A new cohort of Nuffield scholars has been selected to search the world for better ways to improve Australian farming
Women in agriculture, precision agriculture, sustainable soils and the future of food are among the topics to be investigated by the four 2017 grains industry Nuffield scholars, announced at the Nuffield Australia National Conference in Adelaide in September.
The GRDC has sponsored scholarships for Katrina Sasse, Alexander Nixon and Luke Bradley, while CBH Group has sponsored Lara Ladyman.
PHOTOS: Nuffield Australia
Katrina Sasse is from Morawa, near Geraldton, in Western Australia and will research “the way forward for daughters” – strategies to encourage young women to play a more central role in the continuity of family farm businesses.
New Nuffield chair
Western Australian grain grower Andrew Fowler has been elected the new chairman of Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars. Andrew, who farms at Condingup, east of Esperance, takes over the reins from South Australian livestock and grain grower Andrew Johnson.
Mr Fowler was elected chairman at the Nuffield Australia National Conference, held in Adelaide in September, where 23 primary producers from across Australia were presented with a Nuffield Scholarship for travel in 2017.
Katrina is involved in her family’s business, ‘Leichhardt Fields’, a cereal and oilseed enterprise comprising four farms totalling 8210 hectares.
As a grower’s daughter, she has been raised with a keen interest in agriculture and works full-time on the property as a manager, after an initial career in agribusiness banking.
Her research will include issues such as female alienation from farm succession, disinheritance and agriculture’s patriarchal culture.
“Patriarchal inheritance of Australian farms is a factor contributing to population decline, the failure of small community clubs and groups, as well as a rising trend in single male growers,” Katrina says. “Too often daughters are simply encouraged to find alternative careers.”
She plans to demonstrate best practices and tactics in succession planning around the world where daughters are included as successors, and to show how women bring new ideas, creativity and new leadership styles to the agricultural sector.
“Women who run farms and lead businesses in agriculture are often headstrong, passionate and brave,” she says.
“Farming tasks are very broad and there are new opportunities appearing in farming every day.”
Focus on soils
Alexander Nixon, from Drillham, near Roma in Queensland, will use his Nuffield Scholarship to study how to make broadacre farming more sustainable, with a particular focus on soil health.
With his brother Thomas, he oversees the management and operation of his family’s 6900ha mixed beef and cropping operations.
Alexander says the challenges involved in broadacre cropping include managing soils to prevent degradation of soil structure, erosion, topsoil depletion and compaction.
“We need measures in place to improve organic carbon levels in the soil in a sustainable, cost-effective and efficient manner.”
Alexander plans to study how comparable broadacre businesses in the US manage soils.
Luke Bradley, from Springsure, near Emerald in Central Queensland, hopes to reinvigorate Australia’s leadership in precision agriculture.
Luke is a director of Wool-A-Roo Pty Ltd, a family farm business operating a 5300ha property producing dryland cereals and pulses, with 350 head of breeding cows. He also contract farms up to 20,000ha a year.
He believes the key to the ongoing success of the agricultural sector is to share lessons among growers and use existing knowledge and data more effectively.
“Opportunities abound to simplify the use and results of new technologies. We can build data from one farm to the next. This data, being site specific, can be more valuable than general production research in some instances,” he says. “And imagine if this live data was available 24/7? It would help to make better decisions and faster,” he says.
Lara Ladyman, from Katanning in WA, will investigate the ‘future of food’ – the technologies or drivers of change that will shape how, and what, we will be farming and eating in the future.
Lara is interested in understanding the changes that are predicted to occur throughout the food production chain over the next two decades, and what that will mean for growers in an increasingly digital world.
Lara is a director of her family’s farming business, Tennisdale Grazing, a 5680ha diversified cropping and livestock business with operations at Katanning and Lake King, which she manages with her father, Rob.
Lara returned to the farm full-time in 2014 after a career in agricultural journalism, and she still works as a freelance journalist. She plans to look at evolving technologies that could include cell-cultured meat and 3D-printed foods, and the implications for Australian growers.
“If we know what lies ahead, we can be at the forefront of change and not be left by the wayside of future technologies, consumer trends or government mandates.”
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