Interview – Paul Martin

Director of Australian Wild Camel Corporation – Paul Martin

What do you consider the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

Connecting people with good quality food and skin care products. Helping them to understand the benefits of camel milk and why we’ve put it in various products. That’s the key element to camels. It’s the milk, what it does, the probiotic in it, and you’re offering a product that is different to anything else. It’s fairly fun.

Creating opportunities for younger people to get involved in the agriculture industry, where they get to see a product sold. If you’re just selling a commodity like cattle, you’re so far removed from the person that’s eating the steak, there’s no link to your market for what you’re actually selling. There’s been a slight shift in people with money starting to have a bit more choice in where the products they eat are coming from. It’s rewarding educating the consumer on where they can source their products from.

The challenge right now is getting a plumber. I didn’t think it was going to be the biggest challenge of the whole project, but getting tradesmen to come out here is really difficult.

I suppose the challenge is building a project where you haven’t got all the money at the front end to do it. It’s one of the most challenging things but it’s been very positive for this project, because not having the money at the front has meant we’ve been very creative with how we have had to go forward with it. It’s made us think harder and challenge ourselves more. If we’d had what we wanted on day one to do the full project we’d be out at Alice Springs doing it, but we didn’t. So we’ve brought it back to here and done it differently. We linked it to the uni who are doing more development with the actual qualities of the milk. We’re building the brand, and that’s allowed us to start slowly and build numbers.

 

If people were considering a career in agriculture what advice would you give them?

Australia is one of the hardest places to do agriculture in the world. We’re the only first world country that doesn’t get massive subsidies. The flipside is why Australian farmers are so innovative. Problems are the point of opportunity. We’ve been built to be scared of problems, but really you should want to take problems on. If having zero problems means you’re in the Toowong Cemetery you’d say well let’s have the flipside being the more problems you’ve got the more opportunity you’re getting thrown at you. It’s about having that attitude. The more problems I’ve got the more alive I am, compared to the person with none. Be a problem solver. Food and food science, or anything to do with food, is going forward with population growth. So if you’re producing the high-quality stuff, or value adding something along the way, or putting a packet on it there is so much opportunity in this spectrum.

 

What qualifications or experience would be required to work on your farm?

Doing an integrated project like we’re doing means there’s a job for everyone. The guy who drives the tractor, you need people involved with smart ag GPS tracking, recording of daily water use etc. So it’s not just the person who wants to lift things and weld things with their hands, it’s the delicate touches of creating a cheese, pasteurising and dealing with the milk, and taking the milk to a skincare product where you’re looking at elements of science and physiology and human health.

To do this business, we have people catching wild camels and people training them. We have a system of training people, but people with animal experience that can pick up on cues from the animals and understand the feedback animals are giving saves us time. If you’re getting kicked you’ve completely missed about 20 different signals. So, it’s about picking up the signals.

Dairy side – having a few people understanding the machinery of dairy. Coordination of putting cups on and dealing with the animals.

Food safety area –  having respect for food safety documents, and because you’re dealing with food products you need to be conscious of your hygiene, what you do, and make sure it’s repeatable. As you’re moving down the chain you’ve got the café and tourism.

There’s multiple positions here for people with different skill sets but the main thing is to be keen to work, be part of a team, and be happy to do whatever needs doing, especially in a start-up. Take initiative in seeing what needs to be done.

 

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I was always going to do something in agriculture. There was a lot of pressure for me to get home during the dry, and I suppose I would’ve spent a bit more time overseas doing a bit of sport. There were some pretty nifty things happening with dairy construction and things like that overseas that were tickling my fancy when I was at college. There was an opportunity for some graduates to go over and be a part of that but I was needed at home as there was a lack of labour that happens with farms. Probably if I was passionate enough about it I would’ve done it. You’re always questioning yourself after the event but looking back, what I did and got involved in put me where I am today so it always happens the way it’s meant to.

 

Is there anything you can tell us about your job that people wouldn’t expect?

Most of the stuff we do here people are shocked by! It’s a hard one for me to answer because we come up with problems every day that you solve because they’re there, and you explain that to other people and they fall off their chair. You’ve got to be constantly problem solving. That’s certainly the case with camels. There is enough difference in them that every animal treatment, every ailment you treat is different just slightly to other animals. Because of their digestive tract they don’t give the same feedback as other ruminant or ruminant-style animals. There’s all this stuff that no one has done before and that’s where the team helps. Drawing on a lifetime of agriculture to solve these problems is interesting. This was a challenge within our team’s expertise and capability. You need to be open to challenge everything people think.