Southern Panel

The panels ensure our investments are in the best interests of our growers and deliver impact to each grain-growing region.

If you would like contact the Southern Panel, please call 08 8198 8400 or email


Find out more about the southern region.

Panel Members


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Andrew Russell, Panel Chair

Rutherglen, Victoria

Andrew is the Managing Director and a shareholder of Lilliput AG, and a Director and shareholder of the affiliated Baker Seed Co, a family-owned farming and seed cleaning business. He lives and manages the family farms Glenmoir and Glenhurst, a 2500-hectare mixed cropping enterprise south of Rutherglen, with his wife and two children. Lilliput AG produces wheat, canola, lupin, faba bean, triticale, oats and sub clover for seed and hay. Andrew and his family also run 2000 crossbred ewes for prime lamb production and a cattle feedlot. Andrew has served on the GRDC’s medium rainfall zone Regional Cropping Solutions Network (now Grower Network) and has held many leadership roles with Riverine Plains Inc, Victorian Farmers Federation and the Rutherglen Group of fire brigades. Andrew has a passion for rural communities, sustainable and profitable agriculture and small business resilience, and holds a Diploma of Rural Business Management and an Advanced Diploma of Agriculture. He is also a qualified electrician.


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Pru Cook, Deputy Chair

Dimboola, Victoria

Raised on a mixed farm at Diapur in Victoria’s Wimmera region, Pru has spent her professional career working in extension for the grains industry. Starting her career in Horsham with the Department of Primary Industries (now Agriculture Victoria), Pru was at the forefront of promoting smartphones and social media for growers, advisers and researchers and providing training in their use. Pru was then employed by the GRDC, based in the Canberra office, where she implemented the GRDC’s first social media strategy and managed GRDC’s social media presence. She then worked at Birchip Cropping Group (BCG), managing and supporting a number of extension projects (in particular, the GRDC Pulse Extension Project for supporting the sustainable expansion of pulses into new areas) and overseeing the research and extension program. Pru has recently started her own business specialising in extension, project development and project management. In her role on the Panel, Pru is keen to focus on better understanding the needs of and supporting young farmers, as well as developing novel extension methods for diverse grower needs.


Tim McClelland

Tim McClelland

Birchip, Victoria

Tim farms with his wife, father and aunt on a 6,500ha mixed property at Birchip in the southern Mallee. He has always enjoyed his involved with farming and learnt hands-on skills from a young age. After completing his Bachelor of Agriculture and Commerce at the University of Melbourne in 2006, Tim took on work at Advisor Edge, BCG, and RMCG in the agricultural field; analysing and providing reports on agricultural industries, managing the Yield Prophet program and management of BCG projects. In 2011, Tim moved back to Birchip and continued his role with BCG and commenced his formal involvement with the family farm. With his logical train of thought and growing up in a family that often quoted outcomes of previous years to support arguments, Tim was keen to find ways for farmers (like himself) to use solid and reliable evidence to inform their decisions and minimise risk.


Ruth Sommerville

Ruth Sommerville

Burra, South Australia

Ruth Sommerville is an agro-ecologist based in Burra, South Australia, where she runs her consulting business Rufous and Co. Ruth has a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Masters of Applied Science in Wildlife Management from the University of Sydney and has worked in sustainable agriculture RD&E and property management since 2002. Prior to moving to South Australia in 2006 she worked across the country in cotton, beef cattle, viticulture, broad acre cropping and rangeland management. Having grown up on a sheep and cropping property in NSW and now farming predominantly wheat, barley and canola with her husband and his family, she is passionate about the agriculture industry and ensuring that it is productive and profitable into the future whilst working to support a healthy landscape and vibrant communities. She is passionate about supporting farmers and farming systems groups and has been the Upper North Farming Systems Group Executive Officer and Project Manager since 2013. Ruth was the 2018 Agricultural Bureau of SA Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship recipient and the 2018 Ag Excellence Alliance Outstanding Service to Agriculture award winner.


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Andrew Ware

Port Lincoln, South Australia

Andrew is a research agronomist, based at Port Lincoln on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. He started his career with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) at the Minnipa Agriculture Centre, and then spent time at CSIRO in Adelaide. This was followed by 10 years away from research, managing the family farm on Lower Eyre Peninsula, before returning to SARDI (the research division of Primary Industries and Regions SA) in late 2009. In 2019, Andrew started his own research company, EPAG Research, delivering applied research across Eyre Peninsula. He has worked on research projects investigating canola agronomy and pathology, managed GRDC National Variety Trials (NVT), as well as projects with farming system groups, Lower Eyre Agricultural Development Association (LEADA) and Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation (EPARF) which have amalgamated to become Agricultural Innovation and Research Eyre Peninsula (AIR EP). Andrew received the GRDC Southern Panel’s Emerging Leader award in 2018, and prior to joining the Panel he served on the GRDC’s low rainfall zone Regional Cropping Solutions Network (now Grower Network).


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Michael Treloar

Cummins, South Australia

Michael is a third-generation grain grower based at Cummins on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, where he grows wheat, barley, canola, beans, lupins and lentils on a range of soil types. He has previously been involved in a number of research organisations, including the South Australian Grain Industry Trust (for which he was chair for four years), the Lower Eyre Agricultural Development Association (LEADA) and the South Australian No Till Farmers Association (both of which he has been a board member). Michael has also been a board member of the Cummins and District Financial Services and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He believes research and development underpins profitability in Australian farming systems. He says agriculture is a vital industry for the economy, and the GRDC is pivotal in delivering research outcomes that support growers.


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Neil Fisher

Adelaide, South Australia

Neil Fisher has a rich history in the grains industry, bringing to the GRDC Southern Panel a blend of strategic leadership and hands-on farming experience.

Neil's career has been marked by chief executive and board roles in various agricultural and research organisations including Sugar Research Australia (SRA); Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation; Plant Health Australia; and Grains Council of Australia (GCA). His tenure as inaugural chief executive officer at SRA showcased his ability to strategise and manage a substantial internal capability, and during his time working at GRDC he managed the portfolio of research projects, navigating complex scientific challenges in the grains research space. He is also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (FAICD) and is currently the director (managing) of NAMRASH Pty Ltd, a consultancy providing mentoring and strategic advice to highly motivated chief/senior executives.

Neil brings with him skills and experiences across grains production; trade and market access; research and development; climate, environment and sustainability; biosecurity threats; technology and technology transfer; financial literacy; knowledge, and experience in the administration of research and development; the development of government and industry policy; critical analysis; and contemporary corporate governance.

With his wife Jenny, he retains a cropping/grazing property in Bordertown, SA, where wheat, canola, barley, beans and hay are produced.


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Peter Damen

Kindred, Tasmania

Peter Damen is a farmer from north-west Tasmania with more than 10 years’ experience growing and processing commercial grain crops and trialling various grains and seeds. Peter holds a degree in agricultural science from the University of Tasmania. His first start in agriculture was his family’s vegetable farm in Kindred, Tasmania, which he helped convert to an organic grain-growing and processing business, which was also Australasia’s first-ever commercial quinoa processing plant. Aside from quinoa, Peter’s production, research and development experience extends to oats, buckwheat, spelt, hemp, adzuki beans, wheat, barley, ryegrass and more. Peter is now working at Tas Stockfeed, focusing on technical support, sales and grain procurement and processing.

Peter has travelled extensively across Europe, visiting farms and research centres, and building his agricultural knowledge within an international context. He has spent time working and researching conventional and organic farms and agricultural technology and machinery in Europe, Asia and New Zealand.

In 2017, Peter was honoured as the Young Farmer of the Year and has been deeply involved in community events over the years, volunteering with Rural Youth and Agfest. In his position as GRDC Southern Panel member, Peter hopes to amplify the voice of Tasmanian grain producers.


Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller

Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller

Adelaide, South Australia

Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller is strategic science leader with a strong track record in developing and leading national research programs with industry co-investment, including GRDC. Her own research background is in plant biosecurity and molecular detection of plant pathogens and she has a strong interest in capacity building and succession planning.

In October 2022, Kathy retired as acting executive director of the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI). In that role she was responsible for the research divisions of aquatic sciences, crop sciences, and livestock and farming systems. Prior to that she was research director, Crop Sciences covering applied research on plant biosecurity, crop improvement, climate risk management, water use efficiency and crop agronomy.

Kathy has facilitated substantive research partnerships, commercialised innovative technologies, and mentored staff during her career. Her accomplishments span the successful establishment of the South Australian Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, and research internships in applied grains R&D with support from GRDC, SARDI and the South Australian Grains Industry Trust. She has demonstrated strengths in stakeholder relationships and adaptive problem-solving.

Kathy has held numerous roles on boards and committees, and has played key teaching and supervision role, and has numerous publications under her belt. She currently sits on the board of the Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre.


Patricia Flynn

Dr Patricia Flynn

Douglas, Victoria

Dr Patricia Flynn has spent her life working in the Australian grains industry from hands-on farming to advanced research roles. Holding a Bachelor of Science (Honours) from the University of Western Australia, and a PhD from the Australian National University, Patricia's expertise lies in farming systems research with specific interest in the areas of soils management and farm business profitability. She has held research and development positions at the former Department of Agriculture, WA, at CSIRO in Canberra and Adelaide, and at the (then) Department of Primary Industries at Horsham, Victoria, each building her scientific expertise within the grains and agricultural sectors more broadly. In 2009, Patricia, alongside her husband Dan and two children, established Kwangaloo Pastoral – a mixed cropping and merino sheep enterprise based in the Wimmera. Patricia is the financial manager of the business and this role has helped her gain valuable insights into the importance of the investment decisions that Australian farmers make every day, and the implications of these decisions on farm profitability. Patricia also uses this experience to mentor young first-generation farmers, as they navigate their journey towards becoming independent farmers through unique share-farming arrangements, on their farm in WA.


Craig Baillie

Craig Baillie

Craig Baillie is currently the General Manager of Applied Research, Development and Extension at GRDC.  Within GRDC, Craig has oversight of research areas including Sustainable Cropping Systems (Agronomy and Soils) and Crop Protection (Pest, Weeds and Diseases). Craig also has responsibility for GRDC’s Grower and Stakeholder Engagement at a National level.

Formerly, Professor Craig Baillie was Dean of Agriculture and Environmental Science and Head of School at the University of Southern Queensland. Craig is an agricultural engineer with over 25 years’ experience in agricultural research, development and extension (RD&E).

Craig’s primary research interests include farming systems innovation and technology solutions to improve farm productivity and profitability. Key focus areas include precision agriculture, energy conservation, bioresources, irrigation modernisation and automation.

Craig has also been involved in major initiatives and collaborative research with Deere and Company in the USA on new and innovative farming technologies. Prior to commencing with USQ, Craig had a number of roles including farming systems research and technical support to large corporate farming operations which involved the development and implementation of new infrastructure, machinery, technologies and innovative farming strategies.