What does robotic regulation, native food and Kenyan agribusiness have in common? The AgriEducate Essay Competition!

It’s not often you have the opportunity to read two completely different perspectives on the same topic, authored by emerging leaders in each field and backed by the latest research. Yet in the second iteration of the annual AgriEducate Essay Competition this was exactly the case – Matthew Nevison from the University of Sydney presented a business theory argument for native food production in Australia, whilst Sophie Moss (until recently a student at ANU) wrote on the role of emulating Australian ecosystems and native foods across Australian agriculture for consistent and reliable food production. On a completely different topic, Rex Yuan – Highly Commended in the Law category, wrote on the highly topical regulation and legal framework surrounding autonomous vehicle regulation, discussing the relevant legislation that would govern liability.

These are just two examples from the field of fantastic essays we received, and goes directly to the purpose of this competition – to bring people with ideas and significant degree-specific knowledge together to help plant the path for the future of Australian and global agriculture. A massive congratulations to all entrants for taking the time to consider the application of their knowledge to agriculture.

All the winning essays are published in this compilation – please read through and enjoy the new ideas and passion that emanates from these essays. We at AgriEducate certainly had a blast and are feeling very inspired!

Sponsors

Before we get to the results, a big thank you to the prize sponsors. This competition isn’t possible without their support.
Science – Crawford Fund
Law/Extension – Bailiwick Legal
Engineering/IT – Flurosat

Results

So it’s with great pleasure that we announce the 2019 winners of the AgriEducate Essay Competition.

Science
First Place: Cassandra Howell – University of Western Australia
Second Place: Andrew Regan – University of New England
Third Place:
Kitty Cheng – University of Melbourne

Law/Extension
Highly Commended:
Francesca Earp – University of Sydney
Highly Commended:
Rex Yuan – University of Queensland

Engineering/IT
Highly Commended: Dylan Sanusi-Goh – University of New South Wales

Business
Highly Commended: Matthew Nevison – University of Sydney

Open/Global
Highly Commended: Sophie Moss – Australia
Highly Commended: Denis Ochieng – Kenya

All the winning essays can be read here.


The competition is planned to run in 2020, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to contribute to the industry and have a chance at winning a prize as well. Until next year!

** Please note that these essays represent the opinion (and hard work!) of the entrants and not necessarily the sponsors nor AgriEducate. If you have any questions, comments or would like to be involved in the 2020 competition, please feel free to get in touch at contact@agrieducate.com.au. A massive thank you to Matt Champness and Nicole McDonald who helped run the competition this year as well.

Youth Ag Summit 2019: Bringing people together to help feed the world.

In the natural world, diversity ensures strength and resilience. Weeds use genetic diversity from obligate outcrossing, large variability in inherited genes or mutation to vigorously adapt to selection pressures (herbicides, new environments or tough years). Established ecosystems mitigate the impact of external forces by leveraging the balance between species that thrive under different conditions. Healthy soil is dependent on a diversity of soil microorganisms and a balance of nutrients to prevent outbreaks of disease.

Agriculture itself is a global ecosystem of environment, economics, society and community, so it is only logical that adaptation to a changing climate and increasing production to feed 10 billion by 2050, is achieved through a diversity of people, experiences and approaches. When the day to day of agriculture in any country around the world becomes focused on internal problems or opportunities, the truly global nature of the industry and any potential solutions become obscured.

At the same time, on the ground solutions and production must be locally driven and address real problems faced by those farmers or groups involved in the supply chain. There is no sense in managing soil diseases in Western Australia the same as you would manage them in the Cerrado in Brazil – the science, culture and climate just don’t equate. And so agriculture relishes this global yet local approach, where people from around the world must and do collaborate to find solutions relevant on a local basis.

“The youth in Nigeria are not waiting for their government – they are taking action now”.

Iyaneselou Aliu, 2019 YAS Delegate from Nigeria

The recent Youth Ag Summit (YAS) in Brasilia, Brazil brought together 100 young people from 45 countries to drive global thinking about locally relevant solutions. It was not the country labels that defined us but instead a shared passion for developing the long-term sustainability of agriculture to provide food security for everyone. The Summit took place over three days with themes of innovation, leadership and sustainability generating talking points and providing experiential wisdom. Sustainability in a changing world was a standout idea of the Summit.

Working out a sustainable path to feed 10 billion people by 2050 requires the input from people right around the world, working on so many different projects.

“Can we feed the world without destroying one more tree?

Yes we can.” Rodrigo Santos, Head of Bayer CropScience Latam.

Fun fact: Brazilian farmers must retain between 20 and 80% of vegetation on farm, based on proximity to the Amazon Rainforest and the size of river or water storage on farm. This is covered by the Forest Code.

Analysis of vegetation laws

While the keynotes were certainly highlights, the strength of YAS was the inspiring array of experiences in agriculture with people from student, business, research, policy and advocacy backgrounds right across the world. During a bus ride to dinner a delegate from Mexico was discussing the role of non-government organisations in forming policy at the UN, having started her own. In countries like Australia, it is rare to have such direct conversations with dozens of people from dozens of different nationalities, each making such meaningful contributions. Other delegates from Canada, Indonesia and Nigeria had already formed their own companies driving beneficial change in agriculture, to a problem they weren’t waiting for others to solve.

While driving for innovation and change, it’s critical to keep the end users (farmers and communities in this case) front of mind. Day 2 of the Summit saw all 100 delegates head out to one of SLC Agricola’s farms in the Cerrado region. The 16,000 ha farm produced soybean, corn and cotton with high water and nutrient use efficiency. Cover crops were the norm, rolled and directly sown into as a way of improving soil carbon content and trapping moisture. Experiencing alternative methods of farming beyond your own horizons was well received by all accounts.

In an increasingly polarised world, the refreshing humanity of a shared desire for impactful and beneficial change was seriously life-changing. The experience of stepping outside your defined role as an ‘Australian’, ‘Italian’ or ‘Ecuadorean’ (or any nationality) could only be described as unparalleled in reflective impact. It makes you reconsider your assumed values and approaches, what is important and the global responsibility you carry in everything you do. It’s not that the responsibility is defined in laws or international treaties, but because just a short distance away, over a sea or some land there is a person with the same concerns about their future, their family and how best to navigate a path through. Improving agriculture is a fantastic method for improving society as a whole, communities, environment and leading a path to a future of which we are proud.

These are the stories of a just a handful of YAS delegates, told through their eyes about the interdisciplinary, global nature of agriculture and why their passion continues. The YAS group for 2019 doesn’t end with the conclusion of the Summit. The 100 strong group joins 300 others from the 2013, 2015 and 2017 cohorts driving change in every corner of the globe.

Mildred Jimenez Mexico | biotechnology engineering student | interested in Science communication & Evidence-based policy making

My involvement in the field of agriculture has revolved around promoting the participation of young scientists in science communication initiatives for evidence-based policy making, especially for international regulations on biotechnology. My interest in this area started about three years ago when I had the opportunity to attend the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a youth delegate of the Public Research and Regulation Initiative. The Convention also holds the Cartagena Protocol; which regulates biotechnology and biosecurity in regard to biodiversity; and the Nagoya Protocol, on access to Genetic Resources and equitable benefit-sharing from their utilization. During my participation there, I witnessed how technology can easily get locked up because of the misinformation that surrounds it and that there was a lack of involvement from young scientists in the decision-making process. After that, my colleagues and I founded Youth Biotech, an NGO that promotes youth participation in science communication and evidence-based policy making. We have continued participating in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity  and will continue working on giving young people a voice in the matter, either in big decision-making scenarios as the CBD or locally; because food security is a challenge that needs to be addressed in many different ways. In my case, as a biotechnology engineering student, passionate for science, I have decided that my way of contributing to the achievement of #ZeroHunger is to make sure that the technology that can safely serve this purpose and make people’s life better can ultimately be implemented.

Participating at YAS was an amazing experience. During the event I had the opportunity to interact, brainstorm and make friends with inspiring people who are working on projects that are really making a big impact in their communities; meeting them reinvigorated my passion for this fight and reminded me of why I started agvocating in the first place.

“El primer componente esencial de la justicia social es una alimentación adecuada para toda la humanidad”. – Normal Borlaug

The whole YAS crew!

Digesting the future: Could biodigesters offer a new way forward for renewable energy production?

Ishka Bess is an honour student at the University of New South Wales, investigating innovative new ways to implement biodigesters on the invidiual farm level. After all, animal production means animal waste and biodigesters thrive off this type of organic matter. Ishka is also after survey responses from pig and cattle farmers, so if you have a spare minute fill out the survey here. Over to you Ishka!

A biodigester converts biodegradable waste such as animal dung and green matter to biogas and biodigestate.

This may not sound classy but on a household-level, this offers small-farm holders a unique solution to waste management. While ensuring the safe removal of waste, biodigester technology provides direct returns and benefits to farming households. Biogas is a clean and versatile fuel that can be used for stove-top cooking and lighting. Biodigestate provides an organic fertiliser that can be used on farming land or sold as a source of income. The advantages of household-level biodigesters do however extend beyond their primary outputs, to provide economic, environmental and social benefits.

It is feasible to deliver biogas to 18.5 million, predominantly rural households [1]. Thus, where 38% of the world’s population lack access to clean cooking technology [2] biogas will play a crucial role in the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 7. And, in countries such as Australia where rural and remote farming households have been hard hit by high electricity prices, power blackouts and low-voltage problems, household-level biodigesters provide a low-cost investment in a renewable energy alternative.

Yet, despite a long list of accolades, the long-term adoption of biodigester technology has failed to meet expectations. Several studies have analysed the barriers to biogas adoption and it is evident that we are failing to identify and incorporate the needs and priorities of small-farm holder households in the process of biodigester design, implementation and maintenance. Surprisingly, there is no current decision-support tool to assist decision-makers in incorporating the values and priorities of small-farm holder households across the design and development process.

So, here I am – setting out to do so! Having developed a decision-support model, I will be testing and validating the concept in an Australian context. In order to do so, I am looking to connect with Aussie small-farm holder dairy and pig farmers as well as beef cattle producers to complete a 10 minute survey. With their livestock being primed and ready to support biodigester technology, all contributions would be greatly appreciated.

The survey is accessible here.

References

[1] The World Bank, “The Power of Dung”, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, Washington, 2019.

[2] International Energy Agency, “Energy Access Outlook 2017”, International Energy Agency, Paris, 2017.

The Place of Law in the Australian Agricultural Industry

As we continue through the 2018 Essay Competition winners, we move to Jordan Soresi’s excellent work on connecting the importance of law and agriculture. This category was supported by Bailiwick Legal – a fantastic agricultural-focused legal firm in WA, who have also signed on to support our 2019 competition too. Read on to discover the important connection between law and agriculture.

‘There are no areas in life which are outside of law’

Aharon Barak

This quote by Aharon Barak aptly describes the ability of the law to permeate every aspect of society. The agricultural industry is no exception. Indeed, this essay will argue that there are opportunities for law to improve and grow the industry. Firstly, it will present ways in which legal theories can and are being applied to agricultural practice. It will then argue that the law can boost productivity and sustainability. Finally, it will show that better incorporating law into agriculture can help ensure global food security.

Legal Skills and Theories
There are opportunities to apply legal theories and skills to agriculture. The very existence of agricultural law as a discrete area evidences this. In agricultural law, theories of property, contract and torts reach a crossroads. Fundamentally, these legal skills are necessary in order to protect private property rights and ensure no one is illegitimately encroaching on one’s space; to ensure contractual obligations are fulfilled and discharged adequately; and to provide remedial avenues where there is no formal legal
relationship. In addition to this, it is through law that the State regulates agricultural practice. Given the absolute importance of agriculture as a source of food, legal regulations are necessary to outline requirements of biosafety and –security.

Sustainability and Productivity
Greater legal involvement in agriculture can enhance productivity and sustainability in a number of ways. It can improve sustainability through the enhanced regulation of animal welfare. The current state of regulations is a patchwork of inconsistent standards, which lack scientific grounding and transparency. Furthermore, they manifest an inherent conflict of interest. These standards are headed by government departments, which are in charge of both protecting animal welfare and physically growing the industry. Ultimately, the law can assist and resolve these issues in several ways. The Productivity Commission has suggested the creation of an Australian Commission for Animal Welfare. This would act as an independent statutory agency, which would be in charge of
developing national standards and could develop clear objectives through transparent processes. The creation and maintenance of this proposed body, and its own development of evidence-based standards, are inherently legal in nature. The law is well versed in the establishment of such bodies and in the writing of their quasi-legislative materials. Thus, legal intervention would facilitate and enhance the sustainability of animal welfare in agriculture. Australia can develop a more productive agriculture industry through a greater emphasis on contract law in the space of new technologies. One example of this potential is seen in the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Small Business and Unfair Contract Terms) Bill.

Prior to the Bill’s enactment, large data and agribusiness companies would commonly enter standard-form (i.e. one-sided or non-negotiable) terms of agreement contracts with farmers over the use of digital farming technologies. Being nonnegotiable and often containing terms that were not readily accessible or difficult to read, there was a manifest imbalance of power between the contracting parties. The new law is intended to protect small businesses from unfair contractual terms.

Wiseman posits that it will simultaneously protect smaller farming businesses. In doing so, contracting farmers will have more control over the data being collected and better understand where it goes. This should encourage the farmers to work with data companies more enthusiastically, and equally to use new technologies. In turn, such technologies inevitably improve efficiencies and ultimate business productivity. There is also potential for competition law to improve productivity. Producers in the agricultural supply chain are particularly susceptible to power imbalances because of vulnerabilities relating to perishable produce, climatic variation and limited infrastructure. This is exacerbated by the highly concentrated nature of the Australian market. By discouraging large companies with a lot of power from unduly interfering in the market, competition law works to improve efficiencies. Indicative of this are the Harper Review recommendations, some of which were enacted in 2017. The reformulation of s 4613 to include an ‘effects’ test, for example, is directed at making it easier to address market power imbalances and empowering small producers to confront multinationals corporations. Through robust competition law, efficiencies and productivity can be boosted in the industry.

Food Security
Greater legal involvement in agriculture worldwide can contribute to ensuring food security. This is because there is a strong correlation between the law and food security. In order to have a sustainable farm and grow food for themselves consistently, the world’s poorest people must be able to depend on agriculture as a viable and reliable source of income. In order to depend on their land, such farmers must have secure land rights, which equate to enforceable private property rights. This land security can only be achieved through the rule of law. After all, without it, governments can arbitrarily and illegitimately seize land. This leads to uncertainty and means that the poorest cannot use their land in a consistent and reliable manner to sustain themselves. Self-evidently, once someone has secure land rights, they can feel comfortable accessing and controlling their land. This empowers them to grow their own food and use that to generate income, some of which can be re-injected into the process to continue a sustainable cycle.

In addition to being capable of enforcing land rights, governments can use the law to create further frameworks, which support and improve their profitability. An example of this is a legal framework that compensates smallholder farmers and encourages growth. Encouraging people at the grassroots levels of society to partake in the lawmaking process also encourages knowledge of the rule of law to make the above
outlined process a sustainable reality. Global food security is innately tied with the rule of law. In theory, by strengthening the latter, the former can consequently be achieved.

Conclusion
The agricultural sector is essential to Australian society. Improving its efficiencies, productivity and sustainability is a long-term challenge. One way this can become reality is by engaging the law. When considering agriculture globally, it is apparent that the law also has a significant part to play in securing food for the future.

From paddock to plate: The holistic application of anthropology in agricultural discourse

With the 2019 Essay Competition now officially open, we’re revisiting the fascinating essays from the 2018 competition. The full compilation is available here. First off is Abby Georgeson, who won First Prize in the Arts/Social Sciences category, with an interesting perspective on anthropology and agriculture.

Abby Georgeson – First Place – Arts/Social Sciences

The need for academic rigour in the agriculture industry is well established. However, few disciplines are as far-reaching in their use and effect as the field of anthropology. Grounded in the pursuit of understanding human behaviours and social relationships, anthropology reaps benefits that other fields fail to reach due to its broad gaze; while it can evaluate the abstract, business-related elements of agriculture, it can also be used to understand and promote the understanding of the practical, lived experiences of the individuals in the Australian agricultural industry. By virtue of its broad reach and methodological willingness to assimilate cross-disciplinary knowledge, anthropology must be appreciated as a valuable voice in discussions of productivity and sustainability in Australian agriculture and its place in global food security.

In terms of disciplinary skills, ethnographic fieldwork has been the classical domain of anthropology, allowing a close examination of the “intimacy” of social relationships (Appadurai, 1997:115). For agriculture, this means a wealth of detailed information about regional centers, farmers, corporations, and consumers, the composition of these groups, and the dynamics that emerge between them. Through the scope of the minutiae of life, the anthropologist extrapolates the lived realities of their subjects into the wider framework of ongoing social and historical processes, affecting both the local and the global. Accordingly, through anthropology, the current status and potential of Australian agriculture can be brought into focus.

There are numerous theses based on agricultural anthropology, touching on the countless forms, issues, and experiences of the industry. One ethnographic account of animal husbandry in North Carolina details the rise in ethical pig farming, and the ways that consumer interests alter industry practice; another, an interdisciplinary analysis of the reasons, means, and effects of indigenous timber extraction in Indonesia (Weiss, 2014; Ellen, 1985). Both represent fundamentally different perspectives of agricultural processes, and the environments and peoples implicated; nonetheless, the lessons of both can be applied to the Australian context and further towards the global food economy.

To demonstrate this, the topical issue of coal seam gas ventures in northern NSW will be used to showcase the methodological benefit of anthropology. In this, there is a large rift between those in favour for regional jobs growth through mining and those in favour of environmental protection and agricultural longevity. The case for both is clear, but without academic rationalisation, there is little room for reconciliation. With its objective stance and ready inclusion of indigenous and otherwise marginalised voices, anthropology holds great leverage in policy-making, holding the key to ongoing collaboration and constructive debate through its intermediary capacity.

Certainly, as stated on the AgriEducate website itself, an informed industry and understanding on a wider societal level is paramount to the productivity and sustainability of the Australian agriculture industry. Through anthropology, such cooperation can be realised.

Another benefit of anthropology is that it dismantles the bounded categories of academia, favouring active engagement with the language and interests of multiple fields of enquiry in order to best represent the topic at hand.

This provides a unique opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration and with actors in the industry to identify and consider alternatives and future directions for Australian agriculture, in order to enhance productivity and sustainability in the face of looming global food security concerns. These two paradigms increasingly show themselves as going hand-in-hand, but disciplines that can handle this duality are a minority; only anthropology can synthesise these and situate them in a real-world context.

Herein, productivity can be measured and improved through careful analysis of the present situation of agriculture. An enlightening ethnographic account of a post-mining West Virginian township highlights this; it shows the real-world negative effects of industry collapse and the ways of life that have subsequently emerged (Stewart, 1996). While not related to productivity or sustainability discourse, by virtue of the vignette this account paints, it can serve as a basis for considering the present and future policy and planning directions in the region. With the input of information from other fields, it becomes a simple task for the anthropologist to assess the present and future requirements for enhancing productivity. Similarly, Australian agriculture could be treated anthropologically, generating change through consideration of the ontological experiences of related parties.

Likewise, sustainability is essential to contemporary Australian agriculture. Recently, much of the farming discourse in anthropology has centred on the consumer’s contribution to the changing face of agricultural practice. Amongst other reasons, ethics (Weiss, 2014; O’Kane & Yuliani Wijaya, 2015; DeLind, 2010) have increasingly played a role in shaping the sustainability narrative in agriculture. However, the sustainability paradigm of anthropology is not only social. In keeping with the dynamism of anthropology, the definition of “sustainable” incorporates all spheres of sustainable development and practice, be it economic, environmental, or industrial.

Additionally, by virtue of the ethnographic focus on the “local”, anthropology has also analysed some of the contemporary food security concerns pertinent to Australian society, such as the “Malthusian trap” generated by urban spread (Lang, 2010:1815). Significantly, discussions of productivity and sustainability, as well as recent analysis of global processes played out locally, anthropology is already contributing to the global food security debate. Admittedly, since anthropology is the “study of humans”, it does have an at times overwhelming social focus. However, the paradigms discussed here have all been grounded in posterity; all of the major considerations of agriculture, be it productivity, sustainability, or the global food network are founded with humans in mind. Accordingly, the thoroughly human pursuit of agriculture is ripe for analysis by an equally humanistic discipline.

As an aphorism in the field goes, “anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanist of the sciences”. It’s assimilation of a broad scope of practices makes anthropology one of the most dynamic perspectives available to agriculture, encompassing everything from production to business and consumption. A sincere engagement of anthropology in this sector shows promise, due to its ability to provide synergistic proposals to improve the present condition of Australian agricultural productivity and sustainability, and envision its future in the global food economy.

The AgriEducate Essay Competition is officially open!

One of the most inspiring elements about agriculture, and something that initially converted and now keeps me in the industry, is its truly cross-disciplinary nature. The embroidering of agriculture in the social fabric of Australian society means it has links beyond the expected biological and engineering components. Anthropology, law, business, international relations, diplomacy, market analytics and even nursing, medicine, construction and astrophysics, all these disciplines contribute to a more productive agricultural ecosystem.

Yet this complexity and diversity is often lost, with the industry surmised as ‘farming’ on its lonesome. Farm management itself is undeniably complex, involving every one of those aforementioned disciplines in a single occupation!

So in 2017 AgriEducate developed the idea of a truly interdisciplinary essay competition, capturing the diversity and scale of ideas and areas of study around Australia. The concept being that any tertiary student could apply, from any discipline with a plethora of prizes across a number of categories. The response was fantastic. We had entries from 14 different universities covering an innumerable number of perspectives, and this year we’re running it again.

Four awarded categories (Science, Business/Commerce, Engineering/IT, Law/Arts) sharing a prize pool of $4000 across 12 prizes. The stakes are higher and this year we’ve even opened a Global/Open category, so we can engage with the truly global and all encompassing nature of the industry as well. All the the information on the competition can be found here.

So, what are you waiting for? Entries close October 31st 2019, with winners announced on November 21st for National Agriculture Day. We can’t wait to start reading responses and sharing those fascinating perspectives. Good luck!

Guy Coleman, Founder

Thanks to our sponsors Crawford Fund and Bailiwick Legal.

Glyphosate. So what’s the story?

John E. Franz. The man, the organic chemist, and the name behind the game changing glyphosate discovery. He and his team of chemists at Monsanto sifted through metabolites and compounds eventually coming across glyphosate, better known as RoundUp. At its core, the chemical targets the 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase plant enzyme, or better known as ESPS synthase. This enzyme is involved in the synthesis of key amino acids (which are plant-specific), so disrupting it and therefore killing the plant means the plant needs to be both healthy and actively growing, with around two weeks before plant death. This pathway is absent in humans.

As the patent expired in 2000, there are now 499 other registered products containing glyphosate in Australia and two GM resistant crops (canola, cotton). So why all the fuss? And what about those billion dollar lawsuits?

Well in 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen”. Yet IARC also rate frying food, eating red meat and consuming hot beverages at the same 2A “probably carcinogenic” level. Even coffee and other heated/cooked foods containing acrylamide are rated on this same level. And on the occupation side of things, shift work, hairdressing and manufacturing all fall into the same category.

Yet, there is significant research detailing the inconclusive nature and impact of glyphosate on cancer risk. In smoking and other known highly carcinogenic compounds which are regularly consumed, there is a clear link between smoker number, location and various forms of cancer. In glyphosate the link appears to be absent.

Other epidemiological studies have found similar lack of association between exposure and cancer incidence. In 54,251 applicators over a period from 1993 to 2012, “no association was apparent between glyphosate and any solid tumors or lymphoid malignancies overall, including NHL and its subtypes”.

Nevertheless, in defending the chemical, given its importance to food production, it is still important to continue to scrutinise and assess the corporate management of and influence in science. This is critically important, such that results like those presented above can be trusted and the philosophy underpinning science can be maintained.

At the same time, safety requires that labels are followed and correct PPE is worn. Suggestions of farmers being drenched in glyphosate imply very poor application methods and potential for carelessness in the application of more toxic chemicals. Moreover, it is interesting that in some of these cases, the impact of glyphosate over long periods of time was able to be teased out from the exposure to other carcinogenic compounds and the compound solely blamed for the presence of cancer.

All in all, continual evaluation of scientific findings and claims is fundamental to scientific progress. This is welcomed in the industry and actively promoted. Glyphosate to date has been cleared by some of the most well recognised regulatory authorities in the world as being safe for use, findings we should have confidence in.

The chemical has been incredibly important in the implementation of conservation agriculture, rapid increases in production efficiency and importantly the sustainable production of food.

Budget 2019: How did Australian agriculture fare?

The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, delivered his first budget and the last before the next Federal Election. For 2018/19 we’re still in a deficit, but pending numerous economic factors there’s a $7.1 billion surplus forecast for 2019/20. As usual a budget before an election is a pitch to voters, but how did Australian agriculture fare?

On the whole drought and flood disaster relief, infrastructure, market access and farm labour were the big ticket items, with some interesting new initiatives such as the Agricultural Stewardship Package for biodiversity and National Leadership for Agricultural Innovation.

Drought Support
Still no funding for a forward looking National Drought Policy. However, the government included $4.2 million for a National Drought Map.

Previously, income generated from the forced sale of livestock affected a farmer’s eligibility for the Farm Household Allowance (FHA). To improve the uptake of FHA, this income will be exempt and instead must be invested in a Farm Management Deposit. The cost of this exemption is expected to be $3 million.

Beef Australia 2021
Beef week (2 – 8 May 2021) is receiving additional support with $3.9 million over three years allocated in funding for the three-yearly event held in Rockhampton.

Farm Labour
Still no funding for an agriculture-specific visa, but the government did announce a 12-month pilot program addressing seasonal worker shortages. The pilot would operate in three regions – yet to be selected.

Seeking to incentivise Australians to take up seasonal work, the government has allocated $24.1 million to expand the current Harvest Labour Service to five new horticultural regions. A further $1.9 million over four years is aimed at developing a long term view on these recurring issues with the creation of a National Agriculture Workforce Strategy.

Climate Solutions Fund
$2 billion was earmarked for the CSF back in February, and included in today’s announcement. It adds to the emissions reduction fund which focused on providing opportunities for farmers, businesses and Indigenous communities to develop emissions reductions projects with local benefits.

Fast Rail Corridors
It seems like “Fast Rail” is the dream that won’t die, and drew some chuckles from the Opposition upon announcement. While a recurring theme, with many reviews, feasibility studies and investigations to date, further funding was allocated to look at targeting key regional fast rail routes such as connecting Sydney with Wollongong, Newcastle, Bathurst and Parkes.

Regional and Remote Airports
$100 million was allocated in the budget for the improvement of regional and remote airports through additional safety measures and improved access.

Enhancing Australia’s Agricultural Trade
$29.4 million has been earmarked for growing Australian agricultural exports and trade. The investment covers four key areas:

  1. Accelerating horticulture market access ($11.4 million)
  2. Enhancing industry action on non-tariff measures ($5.1 million)
  3. Package assisting small exporters – extension ($6.1 million)
  4. Australian Trade and Market Access (ATMAC) Programme ($6.8 million)

Weather Monitoring
Radar coverage is set to improve across NSW and Queensland with $77.2 million allocated over 23 years. The Moree radar will move to Bogabilla along with numerous other changes to radar locations.

National Leadership for Agricultural Innovation
This initiative will receive a boost of $2.9 million over three years for the establishment of an advisory panel to strengthen leadership and investigate ways of modernising the innovation system.

Agriculture Stewardship Package
The four year package comprises three key areas and focuses on improving, quantifying and certifying farm biodiversity. The package will cost $34 over four years with the three key areas:

  1. Agriculture Biodiversity Policy
    • The policy will target the development of a national biodoversity vision involving both community and farmers.
  2. Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot Program
    • Grants will be available to incentivise the adoption of improved biodiversity practices
  3. Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme
    • $4 million of the total funding will be allocated to the National Farmers’ Federation to develop and trial the certification scheme.

These are the standout areas identified so far, but check back regularly as this will be updated as new areas of interest are found.

Celebrating Women in Agriculture #IWD2019

Over 49% of food in Australia is grown by women, and that makes pretty logical sense considering women comprise 50.3% of the Australian population. Yet women farmers have historically been “invisible”. It was only in 1994 that women in agriculture could actually put down “farmer” as their occupation for the census, instead of “farmer’s wife”. On the farming front, projects such as the Invisible Farmer and Visible Farmer documentary are helping share and write-down the stories of these farmers to make sure they aren’t forgotten. The trailer for Visible Farmer was just released – make sure you check it out!

In the agricultural leadership and management space, only 18% of senior management roles and 2.3% of CEOs in agriculture are women. Something the National Farmers’ Federation is trying to change with its Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

And you don’t have to look far to find all the incredible women working in agriculture.

👩‍🌾 Do you know of an inspirational woman who’s making a difference towards #ZeroHunger?

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we’re asking you to nominate them and celebrate their work, by using the hashtag #AgvocateWomen.

Spread the word! #IWD2019 pic.twitter.com/slCRtBbsRQ— Youth Ag Summit (@YouthAgSummit) March 4, 2019

At the annual RD Watt lecture at the University of Sydney, the Women in Agriculture theme saw three incredible women from across the generations, Lucinda Corrigan, Caroline Wardrop and Evie Murdoch, talk about their stories as women in agriculture.

The MC for the evening, Dr Angela Pattison spoke about the diversity in her workplace at the Plant Breeding Institute in Narrabri, where the male:female split is about 50%.

“Where I work there are women driving headers, forklifts, tractors, doing the threshing, sorting and all tasks needed. It doesn’t matter your gender, just that the job that needs to be done.”

So we decided to celebrate the amazing women in agriculture and have shared a few stories below. From a weeds scientist in Colorado, GIS Consultant in Sydney and trainee agronomist in South Australia to a banking analyst in Sydney the opportunities in agriculture are incredible.

Kimberly Pellosis

University of Melbourne

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

Organisations double their talent pool, to foster diversity of thought, financial inclusion, and promoting a culture of gender balance – something that the agriculture industry should continue working towards if we hope to set an example and shake the stigma from the general public that it’s a male-dominated workforce, especially if we’re aiming to have more graduates passionate about agriculture.

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

As an agriculture student it’s been great!

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

If you ever feel uncomfortable at work, speak up – pick your battles wisely, and back yourself! Always keep your LinkedIn and resume up to date. Figure out what you like and what you’re good at, and communicate that niche effectively i.e. build your brand. Failure will be a part of your career – it’s how you deal with it is what’s important. Fail fast, move on, and learn from it. Keep an open mind, stay curious and don’t be afraid to change course. Support other women instead of competing fiercely against them – build each other up. Avoid needless apologies – women say sorry too often! Hold yourself to a higher standard.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

Employers should always consider their biases – we all have them. Minimise the gender pay gap, and get serious about addressing work/life balance. Make sure all employees have the same access to opportunity – drive skills development equally. Create female role models in senior leadership. Acknowledge and reward different leadership styles. The agriculture industry need to squash harassment.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

The same role/s as men do in the future of agriculture!

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? For everyone working hard behind the scenes, and those paving the way for our future female agricultural leaders – ABSOLUTE LEGENDS


Rayali Banerjee

Agribusiness Analyst, Commonwealth Bank

Role in Ag: I currently work as an Agribusiness analyst at Commonwealth Bank. I support Australia’s leading corporate Agribusinesses, investors and assist our clients with offshore trade. We provide services to Agribusinesses and investors in sectors including animal protein, Aquaculture, Grains and Oilseeds, Horticulture, Forestry, Fibres, Dairy and Fertilisers.

Outside my day-to-day role, you can find me working on my initiative “Ag Bootcamps” where my vision is to cultivate the capabilities of diverse future leaders for global Agriculture. The mandate behind Ag Bootcamps is to attract and retain skilled STEM and Agricultural students in the Agriculture industry by equipping them with skills for the future of work. You can also find me undertaking public speaking, inspiring others with bold thinking and call to actions, implementing innovations on food security in developing countries and collaborating with my co-founders on a grassroots initiative called This is Aus Ag.

Why is it important to have women in Agriculture?

There are 216,100 males working in the farm sector compared to 88,110 females. Historically this has occurred due to the perceptions of what farming looks like. The position of women in Agriculture is not equal to men with women earning 21.8% less than men and occupying only 14% of management roles. In developing countries the inequality is prevalent in employment opportunities and wage.

Women are the backbone of rural and regional economies, women are the human links between farm and table. It’s essential to have women in Agriculture because we bring diversity in thought because of our ethnic, educational and geographic background. Our deep life experiences forge our leadership capabilities and our abilities to consider minute details in a decision-making process. In countries of low socioeconomic communities, empowering a woman to work in Agriculture empowers the entire society, leading to positive impacts on nutrition, health and income.

What is your experience of being a woman in Agriculture?

I remember the first year of University I was rejected from every single internship I applied for because of my gender, background and inability to understand the “Ag Language”. I overcame my adversities, turned them into opportunities. I operated a tractor installing plumbing systems on Australia’s biggest farms, mustered and vaccinated thousands of cattle. At 22, I didn’t have ALL the capabilities or skills to travel the world to negotiate license to operate policies with c-suite executives, negotiate international trade policies with Agricultural ministers and successfully implement strategies within a board. BUT I did.

Reflecting on these experiences, my mentors who are women and men provided me with these life-changing opportunities. They championed me along the way, supported me through my successes and mistakes and passed on their knowledge to equip me with the skills I needed to get the job done.

The agriculture industry is one of a kind and my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive.

What is the biggest thing women should celebrate this IWD?
My grandfather was my go-to person who I could call and brainstorm all my crazy and big ideas about solving world hunger. Despite the 5.5-hour difference between Australia and India, I could call him at 4AM in the morning to work on our pitch deck for an electric bicycle that would revolutionise access to electricity in rural Indian villages.

Like my grandfather, my family and my mentors have always empowered me to know that I am powerful enough to achieve anything I want to. This IWD, women should celebrate the positive impacts they have made to their respective industries BUT most importantly, their champions. Women should be celebrating the people around them who have guided them to success, encouraged and uplifted them during times of failure or setbacks and have been their cheerleaders.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the Agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

To attract diverse people who can provide out of the box thinking and resilience to local economies into Agriculture, it is essential to continue to tell the story of Ag especially because those in Ag are contributing to global food security. However, the perception that a woman is a “farmer’s daughter” or “farmer’s wife” rather than a farmer herself continues to be an omnipresent issue. There are many programs that have started the conversation about women in Agriculture. However, I believe that conversations need to be transformed into action, execution and tangible outcomes. Chair of Citrus Australia, Tania Chapman stated that women tend to have issues with confidence and self-esteem. Reflecting on my personal journey, I had to be proactive during the start of my journey in Ag. There were many times when I felt that I did not offer any value to the Ag industry.

To overcome my adversities, I attended conferences and networking events and worked hard to build my personal brand and a board of mentors in the Ag industry. My board of mentors consist of men and women who are extremely passionate about enabling young people in Agriculture.

Life can be tumultuous. My vision to navigate the road to gender equality is to establish a formal mentoring program open to all genders. To enable change, we require both male and female leaders who champion change. The benefits of mentoring include capacity and confidence building, growing personal brand and networks, increasing self-awareness and having access to people who are “cheerleaders” and will advocate for a mentee’s personal and professional development.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of Agriculture?

In the future, I envision the term “leaders” being used rather than “female leaders or “male leaders”. By changing the language, we can accelerate the road to gender equality.

The future of Agriculture is bright for women, we are a league of powerhouses collaborating and enabling each other to grow, develop and fulfil our dreams and aspirations. Women in the future will continue to power modern farming both in developed and developing countries. There are opportunities for women to become Agriculture and Food technology leaders, make decisions on political and social change, grow farming businesses to previously untapped markets, travel the world providing thought leadership to the next generation and supporting people from all ages, backgrounds, genders to do the same.

The future is bright and the opportunities are endless. If you dream it, you can be it.

Brittany Dahl

GIS Consultant, ESRI Australia; Regional Coordinator, Though for Food Challenge

Growing wheat on a rehabilitated mine site!

What’s your role in agriculture?

I have multiple roles. I currently work for a Geographic Information System (GIS) software company called Esri Australia. My passion is for combing GIS technologies with sustainable food systems, and I am excited to see how the agricultural community continues to embrace spatial systems. I also volunteer for Thought for Food (TFF). TFF is a global community of entrepreneurs transforming our food system. Since 2016, we host activities in more than 100 cities featuring successful local startups, raising awareness about Food Security, learning about collaborative innovation and experiencing a real sense of community. I also have personal connections! My grandparents ran a dairy farm in northern NSW.

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

Diversity in every industry is incredibly important. It’s speculated that women make up around 43% of the industry around the world, but overall the labour burden of rural women exceeds that of men, usually due to a higher proportion of unpaid household responsibilities. If we are interested in improving agriculture, it should include bringing about equality and equity for women.

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

Coming from a STEM background, it would be great to see more women to bring about more diversity in the field. However, there are a number of excellent groups, such as Australian Women in Agriculture and Homeward Bound, striving to improve and provide opportunities to women.

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

My best advice is to not be afraid – apply for opportunities, competitions, and events that might come your way! You never know where opportunities such as the Youth Ag Summit or Thought For Food Challenge will take you!

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

I believe that we need a holistic approach. Individuals of all genders can assist in striving to a more equal and equitable future. Industry, public policy, and grassroots events and organisations all can do their part to encourage women, strive for pay parity, and celebrate wins of women.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

Women have a role, just as any gender, in the future of agriculture. Technology is changing the face of the industry, and we should aim to use it as a tool to help empower those who need it most. What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? We should all celebrate the successes of others, regardless of gender – but the focus should be on those of marginalised and disempowered communities or inidivduals, who aren’t usually in the spotlight.

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD?

We should all celebrate the successes of others, regardless of gender – but the focus should be on those of marginalised and disempowered communities or individuals, who aren’t usually in the spotlight.

Ruby Faithfull

Policy Officer, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

It’s important to have women and diversity in every industry. Feeding the world can’t be left to one gender!

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

Working as a policy officer in a range of roles and different topics I’ve enjoyed meeting lots of different people and working on complicated issues. It’s great when you see women in senior roles, running organisations and being leaders in agriculture. From what I’ve seen in the higher level positions there are probably still more John’s then women.

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

Agriculture is fascinating and anyone who is interested should definitely get involved.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. I think some positive steps would be 1. changing the image of who works in agriculture by seeking and promoting diversity 2. ensuring women feel welcome and valued in the industry 3. striving for gender balance on boards and other representative organisations.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

Women bring additional perspectives to food production leading to increased opportunities for food security and environmental sustainability. In the future of agriculture women could help ensure food is more evenly distributed and there is less waste in the food production system. If we’re going to feed our growing population and tackle other big challenges like sustainability we need the best and brightest working in agriculture, regardless of gender.

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? The vital role women already play!

Olivia Todd

PhD Student in Weeds Science, Colorado State University

Spraying sorghum in Colorado

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

It’s important to have women in agricultural settings because the industry needs as many minds possible set on problem solving. Certainly, in the research and development area we need diverse, flexible young minds that are passionate about agriculture. In the United States, the average age of the farmer is 58. We need to find people to either fill their shoes or make their production systems easier to manage and it takes unification to do that.

My experience of being a woman in agriculture.

My experience in agriculture really started when I entered college in 2012. When starting my B.Sc. in Soil and Crop science, I didn’t necessarily feel like a minority because I was a woman. There were several other females in my classes who were all very friendly. I felt like a minority because I had no background in Ag whatsoever and was loosely familiar at best with common concepts like pest management and growing seasons. Neither of my parents went to a University, and the idea that I was going forth with no guidance and no previous exposure to the field made me nervous. As I gained more knowledge and entered graduate school with slightly more confidence, I felt much less of a minority because of my lack of knowledge. However, I now felt the shift to feeling like a minority because I had to fight for my credibility because of my gender. When talking to growers, my biggest challenge had been trying to convince an older male farmer that my advice would help them solve their problems.

My experience has been largely positive in the pursuit of my PhD. My confidence in my ability to communicate and in my ability to learn is high, and I have actively sought out women in agricultural industry to talk to. Some of these women have given me mentorship and advice that caused me to pursue my PhD, and I am just as passionate about agriculture as they day I started college in 2012!

What is one of the most important things to celebrate international women’s day?

I think, when posed with this question, a lot of people may say that things like women’s strength and independence should be celebrated. I agree, strength and independence should absolutely be celebrated, but what I think is almost equally as important is the opportunity for education and leadership in young women. Educational programs in Ag related fields are seeing a rise in number of women of all backgrounds joining their programs. The ideas and skills that they bring are incredibly valuable and we’re only making the field  and the science better by gathering diverse perspective from equally capable people.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps to improvement?

I think that a wise next step is going to young girls interested in STEM fields and show them that agriculture has a lot of overlap with traditional STEM. This concept is something that I wasn’t familiar with until I was making my choice of where to go to college, and when I started thinking about my future career at 17, I was lucky enough to fall into agricultural interest of my own accord. If we take it upon ourselves to advertise how much some aspects of Ag are like traditional engineering, how much science and research is a part of the bigger picture, etc. then we may be able to prime interest in the field in girls from a young age where they will be able to see their place in the industry.

What role to women have in the future of agriculture?

In the U.S., women can have any role they choose to have in agriculture, and I highly encourage them to go after it!

The Top 10 in agriculture for 2018

2018 was a tumultuous, tough yet exciting year for Australian agriculture. Farmers on the east coast were stricken by dry conditions that turned into one of the worst droughts in living memory, while strawberry farmers around the country were hit by a needle contamination scare right at peak season. Yet the response by the Australian public and even globally was something inspiring. We saw thousands of bales of hay donated by WA farmers and trucked in convoys across the country, millions of dollars donated by people around the country and the world and even “adopt-a-cow” type projects gain significant support. The country rallied behind strawberry farmers, trending #smashastrawb and slogans such as “cut it up, don’t cut it out”. While the impacts of these events were significant the response has been fantastic.

We saw a number of other positive developments too, such as industry wide accreditation by the Ag Institute Australia, the launch of the #ThisIsAusAg initiative from the National Farmers Federation and the announcement of the first hybrid wheat variety by Sydney University researchers. So, sit back, relax and enjoy our top 10 events, discoveries, industry influencers and more for 2018.

10. Successful, inaugural AgriEducate Essay Competition

While certainly not ones to toot our own horn, we were very excited to successfully hold our first cross-disciplinary essay competition. We received entries from 14 different universities around Australia, covering topics from anthropology and medicine, to construction and macroeconomics.

The competition will be back in 2019 too, with even more on offer than before! So stay tuned and follow our social media accounts for more.

9. Young people and women boost Australia’s agricultural workforce

According to the Insights snapshot released in December by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics Sciences, the Australian agricultural workforce is getting younger and with a larger percentage of women now involved as well. Of the young people becoming involved, 30 per cent are women, which is up 2 per cent from 2011.

8. Response to the strawberry needle contamination scare

The strawberry industry was hit hard by a needle contamination scare that hit during peak season. But an inspiring support campaign right around the country resulted in many people actively including more strawberries in their shopping. So, while many thousands of tonnes were discarded, consumers rallied and did their best to help where they could. Sales figures even bounced back noticeably as a result of the positive campaign.

7. #ThisIsAusAg

Support for young people in agriculture appears to be at an all time high with the peak farming representative body, National Farmers Federation, developing a group of young, motivated people to help put forward views and opinions on agriculture not typically seen or heard. They have hit the ground running with a series of podcasts and videos on various aspects of agriculture.

Click on the link above and listen to some of their first podcasts!

6. Launch of the CGIAR GARDIAN platform for big data

Imagine being able to access thousands of scientific datasets free of charge, on-demand and digitally. Well now we all can with the launch of the CGIAR GARDIAN platform. CGIAR are leading the way in generating information so that everyone can have the “…power to predict, prescribe, and produce more food sustainably”.

5. Launch of the first whole-of-agricultural accreditation program CAg

As the industry modernises and secures its place within the wider community, it needs appropriate ethical, professional and technical accreditation. The Ag Institute Australia launched the very first whole-of-agriculture accreditation scheme in what is a major step forward for the industry. The scheme encompasses all technical areas of expertise enabling people from any walk of professional agricultural life to jump on board. If you’re an agronomist, consultant, advisory, or policy expert (plus many more) then check it out and take your career to the next level.

4. Announcement of the first F1 hybrid wheat breeding system

The University of Sydney launched the first hybrid wheat variety at its Narrabri-based Plant Breeding Institute’s field day in September. The discovery stems from over 30 years research in developing a scalable system for effectively producing commercial quantity of F1 hybrids. Hybrid varieties offer the potential to increase yields through hybrid vigour, an opportunity for yield increases not possible in conventional plant breeding approaches.

Typical hybrid production approaches are incredibly labour intensive, requiring plant breeders to manually transfer pollen from sterile ears of wheat, and the removal of male stamen from those sterile ears.

3. Announcement of first new herbicide mode of action in over 25 years

In a development that’s sure to excite weed scientists, farmers and consultants alike, BASF announced a new mode of action at the Australasian Weeds Conference in September. It is currently under evaluation by the APVMA, but is expected to be released in 2019 for a world-first release in Australia.

The chemical compound named Luximo “was designed as an active ingredient which provides pre-emergence, residual control against a broad range of grasses, including difficult-to-control blackgrass and ryegrass in winter cereals”.

2. Inclusion of compulsory agricultural subjects in NSW curriculum from 2019.

NSW school students will soon be learning about agriculture as part of its introduction as a compulsory component of the curriculum.

It comes after the 2013 Pratley review recommended inclusion of agricultural topics and examples in everyday classes, to ensure students knew about opportunities in the ag industry.

Very exciting developments, hopefully other states follow suit!

1. Response to the 2018 drought

The 2018 drought was one of the worst in living memory for farmers across the eastern states. Its impact on agriculture in the region has been terrible, with many forced to destock, not plant any crops or in the worst cases move on altogether. Yet in the midst of this despair emerged a community-led movement to support farmers and livestock through hay donations, transport, food and family support and general appreciation of the hard work involved in producing food and fibre. So whilst the impacts of the drought were devastating, the banding together of Australians and people from around the world to support Australian farmers was undeniably an influencing and important part of 2018 in agriculture.

…to the future, and beyond!

Not to remain in the past, we’ve closed out our top 10 with a list of where to look for inspiration and from-the-horse’s-mouth news this year. So if you’re someone who has dabbled in the @Twittersphere, here is a list of our 19 accounts to follow for 2019 (inspired by @AnikaMolesworth).

@peterdnewman

@camparker62

@OzFarmers

@AgInstituteAus

@AnikaMolesworth

@careerharvest

@FarmTableAU

@agoftheworld

@art4ag

@oscarthefarmer

@thoughtforfood_

@littlebrickpast

@jonewton89

@afsnsw

@CrawfordFund

@HickeyLab

@FarmingForever

@TheChadColby             

@FAotC

So with 2018 done and dust(y)ed, here’s to 2019 with the current shearing season, upcoming summer crop harvest, as always the ongoing milking of dairy herds and planning for the winter season already happening. We’re looking forward to all the new developments that 2019 will offer!