Meet Caleb – Vineyard Technical Officer

Meet Caleb Dennis, a vineyard technical officer, whose love of science and business led him to a career in the primary industries.

Helping manage a vineyard requires some pretty sharp science and business skills, a fact that Caleb Dennis, group technical officer at Craggy Range Winery, knows very well.

Caleb’s main job is to manage the vineyard’s technical programme – which has even seen him help develop software to help make the vineyard run more smoothly.

Check out the video below to learn how Caleb’s love of science and business put him in good stead for a career in the primary industries.

Interested in a career like Caleb’s? Learn about being a crop farmer/crop manager in our job profile.

Caleb Dennis talks about what he does in his role at Craggy Range Winery – 2.40 mins. (Video courtesy of Ministry for Primary Industries)

Caleb: My primary role in our vineyards is to manage our technical programme. That’s things like our spray programmes, our pest and disease, our yield management monitoring, setting targets for different blocks and setting our viticulture programme as well.

So I started out straight out of university. I asked for a reference and got offered a job. And I basically started out driving a tractor and being the 2IC on some of our regional vineyards.

From there I got involved with a project to do with end-to-end business software we were developing. So I developed the vineyard side of that for us.

Then, from there that just grew into the current role I’ve got [group technical officer].

I’ve always enjoyed being outside. I also quite like the science business side of things as well, and viticulture really provides a good balance for that for me.

But yeah, I came from Wellington, Dad’s an accountant, Mum’s a teacher, grandparents are teachers, so yeah, no farming in my background.

In horticulture there’s certainly a lack of young people, so that does open up a lot of opportunities for people that look for them.

Like anything, if you look for them and you want to go for them they’re there for you.

So we’ve got a real team structure here. We’ve got the national vineyard manager, myself and then we’ve got vineyard managers at each of our sites. We make decisions as a group. No one tells anybody what to do in terms of viticultural decisions, and the responsibility lies with the different people in different parts of the structure and different decisions. And because of that, we have to work together to achieve the best outcomes and that actually allows us to achieve a better outcome than one person’s opinion.

The weather’s definitely the biggest challenge. It’s the only thing you can’t plan for and can’t change. But there’s lots of small challenges along the way. There’s nothing you do which is easy. I think that would be boring if everything was easy.

Hand picking is a challenge. We’ve got 60 pickers out at one of the vineyards today, all hand picking, so you’ve got to organise that. Organise fruit transport around the country. You’ve got to organise the spray programmes. Everything has got its challenges.

I’m doing something different every day. I’m out there - you never quite know exactly what the next day is going to bring. You’re continually learning and growing.

And what you’re doing is making a difference. I’m lucky I’m working for a really nice winery, we produce some fantastic wine. And I can take that wine and take it around to my friend’s place for dinner or I can show people that wine.

I was involved a couple of weeks ago with a big function for all of our key customers. I was pouring some of our premium wine there, and to be able to interact with those customers and see how much joy they get out of something you produce is really, really satisfying.

Updated 17 Sep 2019