One Deakin international student's impact on Australia

Media release

17 June 2020

Deakin engineering graduate Jason Chan is helping to transform an iconic Winchelsea agricultural engineering operation into one of the country's leading agricultural equipment manufacturing businesses, supplying farmers throughout Australia and internationally.

Jason, 26, joined Knuckey's Engineering in 2016 while completing his Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) degree as an international student at Deakin University. Originally from Malaysia, he has applied his expertise as a Mechanical Design Engineer to servicing, repairing and designing custom equipment and agricultural machinery.

With his help, the company – which spans four generations – has grown rapidly and is now looking to expand its export operations, and add to its manufacturing sites in south-west Victoria.

"Knuckey's Engineering has been a great opportunity for me," Jason said.

"I'm working on cutting-edge machinery that's set to improve the way farmers do their work both in Australia and around the world, and it's a family business where communication is very open and friendly.

"I feel valued and appreciated as part of a small team, and there are great opportunities to design better machinery and be involved in diverse projects. I can see a project through from design, to manufacture, to working with farmers."

Jason has three siblings studying and working in Victoria, two of whom live with him in Geelong. He and his brother Stephen love the outdoor life and regularly go indoor rock climbing in Geelong and outdoors at the Grampians.

Knuckey's Engineering manufacturing manager Steve Knuckey said Jason was a highly regarded member of the business and the local community.

"Jason has been integral in our development of new products, which has kept us viable," Mr Knuckey said.

"His insight and knowledge of product development have allowed the business to grow our product offerings. Jason is a great engineer. He’s prepared to design and get his hands dirty, and that's the best way to learn. He's out in the field to make sure things work, and he goes above and beyond. If I had 10 of him, I don't know where we'd be.

"Jason also designed our Accu-sow Air Seeder, which won The Weekly Times' Machine of the Year award last October. The machine is a sowing system for broadacre cropping that achieves high-precision farming, giving precise control over a variety of crops, including depth control, spacing and precision seeding.

"He's helping farmers to optimise design and move from development to market a lot more quickly. This is proving a huge asset to our company. Our biggest issue is we don't have the capacity to build what we could sell. Our next plan is for Jason and another local student to get into smart manufacturing to give us even more high-end engineering capability and manufacturing capacity."

Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin said Jason's story was a prime example of connecting Deakin's international, industry and STEM smarts with regional business for real-world benefits.

"Australia's ongoing success relies on both domestic and international education. Our ability to harness world-class research and innovations will propel our industries in a highly competitive world," Professor Martin said.

"It's heartening to see Jason having such a strong impact in Victoria's regions. While the economic benefits are well documented, we know international students and graduates contribute enormously to the social and cultural wellbeing of communities in Victoria and across Australia.

"At Deakin, we're doing everything we can to support international students and ensure the important role of international education is buoyed during these challenging times. This is a real-world example of the value of international students to our primary industries and regional Australia and why it's our goal to support more graduates like Jason.”

Victoria's Shadow Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Regional Victoria, Polwarth MP Richard Riordan, knows the Knuckey family and Jason well.

Mr Riordan praised the international student and the family business for their ability to seize opportunities and innovate, their resilience, and the business' plans to forge ahead with expansion – all of which are delivering lasting value to regional Australia and beyond our shores.

"It is very exciting to see local businesses like Knuckey Engineering in Winchelsea benefit from Deakin University graduates who bring their skills and expertise to our region," Mr Riordan said.

"I am very impressed with this young man, who is a great addition to our local community and whose work promotes Polwarth on the international stage both as a place of innovation and new product development."

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Media release Faculty of Science Engineering and Built Environment, School of Engineering