Bill Ryan’s research and commercial skills have proved to be invaluable to the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
Now in his second term on the western regional panel, Dr Ryan says he remains focused on addressing some of the major challenges facing growers in the region.
“We’ve made a major contribution to restructuring and refocusing the investment portfolio here in the west,” he said.
“Our focus has been on key issues of importance to Western Australian growers - such as non-wetting soils, frost and break crops - and the development of initiatives addressing them.”
Dr Ryan said he was looking forward to continuing his close association with growers as a regional panellist.
“The panel provides a great opportunity to get back on the ground and really get close to growers and understand the challenges they’re facing,” he said.
“It also gives you an opportunity to make a difference in terms of how investment is made and where it is made – with a focus on delivering better returns to growers.”
The link that the panel creates between the investment process and growers is a key strength of the GRDC, with the panel responsible for feeding regional priorities into the GRDC and assessing funding proposals.
“If that link is missing, you don’t have the research being tested against all the challenges out there in the field”, Dr Ryan said.
Dr Ryan said his main impetus for renominating for the panel and continuing his association with the GRDC stemmed from his passion for agriculture.
In addition, he brought with him an understanding of research, development and extension (RD&E) in both the private and public sectors, and experience in all aspects of commercial and financial management.
With a degree in agricultural science and PhD in animal science from The University of Western Australia, Dr Ryan worked in the research arm of the then Western Australian Department of Agriculture for 20 years.
He then had a ‘complete change’ of career with his shift into corporate agriculture.
This saw him work for one of Australia’s biggest private agribusiness companies, the Heytesbury Group, before heading up the Kondinin Group as its chief executive officer from 2002 to 2008.
At the Kondinin Group, Dr Ryan oversaw the complete restructure and refinancing of the organisation, leading its successful fundraising project and debt restructuring program.
Today, he chairs the Agricultural Produce Commission as well as providing consultancy services to AGWEST International.
Dr Ryan’s range of skills and diverse career experience ensures he understands both researchers and growers.
“My background in research enables me to make sure that the projects we are looking at are of sound research structure,” he said.
“My agribusiness expertise prompts me to do the back of the envelope calculations, asking myself ‘is this a $2 million dollar issue or a $20 million dollar issue?’”.
As part of his role on the panel, Dr Ryan was involved in the GRDC’s Investment Planning Week in 2013, which identified some key five-year RD&E projects that will benefit growers in WA.
“The new national frost initiative in particular is a very integrated project which I think will deliver some very exciting results,” he said.
“Another one to note is a sub-soil constraint research program that will get off the ground next year.”
Dr Ryan said it was exciting being part of the ‘world-class’ research effort that the GRDC was involved with.
“All the evidence suggests that unless you have an active RD&E program, you won’t keep up with the ongoing challenges facing the industry,” he said.