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Scholar profile. Matthew Pooley

Scholar profile. Matthew Pooley

Minimising costs and maximising your returns sounds like a good theory for any business, but for Matt Pooley, it’s a theme that has driven his Nuffield travel around the world.

More specifically, Matt focussed on innovations and sustainability initiatives in small-scale wineries to bring home to his Tasmanian business and his industry more broadly.

As viticulturist for Pooley Wines, the family business based in Seven Mile Beach near Hobart, sustainable small-scale winery management is a subject that is close to home for Matt.

“I’m very passionate about reducing costs and reducing inputs and hence reducing waste at the other end, so from our point of view it was great to have this opportunity to travel the world to look at systems and hopefully bring practices back to our business. I hope we can also act as an example to other wine growers and show them things that can be done in a winery,” Matt says.

With plans initially to use his 2013 Nuffield Scholarship to, in his own words, find a new ‘you beaut’ innovation tool to change his business, Matt quickly realised the real goal was improved sustainability.

“As things evolved, my interest became in not just sustainability, but more sustainability from an industry perspective, so looking at how the Australian wine industry fits in to some sort of certified sustainable production protocol,” he says.

The new direction led Matt to learn about sustainable practices in Oregon, particularly the LIVE program (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), as well as seeing the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Lodi systems at work in California. Further travel to Southern New Zealand focused on sustainability programs being utilised in small-scale wineries and vineyards.

“I quickly learnt that to run a vineyard and winery well, you’ve got to minimise costs and maximise returns and from that point of view I could see a lot of advantages in the systems I saw,” Matt explained.

While there were plenty of innovative production systems to inspect, Matt was also struck by how well industry was supported.

“I was impressed how some of the government departments have really got behind and supported their industry development, while here in Australia we haven’t really had that pull through from the government point of view.

For example, New Zealand’s sustainability wine-growing practices were really taken up and advertised well – you could go on to a property and see a sign on the front gate saying ‘Sustainable New Zealand Wine Growing’, which was fantastic.
Here in Australia we’ve got nothing in that regard, although travelling the world did reinforce to me that one thing we do have is a lot of entrepreneurial, switched-on winemakers,” he says.

Matt’s scholarship was sponsored by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority, who he says has been encouraging him to help industry take the next step with an industry-wide sustainability push.

“Everything’s been laid out and all the research has been done, it’s just time to take it too that next political level. The Tasmanian industry is growing, it’s jockeying itself to be in one of the best possible positions within the Australian wine production market, and I’m certainly going to be behind it and really pushing it from that point of view.

From the Pooley Wines perspective, we’re going to keep doing what we do – focussing on quality, reducing our inputs, and maximising our outputs,” Matt concludes.

Eventually, Pooley Wines hopes to establish a best practice winery facility that will become a model for small-scale cool climate wine production in Tasmania and beyond.

You can watch Matt presenting his findings at the Nuffield Australia conference in Launceston here and follow him on Twitter.

Nuffield Australia is an organisation which provides opportunities to Australian farmers between the ages of 28 and 40 to travel the globe investigating a research topic important to them and Australian agriculture.

The scholarships, each worth $30-thousand, enable successful applicants to travel the world researching a topic of importance to them personally and to their broader industry. Applications for the 2016 round of scholarships will be opening on the 1st April 2015.

To keep up with the latest from our organisation, please connect with us at nuffield.com.au, on twitter @nuffieldaust and #nuffieldag, and on Nuffield Australia’s Facebook page.

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