Where are they now?

We check in with past AgriEducate Essay Competition winners

As we gear up to launch the 2020 AgriEducate Essay Competition, we thought it would be great to hear about some of last year’s winners experiences and what’s been happening since they entered the competition.

This week we check in with Cassie Howell whose essay ‘Tucker In: Feeding the World with an Australian Flavour’ took out first prize in the Science category.

Name: Cassie Howell

Degree Studied: Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) majoring in Botany

University: University of Western Australia

What did you write your 2019 Essay about?
I wrote about the potential of Australia native bush foods to be developed into a commercial industry that produces positive nutritional outcomes, environmental benefits and advantages to regional communities across Australia. I think there is an incredible opportunity, both in researching the species themselves and in better engaging with the knowledge of Indigenous people, that could play a significant role in the future of Australian agriculture.

Why did you decide to enter the AgriEducate Essay competition?
I took a semester off university to work, and a few months in found myself missing the intellectual stimulation of working on assignments. I have long been interested in the intersection between agriculture and environmentalism, and wanted to explore an aspect of this in further detail. I found the experience way more enjoyable than normal essays, because I chose the topic and followed my interest areas.

What have you been doing in the last 6 months since the competition?
I was meant to be commencing a year of study and research in Fiji and Singapore on a New Colombo Plan Scholarship, however that plan has been postponed. I have continued working in horticulture and also as a research assistant at Greening Australia, focusing on carbon and biodiversity markets in Australia

Where to next for you?
Next semester I am returning to UWA to commence my honours project in sustainable agriculture. I will be researching the impact of organic amendments on soil-plant interactions in perennial pasture and native plantings. Participating in last year’s essay competition was actually a major factor in my decision to pursue research that combined my interest in regenerative agriculture and biodiversity conservation.

What do you hope for agriculture in Australia and around the world?
I hope that it can become more sustainable, to ensure both food security and the livelihoods of regional and rural communities. I believe that agriculture does not just feed people, but it also nourishes local communities. I also hope that the agriculture industry continues to diversify and evolve towards practices that are sustainable and environmentally-friendly. With the right practices, agriculture can coexist with a healthy natural environment, and indeed I think it is likely to thrive with one. As I focused on in my essay, I do hope that Australia continues to increasingly recognise that potential of our native bush foods and find ways to share it with the world.

What do you think our food and fibre industries will be like in 10 years’ time?
I think that the future food and fibre industries will combine regenerative practise with precision technology to efficiently and sustainably produce nutritious, good quality produce. I think that improved overall environmental management will help to improve soil condition and reclaim unproductive land. I also think that there will be an increase in small-scale agriculture and urban farms that innovatively utilise space to grow food closer to dense population centres. Recent events, particularly the global pandemic, have encouraged the public to think about their relationship with food and the importance that agriculture plays in their lives. Hopefully this results in a greater appreciation of farmers and the importance of agriculture.

You can read Cassie’s winning entry into the 2019 AgriEducate Essay Competition here

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