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Mark cultivates a successful side business

Humble young horticulturist, Mark Shereb, is pursuing his passion for plants and growing his orchid breeding business.

Mark recently achieved success at the Eastern District Orchid Society’s competition this year, being awarded Champion Novice, for his spectacular entry at the popular spring flower event, which coincided with the annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.

While Mark might be the youngest member of the Eastern District Orchid Society, his knowledge about the popular and diverse plant species is evident in spades.

“Orchid breeding is a strange and beautiful thing,” explained Mark.

“We’re trying to improve the plant, by taking two of the best parts of the parent plants, to get a hybrid child plant with all the strengths of its’ parents. For example, as I was breeding for colour and shape, I crossed a Rodrumnia with a Tolumnia and the result was an improvement in the size and colour of the flower.”

Mark is using the latest in horticulture technology, and honing his ability to use plant tissue culture techniques, to grow unique orchid varieties.

“Tissue culture essentially involves taking a piece of a plant and multiplying it into hundreds, if not thousands, of plants from that initial piece. There is a lot involved with choosing the right mother plant from the beginning to ensure that you grow genetically strong plants as a result,” advised Mark.

“I use a laminar flow hood, basically a big clean sterile box that blows clean air through a thing called a HEPA filter. It makes the environment inside less likely to have contamination, like bacteria and mould, which is important to eliminate in tissue culture.”

Mark graduated from completing his Certificate III in Horticulture (AHC30716) at TAFE Queensland’s Ipswich campus last year and the course has solidified his understanding of how to grow and care for plants.

“My best friend was interested in horticulture and even though I wasn't initially too keen, somewhere along the lines of him non-stop talking about plants, I decided to give it a go as well,” Mark responded when asked why he decided to study horticulture.

“Then our interest in plants diverged into orchid breeding, and we both joined the Eastern District Orchid Society two years ago.”

Mark enjoyed the tactile, practical learning aspects of horticulture, and he tapped into his teacher’s extensive industry experience and knowledge regularly.

“I chose TAFE Queensland because the units looked interesting and well-structured. I’m a bit of a kinaesthetic learner, so I needed to be hands-on,” he said.

“Darren Davidson and Paul Luck were fantastic horticulture teachers and were key to my learning journey. I asked a lot of questions and they always made an effort to respond to my emails and questions. I’m very appreciative to them both for that.”

Mark has some succinct advice for those considering a TAFE Queensland course: “Have a go. It's one of the best choices you will make.”

TAFE Queensland’s Certificate III in Horticulture (AHC30716) course will also give you a broad range of knowledge in improving soil conditions, implementing plant nutrition programs, operating machinery and equipment, and maintaining nursery plants.

TAFE Queensland’s highly-experienced staff are still strongly embedded in the industry and provide one-on-one guidance to students throughout the qualification.

Pictured: Internationally renowned horticulturalist, and pioneer of sustainability and organic best practice in Queensland, Jerry Coleby-Williams, presenting the Novice Champion award to Mark.