Progressive farm sector spurs Craig to take on GRDC regional role
The efficiency of our nation’s farmers and their willingness to adopt new technologies has drawn Craig Ruchs back to Australia to take on a new role with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
Having spent recent years working in research and development (R&D) and marketing roles across Asia Pacific, Mr Ruchs has returned to his home state of South Australia in the position of GRDC Manager Grower Services, South.
Mr Ruchs will be responsible for the regional adaptation of GRDC-funded R&D activities, ensuring the rapid delivery of research outcomes to growers in the southern region, comprising South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.
He will also help identify regional research, development and extension needs, manage the regional delivery of information, oversee regionally-specific short-term research projects and promote the GRDC’s products and services.
Mr Ruchs will act as an interface between the GRDC Southern Regional Panel, the Regional Cropping Solutions Networks, farming systems groups, researchers, advisers and growers.
Based in the GRDC’s new southern regional office in Adelaide, Mr Ruchs is excited to be back working in the southern cropping region.
“I grew up on a mixed farming property at Geranium in SA’s Mallee and spent the early part of my career working in agricultural research and extension in eastern South Australia and into Victoria’s Wimmera and northern Mallee regions,” Mr Ruchs said.
His career began as a research agronomist with IAMA in Naracoorte, SA, before joining Syngenta Crop Protection in 2004. Working in regional and national product development and extension roles, including four years in Western Australia, Mr Ruchs has extensive experience in the crop protection industry.
“Being heavily involved in the development of prosulfocarb in Australia was a major career highlight,” said Mr Ruchs. “The evolution of the pre-emergent herbicide market in Australian cereals is a great example of cross-industry collaboration to find multiple new herbicide options for the control of a major emerging resistance issue “Close engagement between the crop protection industry, leading weed scientists, advisers and growers was instrumental in ensuring new residual herbicide options were not only registered but growers were provided with the right information to facilitate rapid and effective adoption”.
Since 2012, Mr Ruchs had been based in Singapore in the role of Herbicide Technical Lead, Asia Pacific, and more recently as Head of Herbicides, South-East Asia. Working in emerging Asian markets and collaborating closely with colleagues in Europe and North America fuelled Mr Ruchs’ desire to return to Australian agriculture.
“My experience in global agricultural markets brought with it a realisation of just how progressive Australian farmers are. I am constantly reminded of their desire to seek out and try new technologies.
“A great example of this is the knowledge and uptake of integrated weed management techniques, including a more recent focus on harvest weed seed management. Whilst other countries continue to rely almost exclusively on herbicides for weed control, Australian growers are learning that this alone is not a sustainable long-term option,” Mr Ruchs said.
“The absence of farm subsidies in Australia and relatively low yields by global standards requires growers to be constantly looking for ways to become more efficient and to increase profitability.
“Global agriculture faces the same major challenge wherever you are and whatever part of the industry that you may be involved in. The ‘technology transfer bottleneck’ is an all-too-common occurrence. The ability and efficiency of industry to turn complex research findings into an applied form and drive a practice change is a major impediment.
“It is this challenge that we must address together as an industry in order to provide growers and advisers with the confidence to do something different or recommend something new and hence drive profitability.”
Mr Ruchs is looking forward to “working with Australian farmers again” and expects to be spending a significant amount of time on the road engaging with growers and other industry personnel. Active and frequent consultation with growers, advisors, the research community and private enterprise is critical to determine their needs in terms of information delivery channels and content relevance.
“The whole process breaks down unless the outcomes from the GRDC’s R&D investments are having an impact at a local level. We need to drive practice change on-farm but to do so growers must have access to information and technology that is relevant, credible, timely and meaningful to their particular farming systems,” Mr Ruchs said.
Improving the transparency of work being funded by the GRDC, on behalf of growers and the Australian Government, is also a priority for Mr Ruchs.
“The GRDC is now the largest funder of research in the Australian grains industry and with that comes huge responsibility. We are intent on getting the best return on every dollar invested in grains research and this requires constant engagement and collaboration across the entire grains industry,” Mr Ruchs said.
To that end, the new regional office in Adelaide is expected to assist in improving the GRDC’s visibility and its accessibility for growers and other industry stakeholders.
Craig Ruchs, GRDC
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli