result, professionals have to work harder to take charge and take responsibility for growing their own businesses and careers.
Do you see your future in South Australia?
I have settled in South Australia with my family and definitely see our future in South Australia.
As someone who has worked interstate, I think South Australia offers a unique lifestyle and opportunities for professionals and I would like to stay here for as long as possible.
My short-term focus involves further development of AUSVEG SA, however, I am hopeful that there will be other opportunities within South Australia in the future within the field of advocacy so I can remain well into the future.
How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?
South Australia will probably continue to lose a number of graduates to the eastern states due to comparable economic opportunities. So, the best thing is to promote business development and entrepreneurial development in our state to address this gap.
In addition, South Australia is a fantastic place to start a family and offers, in my opinion, quality of life benefits over big cities interstate.
A potential strategy could be to target mid-career professionals from interstate to come home and make a contribution to the state economy at an age where they are ready to settle down and value things like quality of life and having family supports close by.
It is also essential that as a state we put policy platforms in place which encourage inbound investment, inbound migration of skilled workers and thinkers and policies which support entrepreneurialism and startup development.
All of this will contribute to the growth of our South Australian economy and therefore the retention of our best and brightest.
To see the full list of 40 winners, go here.
InDaily is profiling each of the winners – go here to read more.
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