GRDC investing in next crop of grains industry experts

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 05 Dec 2014

Image of Margaret Evans and James Walter at SARDI

A possible future shortage of skills and capacity has been identified as a potential roadblock to advancing Australia’s grains industry.

To address the issue, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is playing an active role in fostering industry expertise.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel deputy chair Chris Blanchard says skills and capacity building is one of the most important points of investment for the GRDC, “to ensure we have the very best output from the industry”.

“We need farmers, advisers and researchers with the right skills so we can have profitable and sustainable farming systems now and into the future,” Dr Blanchard said.

Dr Blanchard, who is also involved in GRDC’s skills and capacity building investment theme at a national level, says the organisation is committed to supporting current and potential future grains industry experts through a large portfolio of awards, scholarships, sponsorships and activities.

One recipient of a GRDC skills and capacity grant is James Walter, the inaugural winner of a special Grains Traineeship. Mr Walter is undertaking a one-year research officer posting with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and the University of Adelaide at the Waite Campus, with support from the GRDC, South Australian Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT), SARDI and the University of Adelaide.  

Mr Walter is working with SARDI’s cereal and pulse pathology programs and is also conducting a project for a varietal screening of the fungal disease, white grain.

“So far I’ve found it a valuable experience and overall it’s been a great kick start for my career. I’ve been experiencing a great range of research outside of what I saw at university and I’m seeing the application of this research in the agricultural industry, which has been really beneficial.

“This program is setting me up for the next step in my career which I’m hoping will be a PhD in the grains industry, I’ve learnt a huge amount so far and am very grateful for this opportunity,” Mr Walter added.

Over the coming year, the GRDC is again investing in a range of areas to promote the expertise of growers, advisers, researchers and farming systems groups and is developing a strategy for future investment.

“We’re focusing on planning and developing an overarching strategy for the best way to invest in capacity for future leadership and development programs,” Dr Blanchard said.  

Another area of investment is in understanding the training needs of the industry. There are many gaps in skills, so we’re working on a strategic plan to identify gaps and create investments to fill them so we have the best people possible for the industry.”

Dr Blanchard said the GRDC was trying to attract people to the grains industry at all touch points through its focus on nurturing and up-skilling prospective employees.

“We want to encourage people to choose the grains industry by developing a career path for them. The GRDC has current investments along the education pipeline; from school level to undergraduate and honours degrees, and attractive post graduate scholarships,” Dr Blanchard said.

For further information, visit:


For further information

Chris Blanchard, GRDC Southern Panel

0438 662992


Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
0409 675100

GRDC Project Code DAS00142

Region South, North