New regional panels appointed

The regional panels link GRDC-supported research directly to industry needs. The panels were first introduced in 1993-94 to perform an advisory and strategic role and have developed as a key strength of the GRDC’s research management. The three regional panels cover the northern, southern and western grain-growing regions. They comprise grain growers, agribusiness practitioners, scientists and industry representatives. The panels develop and monitor the regional priorities in the GRDC’s R&D investments and ensure the GRDC’s investment plan responds to the regional and national priorities of growers and the Australian Government.

Northern Regional Panel

James Clark (Chair)

GRDC 2015 Northern Region Map

James Clark lives in the NSW Hunter Valley and brings to the panel his extensive experience in both dryland and irrigated farming in the North Star area of northern NSW. James has served as a panellist since 2005 and chair since 2008. He says the role of the panel is to capture growers’ priorities, realise them into a pipeline of investments and empower growers to take up production gain opportunities as they arise. He believes the grains industry needs to continue to build future RD&E capacity and capability to service its needs going forward and ensure growers remain as competitive as possible.
0427 545 212

Loretta Serafin (Deputy chair)

Loretta Serafin has extensive experience as an agronomist in north-west NSW and works with the NSW Department of Primary Industries in Tamworth. As the leader northern dryland cropping systems, she provides expertise and support to growers, industry and agronomists in the production of summer crops. Loretta is a member of numerous industry bodies and has a passion for helping growers improve farm efficiency. She sees her role as a conduit between advisers, growers and the GRDC to ensure growers’ research needs are being met.  
0427 311 819

Jules Dixon

Jules Dixon has an extensive background in agronomy and an established network spanning eastern Australia and WA including researchers, leading growers and agronomy consultants through to the multinational private sector. Based in Sydney, Jules operates a private consultancy specialising in agronomy, strategy development and business review.
0429 494 067

Dr Neil Fettell

Neil Fettell is a part-time senior research adviser with Central West Farming Systems and runs a small irrigation farm near Condobolin, NSW. Neil has a research agronomy background, conducting field research in variety improvement, crop physiology and nutrition, water use efficiency and farming systems. He is a passionate supporter of research that delivers productivity gains to growers, and of grower participation in setting research goals.
0427 201 939

Penny Heuston

Penny Heuston is an agronomist based in Warren, NSW. She is passionate about the survival of the family farm and its role in the health of local economies. Penny is dedicated to ensuring research is practical, farm-ready and based on sound science and rigor. She sees ‘two-way communication’ as one of the panellists’ primary roles and is committed to bringing issues from the paddock to ‘the lab’ and conversely, the science to the paddock.
0428 474 845

Andrew McFadyen

Andrew McFadyen is an agronomist and manager with Paspaley Pastoral Company near Coolah, NSW, with more than 15 years’ agronomy and practical farm management experience. He is an active member of the grains industry with former roles on the Central East Research Advisory Committee, NSW Farmers Coolah branch and planning committees for GRDC Updates. He is also a board member and the chair of Grain Orana Alliance.
0427 002 162

John Minogue

John Minogue runs a mixed broadacre farming business and an agricultural consultancy, Agriculture and General Consulting, at Barmedman in south-west NSW. John is chair of the district council of the NSW Farmers’ Association, sits on the grains committee of the NSW Farmers’ Association and is a winner of the Central West Conservation Farmer of the Year award. His vast agricultural experience in central-west NSW has given him a valuable insight into the long-term grains industry challenges.
0428 763 023

Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson is a private agricultural consultant and helps run a family broadacre farm near Goondiwindi, Queensland. Six years of retail agronomy and three years of chemical sales management have given Jack extensive farming systems knowledge, and diverse crop management and field work experience. He is a member of the Northern Grower Alliance local consultative committee and Crop Consultants Australia.
0438 907 820

Arthur Gearon

Arthur Gearon is a grain, cotton and beef producer located near Chinchilla, Queensland. He has a business degree from the Queensland University of Technology in international business and management and has completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors course. He is vice-president of AgForce Grains and has an extensive industry network throughout Queensland. Arthur believes technology and the ability to apply it across industry will be the key driver for economic growth in the grains industry.
0427 016 658

Dr Tony Hamilton

Tony Hamilton is a grower from Forbes, NSW, and managing director of an integrated cropping and livestock business. He is a member of GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Network – Irrigation panel and a director of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. He has worked as an agricultural consultant in WA and southern NSW. With a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a PhD in agronomy, Tony advocates agricultural RD&E and evidence-based agriculture.
0406 143 394

Brondwen MacLean

Brondwen MacLean was appointed to the Northern Panel in August 2015 and is the GRDC executive manager for research programs. She has primary accountability for managing all aspects of the GRDC’s nationally coordinated R&D investment portfolio and aims to ensure that these investments generate the best possible return for Australian grain growers. Prior to her current appointment, Brondwen was senior manager, breeding programs, and theme coordinator for Theme 6, Building Skills and Capacity.
02 6166 4500

David Lord (Panel support)

David Lord operates Lord Ag Consulting, an agricultural consultancy service. Previously, for four years David worked as a project officer for Independent Consultants Australia Network, which has given him a good understanding of the issues growers are facing in the northern grains region. David is the Northern Panel and Regional Grower Services support officer.
0422 082 105

Southern Regional Panel

Keith Pengilley (Chair)

GRDC 2015 Southern Region Map

Keith Pengilley is the general manager of a dryland and irrigated family farming operation at Conara in the northern midlands of Tasmania, operating a 7000-hectare mixed-farming operation over three properties. He is a director of Tasmanian Agricultural Producers, a grain accumulation, storage, marketing and export business. Keith is the chair of the GRDC Southern Regional Panel, which identifies and directs the GRDC’s RD&E investments in the southern grains region.
0448 015 539

Mike McLaughlin (Deputy chair)

Based in Adelaide, Mike McLaughlin is a researcher with the University of Adelaide and CSIRO at the Waite campus. He specialises in soil fertility and crop nutrition, as well as contaminants in fertilisers, wastes, soils and crops. Mike manages the Fertiliser Technology Research Centre at the University of Adelaide and has a wide network of contacts and collaborators nationally and internationally in the fertiliser industry and in soil fertility research.
0409 693 906 or

John Bennett

Based at Lawloit, between Nhill and Kaniva in Victoria’s west Wimmera, John Bennett and his wife, Allison, run a mixed-farming operation across diverse soil types. The farming system is 70 to 80 per cent cropping, with cereals, oilseeds, legumes and hay grown. John serves on the GRDC High-Rainfall Zone Regional Cropping Solutions Network and the Birchip Cropping Group Wimmera Advisory Committee. John has a strong desire to see the agricultural sector promoted as an exciting career path for young people and to see R&D investments promote resilient and sustainable farming systems that ultimately deliver more profit to the grower.
0429 919 223

Peter Kuhlmann

Peter Kuhlmann is a grower at Mudamuckla near Ceduna on SA’s western Eyre Peninsula. He uses liquid fertiliser, no-till and variable-rate technology to assist in the challenge of dealing with low rainfall and subsoil constraints. He has been a board member and chaired the Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation and the South Australian Grain Industry Trust. In 2012 Peter won the ABC Rural and Kondinin Group Australian Farmer of the Year award.
0428 258 032

Bill Long

Bill Long is an agricultural consultant and grower on SA’s Yorke Peninsula. He has led and been involved in many RD&E programs and was one of the founding members of the Yorke Peninsula Alkaline Soils Group and is a former chair of Ag Excellence Alliance. He has a strong interest and involvement in farm business management and communication programs within the GRDC. He is a Churchill Fellow.
0417 803 034

Jon Midwood

Jon Midwood has worked in agriculture for the past 28 years, both in the UK and Australia. He graduated from Harper Adams University in the UK and then spent 13 years working for a large UK farm management company. In 2004 he moved to Geelong, Victoria, and managed Grainsearch, a grower-funded company evaluating European wheat and barley varieties for the high-rainfall zone. Jon set up his own consulting business in 2007, which included managing the commercial contract trials for Southern Farming Systems (SFS). In 2010 he became chief executive of SFS, one of the largest farming systems groups in the southern region with five branches covering southern Victoria (Gippsland and the western district) and Tasmania. In 2012, Jon became one of the initial members of the HRZ Regional Cropping Solutions Network set up by the GRDC.
0400 666 434

Rohan Mott

A fourth-generation grain grower at Turriff in the Victorian Mallee, Rohan Mott has been farming for 24 years and is a director of Mott Ag. With significant on-farm storage investment, Mott Ag produces wheat, barley, lupins, field peas, lentils and vetch, including vetch hay. Rohan continually strives to broaden his understanding and knowledge of agriculture, is passionate about the sustainability of Australian agriculture, and has a keen interest in new technology and value-adding.
0429 701 170

Rob Sonogan

From Swan Hill in north-west Victoria, Rob Sonogan is an extension agronomist who has specialised within government agencies in the areas of soil conservation, resource conservation and dryland farming systems. Over three decades he has been privileged to have had access to many growers, businesses, consultants, rural industry and agribusiness advisers. Rob also has been closely involved in rural recovery and emergency response into issues as diverse as locusts, fire, mice, flood and drought. Rob is employed part-time within the Mallee consultancy group AGRIvision Consultants.
0407 359 982

Mark Stanley

Mark Stanley comes from a mixed-farming background and has had extensive experience in field crops development and extension and in natural resources management within state and Australian governments and with industry. He operates his own project-management business, Regional Connections, on SA’s Eyre Peninsula. Mark leads a large carbon farming outreach and extension project with the Australian Department of Agriculture, and provides executive leadership to Ag Excellence Alliance, supporting farming groups across SA. He is on the board of the Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation and is a committee member of the Lower Eyre Agricultural Development Association.
0427 831 151

Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson is a partner in a large grain operation in Victoria’s southern Mallee region. Kate’s husband, Grant, is a third-generation grower in the area and, with their two children, they grow wheat, canola, lentils, lupins and field peas. Kate has been an agronomic consultant for more than 20 years, servicing clients throughout the Mallee and northern Wimmera. Kate is passionate about growing high-quality grain, while enhancing the natural ability of the soil to do so. Having witnessed and implemented much change in farming practices over the past two decades, Kate is also passionate about research and the extension of that research to bring about positive practice change to growers.
0427 571 360

Tanya Howitt

Tanya Howitt joined the GRDC in August 2014 as the executive manager of corporate services, coming from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority where she held two roles over her time there – chief finance officer and general manager corporate. The aim of corporate services is to be the enabler for the GRDC’s services and products for stakeholders. Corporate services plays a key role in the GRDC: improving systems and processes, to simplify and automate where possible and to enhance the GRDC’s ability to respond to stakeholder requirements.
02 6166 4500

Rebecca Jeisman (Panel support)

Rebecca Jeisman works for AgCommunicators, specialising in communication and education for primary production, science and natural resources. Rebecca provides meeting, communication, project and event support to the Southern Panel.
0438 683 436

Western Regional Panel

Peter Roberts (Chair)

GRDC 2015 Western Region Map

Peter Roberts, who farms at Dunn Rock, in WA’s Esperance Port Zone, was appointed western panel chair in 2011. Peter places a strong emphasis on ensuring that all GRDC-funded investments are targeted at addressing the most important issues facing growers. Another key focus is for the panel to have a strong level of engagement with the WA grains industry.
0428 389 060

Dr Mike Ewing (Deputy chair)

Mike Ewing brings a background in farming systems science to his role on the western panel. In a career spanning more than 40 years – working with or leading key research organisations – he concentrated on identifying break-crop technologies that improve the profitability and sustainability of crop sequences and rotations. He has tackled constraints associated with variable climate and hostile soils.
0409 116 750

Gemma Walker

Gemma Walker manages her family farm at Munglinup in WA’s south-coast region. She produces wheat, barley and canola, runs a self-replacing Merino flock and produces prime lambs. In addition to her hands-on farming experience, Gemma worked for many years managing farming systems groups to deliver development and extension activities. These included Mallee Sustainable Farming and the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association. Gemma has a Bachelor of Agribusiness (Hons) from Curtin University.
0428 751 095

Dr Greg Rebetzke

Greg Rebetzke is a wheat geneticist with CSIRO, and is committed to delivering traits and germplasm for improving crop variety water productivity. He works closely with commercial breeders to understand the relative benefits of one trait over another, and how to integrate new genetics more efficiently in the development of higher-yielding, more robust cereals.
0429 994 226

Julie Alvaro

Julie Alvaro is involved in all aspects of the 5400-hectare cropping business she operates with her husband at Merredin in WA’s central grainbelt. She is on the committee of the Merredin and District Farm Improvement Group, is the WA sub-coordinator for Partners in Grain and a founding member of Agricultural Women Wheatbelt East. Julie is a firm believer in farm businesses keeping up with technology while keeping an eye on the bottom line.
0429 141 668

Chris Wilkins

Chris Wilkins, based in Badgingarra, WA, is an agronomic and agribusiness adviser. He has 24 years’ experience in WA agriculture, including offering farm business, agronomy, farming systems and crop protection advice through his Vision Agribusiness Services company for the past 17 years. Chris is also a director of agricultural consultancy business Synergy Consulting WA, chairs the Council of Grain Grower Organisations Ltd and is a member of WA Agriculture Minister Ken Baston’s Ministerial Agricultural Advisory Council.
0427 940 925

Dr Bill Ryan

Bill Ryan has had a long career in agriculture’s research and corporate sectors. He spent 21 years with the WA Department of Agriculture and then seven years with the Heytesbury Group. He was CEO of the Kondinin Group from 2003 to 2008. He chairs the Agricultural Produce Commission and is on the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation board as well as providing independent consulting services.
0409 791 997

Darrin Lee

Darrin Lee worked for the National Australia Bank before taking up farming in 1998 north-east of Mingenew, WA. His background in finance has equipped him well for farm business analysis and agribusiness. A special area of interest includes precision agriculture. Another area of interest is value-adding, which he has achieved with his albus lupin production through a ‘paddock to plate’ joint venture initiative. Darrin is also a member of CBH Group’s Grower Advisory Council.
0427 281 021

Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly and his wife, Sue, farm 3100 hectares in the mid-west of WA. He is an active member of the Mingenew Irwin Group and has a strong interest in both farm safety and encouraging young men and women to embrace agriculture. Paul has completed two terms with the Western Panel and is keen to promote innovation that will drive profitability, productivity and sustainability for all grain growers.
0427 275 022

Andrew Duncan

Andrew is managing partner in a mixed broadacre family farming business in the West River area on the south coast of WA, producing wheat, malt and feed barley, canola, lupins and field peas. He has been involved with several organisations including the Grains Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) Barley Council, the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association, the GRDC Esperance Regional Cropping Solutions Network and the Ravensthorpe Agricultural Initiative Network.
0428 996 334

Stuart Kearns

Stuart Kearns joined the GRDC in 1998 as the northern panel officer and has worked in several roles since then. He is the executive manager grower services. The aim of the Grower Services Business Group is to listen to growers and package and deliver new and improved locally relevant products and services that meet the needs of growers and their advisers
02 6166 4500

Dr Julia Easton (Regional coordinator and Panel support officer)

Julia Easton has a PhD in plant biology and a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in environmental biology. Previously she worked as a researcher in chickpea, field pea and lupin pre-breeding with the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture and as a research manager for the former Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre. She has extensive knowledge of intellectual property management, contracts management and a good working knowledge of plant-based research. She joined the GRDC in 2013 as regional coordinator and panel support officer for the Western Region.
0402 311 395

More information:

GRDC Regional Panels


Dress rehearsal for grain emergency


Back to the future for iconic Federation wheat

Region National, North, Overseas, South, West