From paddock to plate: The holistic application of anthropology in agricultural discourse

With the 2019 Essay Competition now officially open, we’re revisiting the fascinating essays from the 2018 competition. The full compilation is available here. First off is Abby Georgeson, who won First Prize in the Arts/Social Sciences category, with an interesting perspective on anthropology and agriculture.

Abby Georgeson – First Place – Arts/Social Sciences

The need for academic rigour in the agriculture industry is well established. However, few disciplines are as far-reaching in their use and effect as the field of anthropology. Grounded in the pursuit of understanding human behaviours and social relationships, anthropology reaps benefits that other fields fail to reach due to its broad gaze; while it can evaluate the abstract, business-related elements of agriculture, it can also be used to understand and promote the understanding of the practical, lived experiences of the individuals in the Australian agricultural industry. By virtue of its broad reach and methodological willingness to assimilate cross-disciplinary knowledge, anthropology must be appreciated as a valuable voice in discussions of productivity and sustainability in Australian agriculture and its place in global food security.

In terms of disciplinary skills, ethnographic fieldwork has been the classical domain of anthropology, allowing a close examination of the “intimacy” of social relationships (Appadurai, 1997:115). For agriculture, this means a wealth of detailed information about regional centers, farmers, corporations, and consumers, the composition of these groups, and the dynamics that emerge between them. Through the scope of the minutiae of life, the anthropologist extrapolates the lived realities of their subjects into the wider framework of ongoing social and historical processes, affecting both the local and the global. Accordingly, through anthropology, the current status and potential of Australian agriculture can be brought into focus.

There are numerous theses based on agricultural anthropology, touching on the countless forms, issues, and experiences of the industry. One ethnographic account of animal husbandry in North Carolina details the rise in ethical pig farming, and the ways that consumer interests alter industry practice; another, an interdisciplinary analysis of the reasons, means, and effects of indigenous timber extraction in Indonesia (Weiss, 2014; Ellen, 1985). Both represent fundamentally different perspectives of agricultural processes, and the environments and peoples implicated; nonetheless, the lessons of both can be applied to the Australian context and further towards the global food economy.

To demonstrate this, the topical issue of coal seam gas ventures in northern NSW will be used to showcase the methodological benefit of anthropology. In this, there is a large rift between those in favour for regional jobs growth through mining and those in favour of environmental protection and agricultural longevity. The case for both is clear, but without academic rationalisation, there is little room for reconciliation. With its objective stance and ready inclusion of indigenous and otherwise marginalised voices, anthropology holds great leverage in policy-making, holding the key to ongoing collaboration and constructive debate through its intermediary capacity.

Certainly, as stated on the AgriEducate website itself, an informed industry and understanding on a wider societal level is paramount to the productivity and sustainability of the Australian agriculture industry. Through anthropology, such cooperation can be realised.

Another benefit of anthropology is that it dismantles the bounded categories of academia, favouring active engagement with the language and interests of multiple fields of enquiry in order to best represent the topic at hand.

This provides a unique opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration and with actors in the industry to identify and consider alternatives and future directions for Australian agriculture, in order to enhance productivity and sustainability in the face of looming global food security concerns. These two paradigms increasingly show themselves as going hand-in-hand, but disciplines that can handle this duality are a minority; only anthropology can synthesise these and situate them in a real-world context.

Herein, productivity can be measured and improved through careful analysis of the present situation of agriculture. An enlightening ethnographic account of a post-mining West Virginian township highlights this; it shows the real-world negative effects of industry collapse and the ways of life that have subsequently emerged (Stewart, 1996). While not related to productivity or sustainability discourse, by virtue of the vignette this account paints, it can serve as a basis for considering the present and future policy and planning directions in the region. With the input of information from other fields, it becomes a simple task for the anthropologist to assess the present and future requirements for enhancing productivity. Similarly, Australian agriculture could be treated anthropologically, generating change through consideration of the ontological experiences of related parties.

Likewise, sustainability is essential to contemporary Australian agriculture. Recently, much of the farming discourse in anthropology has centred on the consumer’s contribution to the changing face of agricultural practice. Amongst other reasons, ethics (Weiss, 2014; O’Kane & Yuliani Wijaya, 2015; DeLind, 2010) have increasingly played a role in shaping the sustainability narrative in agriculture. However, the sustainability paradigm of anthropology is not only social. In keeping with the dynamism of anthropology, the definition of “sustainable” incorporates all spheres of sustainable development and practice, be it economic, environmental, or industrial.

Additionally, by virtue of the ethnographic focus on the “local”, anthropology has also analysed some of the contemporary food security concerns pertinent to Australian society, such as the “Malthusian trap” generated by urban spread (Lang, 2010:1815). Significantly, discussions of productivity and sustainability, as well as recent analysis of global processes played out locally, anthropology is already contributing to the global food security debate. Admittedly, since anthropology is the “study of humans”, it does have an at times overwhelming social focus. However, the paradigms discussed here have all been grounded in posterity; all of the major considerations of agriculture, be it productivity, sustainability, or the global food network are founded with humans in mind. Accordingly, the thoroughly human pursuit of agriculture is ripe for analysis by an equally humanistic discipline.

As an aphorism in the field goes, “anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanist of the sciences”. It’s assimilation of a broad scope of practices makes anthropology one of the most dynamic perspectives available to agriculture, encompassing everything from production to business and consumption. A sincere engagement of anthropology in this sector shows promise, due to its ability to provide synergistic proposals to improve the present condition of Australian agricultural productivity and sustainability, and envision its future in the global food economy.

The AgriEducate Essay Competition is officially open!

One of the most inspiring elements about agriculture, and something that initially converted and now keeps me in the industry, is its truly cross-disciplinary nature. The embroidering of agriculture in the social fabric of Australian society means it has links beyond the expected biological and engineering components. Anthropology, law, business, international relations, diplomacy, market analytics and even nursing, medicine, construction and astrophysics, all these disciplines contribute to a more productive agricultural ecosystem.

Yet this complexity and diversity is often lost, with the industry surmised as ‘farming’ on its lonesome. Farm management itself is undeniably complex, involving every one of those aforementioned disciplines in a single occupation!

So in 2017 AgriEducate developed the idea of a truly interdisciplinary essay competition, capturing the diversity and scale of ideas and areas of study around Australia. The concept being that any tertiary student could apply, from any discipline with a plethora of prizes across a number of categories. The response was fantastic. We had entries from 14 different universities covering an innumerable number of perspectives, and this year we’re running it again.

Four awarded categories (Science, Business/Commerce, Engineering/IT, Law/Arts) sharing a prize pool of $4000 across 12 prizes. The stakes are higher and this year we’ve even opened a Global/Open category, so we can engage with the truly global and all encompassing nature of the industry as well. All the the information on the competition can be found here.

So, what are you waiting for? Entries close October 31st 2019, with winners announced on November 21st for National Agriculture Day. We can’t wait to start reading responses and sharing those fascinating perspectives. Good luck!

Guy Coleman, Founder

Thanks to our sponsors Crawford Fund and Bailiwick Legal.

Glyphosate. So what’s the story?

John E. Franz. The man, the organic chemist, and the name behind the game changing glyphosate discovery. He and his team of chemists at Monsanto sifted through metabolites and compounds eventually coming across glyphosate, better known as RoundUp. At its core, the chemical targets the 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase plant enzyme, or better known as ESPS synthase. This enzyme is involved in the synthesis of key amino acids (which are plant-specific), so disrupting it and therefore killing the plant means the plant needs to be both healthy and actively growing, with around two weeks before plant death. This pathway is absent in humans.

As the patent expired in 2000, there are now 499 other registered products containing glyphosate in Australia and two GM resistant crops (canola, cotton). So why all the fuss? And what about those billion dollar lawsuits?

Well in 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen”. Yet IARC also rate frying food, eating red meat and consuming hot beverages at the same 2A “probably carcinogenic” level. Even coffee and other heated/cooked foods containing acrylamide are rated on this same level. And on the occupation side of things, shift work, hairdressing and manufacturing all fall into the same category.

Yet, there is significant research detailing the inconclusive nature and impact of glyphosate on cancer risk. In smoking and other known highly carcinogenic compounds which are regularly consumed, there is a clear link between smoker number, location and various forms of cancer. In glyphosate the link appears to be absent.

Other epidemiological studies have found similar lack of association between exposure and cancer incidence. In 54,251 applicators over a period from 1993 to 2012, “no association was apparent between glyphosate and any solid tumors or lymphoid malignancies overall, including NHL and its subtypes”.

Nevertheless, in defending the chemical, given its importance to food production, it is still important to continue to scrutinise and assess the corporate management of and influence in science. This is critically important, such that results like those presented above can be trusted and the philosophy underpinning science can be maintained.

At the same time, safety requires that labels are followed and correct PPE is worn. Suggestions of farmers being drenched in glyphosate imply very poor application methods and potential for carelessness in the application of more toxic chemicals. Moreover, it is interesting that in some of these cases, the impact of glyphosate over long periods of time was able to be teased out from the exposure to other carcinogenic compounds and the compound solely blamed for the presence of cancer.

All in all, continual evaluation of scientific findings and claims is fundamental to scientific progress. This is welcomed in the industry and actively promoted. Glyphosate to date has been cleared by some of the most well recognised regulatory authorities in the world as being safe for use, findings we should have confidence in.

The chemical has been incredibly important in the implementation of conservation agriculture, rapid increases in production efficiency and importantly the sustainable production of food.

Budget 2019: How did Australian agriculture fare?

The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, delivered his first budget and the last before the next Federal Election. For 2018/19 we’re still in a deficit, but pending numerous economic factors there’s a $7.1 billion surplus forecast for 2019/20. As usual a budget before an election is a pitch to voters, but how did Australian agriculture fare?

On the whole drought and flood disaster relief, infrastructure, market access and farm labour were the big ticket items, with some interesting new initiatives such as the Agricultural Stewardship Package for biodiversity and National Leadership for Agricultural Innovation.

Drought Support
Still no funding for a forward looking National Drought Policy. However, the government included $4.2 million for a National Drought Map.

Previously, income generated from the forced sale of livestock affected a farmer’s eligibility for the Farm Household Allowance (FHA). To improve the uptake of FHA, this income will be exempt and instead must be invested in a Farm Management Deposit. The cost of this exemption is expected to be $3 million.

Beef Australia 2021
Beef week (2 – 8 May 2021) is receiving additional support with $3.9 million over three years allocated in funding for the three-yearly event held in Rockhampton.

Farm Labour
Still no funding for an agriculture-specific visa, but the government did announce a 12-month pilot program addressing seasonal worker shortages. The pilot would operate in three regions – yet to be selected.

Seeking to incentivise Australians to take up seasonal work, the government has allocated $24.1 million to expand the current Harvest Labour Service to five new horticultural regions. A further $1.9 million over four years is aimed at developing a long term view on these recurring issues with the creation of a National Agriculture Workforce Strategy.

Climate Solutions Fund
$2 billion was earmarked for the CSF back in February, and included in today’s announcement. It adds to the emissions reduction fund which focused on providing opportunities for farmers, businesses and Indigenous communities to develop emissions reductions projects with local benefits.

Fast Rail Corridors
It seems like “Fast Rail” is the dream that won’t die, and drew some chuckles from the Opposition upon announcement. While a recurring theme, with many reviews, feasibility studies and investigations to date, further funding was allocated to look at targeting key regional fast rail routes such as connecting Sydney with Wollongong, Newcastle, Bathurst and Parkes.

Regional and Remote Airports
$100 million was allocated in the budget for the improvement of regional and remote airports through additional safety measures and improved access.

Enhancing Australia’s Agricultural Trade
$29.4 million has been earmarked for growing Australian agricultural exports and trade. The investment covers four key areas:

  1. Accelerating horticulture market access ($11.4 million)
  2. Enhancing industry action on non-tariff measures ($5.1 million)
  3. Package assisting small exporters – extension ($6.1 million)
  4. Australian Trade and Market Access (ATMAC) Programme ($6.8 million)

Weather Monitoring
Radar coverage is set to improve across NSW and Queensland with $77.2 million allocated over 23 years. The Moree radar will move to Bogabilla along with numerous other changes to radar locations.

National Leadership for Agricultural Innovation
This initiative will receive a boost of $2.9 million over three years for the establishment of an advisory panel to strengthen leadership and investigate ways of modernising the innovation system.

Agriculture Stewardship Package
The four year package comprises three key areas and focuses on improving, quantifying and certifying farm biodiversity. The package will cost $34 over four years with the three key areas:

  1. Agriculture Biodiversity Policy
    • The policy will target the development of a national biodoversity vision involving both community and farmers.
  2. Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot Program
    • Grants will be available to incentivise the adoption of improved biodiversity practices
  3. Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme
    • $4 million of the total funding will be allocated to the National Farmers’ Federation to develop and trial the certification scheme.

These are the standout areas identified so far, but check back regularly as this will be updated as new areas of interest are found.

Celebrating Women in Agriculture #IWD2019

Over 49% of food in Australia is grown by women, and that makes pretty logical sense considering women comprise 50.3% of the Australian population. Yet women farmers have historically been “invisible”. It was only in 1994 that women in agriculture could actually put down “farmer” as their occupation for the census, instead of “farmer’s wife”. On the farming front, projects such as the Invisible Farmer and Visible Farmer documentary are helping share and write-down the stories of these farmers to make sure they aren’t forgotten. The trailer for Visible Farmer was just released – make sure you check it out!

In the agricultural leadership and management space, only 18% of senior management roles and 2.3% of CEOs in agriculture are women. Something the National Farmers’ Federation is trying to change with its Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

And you don’t have to look far to find all the incredible women working in agriculture.

👩‍🌾 Do you know of an inspirational woman who’s making a difference towards #ZeroHunger?

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we’re asking you to nominate them and celebrate their work, by using the hashtag #AgvocateWomen.

Spread the word! #IWD2019— Youth Ag Summit (@YouthAgSummit) March 4, 2019

At the annual RD Watt lecture at the University of Sydney, the Women in Agriculture theme saw three incredible women from across the generations, Lucinda Corrigan, Caroline Wardrop and Evie Murdoch, talk about their stories as women in agriculture.

The MC for the evening, Dr Angela Pattison spoke about the diversity in her workplace at the Plant Breeding Institute in Narrabri, where the male:female split is about 50%.

“Where I work there are women driving headers, forklifts, tractors, doing the threshing, sorting and all tasks needed. It doesn’t matter your gender, just that the job that needs to be done.”

So we decided to celebrate the amazing women in agriculture and have shared a few stories below. From a weeds scientist in Colorado, GIS Consultant in Sydney and trainee agronomist in South Australia to a banking analyst in Sydney the opportunities in agriculture are incredible.

Kimberly Pellosis

University of Melbourne

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

Organisations double their talent pool, to foster diversity of thought, financial inclusion, and promoting a culture of gender balance – something that the agriculture industry should continue working towards if we hope to set an example and shake the stigma from the general public that it’s a male-dominated workforce, especially if we’re aiming to have more graduates passionate about agriculture.

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

As an agriculture student it’s been great!

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

If you ever feel uncomfortable at work, speak up – pick your battles wisely, and back yourself! Always keep your LinkedIn and resume up to date. Figure out what you like and what you’re good at, and communicate that niche effectively i.e. build your brand. Failure will be a part of your career – it’s how you deal with it is what’s important. Fail fast, move on, and learn from it. Keep an open mind, stay curious and don’t be afraid to change course. Support other women instead of competing fiercely against them – build each other up. Avoid needless apologies – women say sorry too often! Hold yourself to a higher standard.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

Employers should always consider their biases – we all have them. Minimise the gender pay gap, and get serious about addressing work/life balance. Make sure all employees have the same access to opportunity – drive skills development equally. Create female role models in senior leadership. Acknowledge and reward different leadership styles. The agriculture industry need to squash harassment.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

The same role/s as men do in the future of agriculture!

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? For everyone working hard behind the scenes, and those paving the way for our future female agricultural leaders – ABSOLUTE LEGENDS

Rayali Banerjee

Agribusiness Analyst, Commonwealth Bank

Role in Ag: I currently work as an Agribusiness analyst at Commonwealth Bank. I support Australia’s leading corporate Agribusinesses, investors and assist our clients with offshore trade. We provide services to Agribusinesses and investors in sectors including animal protein, Aquaculture, Grains and Oilseeds, Horticulture, Forestry, Fibres, Dairy and Fertilisers.

Outside my day-to-day role, you can find me working on my initiative “Ag Bootcamps” where my vision is to cultivate the capabilities of diverse future leaders for global Agriculture. The mandate behind Ag Bootcamps is to attract and retain skilled STEM and Agricultural students in the Agriculture industry by equipping them with skills for the future of work. You can also find me undertaking public speaking, inspiring others with bold thinking and call to actions, implementing innovations on food security in developing countries and collaborating with my co-founders on a grassroots initiative called This is Aus Ag.

Why is it important to have women in Agriculture?

There are 216,100 males working in the farm sector compared to 88,110 females. Historically this has occurred due to the perceptions of what farming looks like. The position of women in Agriculture is not equal to men with women earning 21.8% less than men and occupying only 14% of management roles. In developing countries the inequality is prevalent in employment opportunities and wage.

Women are the backbone of rural and regional economies, women are the human links between farm and table. It’s essential to have women in Agriculture because we bring diversity in thought because of our ethnic, educational and geographic background. Our deep life experiences forge our leadership capabilities and our abilities to consider minute details in a decision-making process. In countries of low socioeconomic communities, empowering a woman to work in Agriculture empowers the entire society, leading to positive impacts on nutrition, health and income.

What is your experience of being a woman in Agriculture?

I remember the first year of University I was rejected from every single internship I applied for because of my gender, background and inability to understand the “Ag Language”. I overcame my adversities, turned them into opportunities. I operated a tractor installing plumbing systems on Australia’s biggest farms, mustered and vaccinated thousands of cattle. At 22, I didn’t have ALL the capabilities or skills to travel the world to negotiate license to operate policies with c-suite executives, negotiate international trade policies with Agricultural ministers and successfully implement strategies within a board. BUT I did.

Reflecting on these experiences, my mentors who are women and men provided me with these life-changing opportunities. They championed me along the way, supported me through my successes and mistakes and passed on their knowledge to equip me with the skills I needed to get the job done.

The agriculture industry is one of a kind and my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive.

What is the biggest thing women should celebrate this IWD?
My grandfather was my go-to person who I could call and brainstorm all my crazy and big ideas about solving world hunger. Despite the 5.5-hour difference between Australia and India, I could call him at 4AM in the morning to work on our pitch deck for an electric bicycle that would revolutionise access to electricity in rural Indian villages.

Like my grandfather, my family and my mentors have always empowered me to know that I am powerful enough to achieve anything I want to. This IWD, women should celebrate the positive impacts they have made to their respective industries BUT most importantly, their champions. Women should be celebrating the people around them who have guided them to success, encouraged and uplifted them during times of failure or setbacks and have been their cheerleaders.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the Agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

To attract diverse people who can provide out of the box thinking and resilience to local economies into Agriculture, it is essential to continue to tell the story of Ag especially because those in Ag are contributing to global food security. However, the perception that a woman is a “farmer’s daughter” or “farmer’s wife” rather than a farmer herself continues to be an omnipresent issue. There are many programs that have started the conversation about women in Agriculture. However, I believe that conversations need to be transformed into action, execution and tangible outcomes. Chair of Citrus Australia, Tania Chapman stated that women tend to have issues with confidence and self-esteem. Reflecting on my personal journey, I had to be proactive during the start of my journey in Ag. There were many times when I felt that I did not offer any value to the Ag industry.

To overcome my adversities, I attended conferences and networking events and worked hard to build my personal brand and a board of mentors in the Ag industry. My board of mentors consist of men and women who are extremely passionate about enabling young people in Agriculture.

Life can be tumultuous. My vision to navigate the road to gender equality is to establish a formal mentoring program open to all genders. To enable change, we require both male and female leaders who champion change. The benefits of mentoring include capacity and confidence building, growing personal brand and networks, increasing self-awareness and having access to people who are “cheerleaders” and will advocate for a mentee’s personal and professional development.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of Agriculture?

In the future, I envision the term “leaders” being used rather than “female leaders or “male leaders”. By changing the language, we can accelerate the road to gender equality.

The future of Agriculture is bright for women, we are a league of powerhouses collaborating and enabling each other to grow, develop and fulfil our dreams and aspirations. Women in the future will continue to power modern farming both in developed and developing countries. There are opportunities for women to become Agriculture and Food technology leaders, make decisions on political and social change, grow farming businesses to previously untapped markets, travel the world providing thought leadership to the next generation and supporting people from all ages, backgrounds, genders to do the same.

The future is bright and the opportunities are endless. If you dream it, you can be it.

Brittany Dahl

GIS Consultant, ESRI Australia; Regional Coordinator, Though for Food Challenge

Growing wheat on a rehabilitated mine site!

What’s your role in agriculture?

I have multiple roles. I currently work for a Geographic Information System (GIS) software company called Esri Australia. My passion is for combing GIS technologies with sustainable food systems, and I am excited to see how the agricultural community continues to embrace spatial systems. I also volunteer for Thought for Food (TFF). TFF is a global community of entrepreneurs transforming our food system. Since 2016, we host activities in more than 100 cities featuring successful local startups, raising awareness about Food Security, learning about collaborative innovation and experiencing a real sense of community. I also have personal connections! My grandparents ran a dairy farm in northern NSW.

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

Diversity in every industry is incredibly important. It’s speculated that women make up around 43% of the industry around the world, but overall the labour burden of rural women exceeds that of men, usually due to a higher proportion of unpaid household responsibilities. If we are interested in improving agriculture, it should include bringing about equality and equity for women.

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

Coming from a STEM background, it would be great to see more women to bring about more diversity in the field. However, there are a number of excellent groups, such as Australian Women in Agriculture and Homeward Bound, striving to improve and provide opportunities to women.

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

My best advice is to not be afraid – apply for opportunities, competitions, and events that might come your way! You never know where opportunities such as the Youth Ag Summit or Thought For Food Challenge will take you!

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

I believe that we need a holistic approach. Individuals of all genders can assist in striving to a more equal and equitable future. Industry, public policy, and grassroots events and organisations all can do their part to encourage women, strive for pay parity, and celebrate wins of women.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

Women have a role, just as any gender, in the future of agriculture. Technology is changing the face of the industry, and we should aim to use it as a tool to help empower those who need it most. What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? We should all celebrate the successes of others, regardless of gender – but the focus should be on those of marginalised and disempowered communities or inidivduals, who aren’t usually in the spotlight.

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD?

We should all celebrate the successes of others, regardless of gender – but the focus should be on those of marginalised and disempowered communities or individuals, who aren’t usually in the spotlight.

Ruby Faithfull

Policy Officer, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

It’s important to have women and diversity in every industry. Feeding the world can’t be left to one gender!

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

Working as a policy officer in a range of roles and different topics I’ve enjoyed meeting lots of different people and working on complicated issues. It’s great when you see women in senior roles, running organisations and being leaders in agriculture. From what I’ve seen in the higher level positions there are probably still more John’s then women.

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

Agriculture is fascinating and anyone who is interested should definitely get involved.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. I think some positive steps would be 1. changing the image of who works in agriculture by seeking and promoting diversity 2. ensuring women feel welcome and valued in the industry 3. striving for gender balance on boards and other representative organisations.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

Women bring additional perspectives to food production leading to increased opportunities for food security and environmental sustainability. In the future of agriculture women could help ensure food is more evenly distributed and there is less waste in the food production system. If we’re going to feed our growing population and tackle other big challenges like sustainability we need the best and brightest working in agriculture, regardless of gender.

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? The vital role women already play!

Olivia Todd

PhD Student in Weeds Science, Colorado State University

Spraying sorghum in Colorado

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

It’s important to have women in agricultural settings because the industry needs as many minds possible set on problem solving. Certainly, in the research and development area we need diverse, flexible young minds that are passionate about agriculture. In the United States, the average age of the farmer is 58. We need to find people to either fill their shoes or make their production systems easier to manage and it takes unification to do that.

My experience of being a woman in agriculture.

My experience in agriculture really started when I entered college in 2012. When starting my B.Sc. in Soil and Crop science, I didn’t necessarily feel like a minority because I was a woman. There were several other females in my classes who were all very friendly. I felt like a minority because I had no background in Ag whatsoever and was loosely familiar at best with common concepts like pest management and growing seasons. Neither of my parents went to a University, and the idea that I was going forth with no guidance and no previous exposure to the field made me nervous. As I gained more knowledge and entered graduate school with slightly more confidence, I felt much less of a minority because of my lack of knowledge. However, I now felt the shift to feeling like a minority because I had to fight for my credibility because of my gender. When talking to growers, my biggest challenge had been trying to convince an older male farmer that my advice would help them solve their problems.

My experience has been largely positive in the pursuit of my PhD. My confidence in my ability to communicate and in my ability to learn is high, and I have actively sought out women in agricultural industry to talk to. Some of these women have given me mentorship and advice that caused me to pursue my PhD, and I am just as passionate about agriculture as they day I started college in 2012!

What is one of the most important things to celebrate international women’s day?

I think, when posed with this question, a lot of people may say that things like women’s strength and independence should be celebrated. I agree, strength and independence should absolutely be celebrated, but what I think is almost equally as important is the opportunity for education and leadership in young women. Educational programs in Ag related fields are seeing a rise in number of women of all backgrounds joining their programs. The ideas and skills that they bring are incredibly valuable and we’re only making the field  and the science better by gathering diverse perspective from equally capable people.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps to improvement?

I think that a wise next step is going to young girls interested in STEM fields and show them that agriculture has a lot of overlap with traditional STEM. This concept is something that I wasn’t familiar with until I was making my choice of where to go to college, and when I started thinking about my future career at 17, I was lucky enough to fall into agricultural interest of my own accord. If we take it upon ourselves to advertise how much some aspects of Ag are like traditional engineering, how much science and research is a part of the bigger picture, etc. then we may be able to prime interest in the field in girls from a young age where they will be able to see their place in the industry.

What role to women have in the future of agriculture?

In the U.S., women can have any role they choose to have in agriculture, and I highly encourage them to go after it!

The Top 10 in agriculture for 2018

2018 was a tumultuous, tough yet exciting year for Australian agriculture. Farmers on the east coast were stricken by dry conditions that turned into one of the worst droughts in living memory, while strawberry farmers around the country were hit by a needle contamination scare right at peak season. Yet the response by the Australian public and even globally was something inspiring. We saw thousands of bales of hay donated by WA farmers and trucked in convoys across the country, millions of dollars donated by people around the country and the world and even “adopt-a-cow” type projects gain significant support. The country rallied behind strawberry farmers, trending #smashastrawb and slogans such as “cut it up, don’t cut it out”. While the impacts of these events were significant the response has been fantastic.

We saw a number of other positive developments too, such as industry wide accreditation by the Ag Institute Australia, the launch of the #ThisIsAusAg initiative from the National Farmers Federation and the announcement of the first hybrid wheat variety by Sydney University researchers. So, sit back, relax and enjoy our top 10 events, discoveries, industry influencers and more for 2018.

10. Successful, inaugural AgriEducate Essay Competition

While certainly not ones to toot our own horn, we were very excited to successfully hold our first cross-disciplinary essay competition. We received entries from 14 different universities around Australia, covering topics from anthropology and medicine, to construction and macroeconomics.

The competition will be back in 2019 too, with even more on offer than before! So stay tuned and follow our social media accounts for more.

9. Young people and women boost Australia’s agricultural workforce

According to the Insights snapshot released in December by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics Sciences, the Australian agricultural workforce is getting younger and with a larger percentage of women now involved as well. Of the young people becoming involved, 30 per cent are women, which is up 2 per cent from 2011.

8. Response to the strawberry needle contamination scare

The strawberry industry was hit hard by a needle contamination scare that hit during peak season. But an inspiring support campaign right around the country resulted in many people actively including more strawberries in their shopping. So, while many thousands of tonnes were discarded, consumers rallied and did their best to help where they could. Sales figures even bounced back noticeably as a result of the positive campaign.

7. #ThisIsAusAg

Support for young people in agriculture appears to be at an all time high with the peak farming representative body, National Farmers Federation, developing a group of young, motivated people to help put forward views and opinions on agriculture not typically seen or heard. They have hit the ground running with a series of podcasts and videos on various aspects of agriculture.

Click on the link above and listen to some of their first podcasts!

6. Launch of the CGIAR GARDIAN platform for big data

Imagine being able to access thousands of scientific datasets free of charge, on-demand and digitally. Well now we all can with the launch of the CGIAR GARDIAN platform. CGIAR are leading the way in generating information so that everyone can have the “…power to predict, prescribe, and produce more food sustainably”.

5. Launch of the first whole-of-agricultural accreditation program CAg

As the industry modernises and secures its place within the wider community, it needs appropriate ethical, professional and technical accreditation. The Ag Institute Australia launched the very first whole-of-agriculture accreditation scheme in what is a major step forward for the industry. The scheme encompasses all technical areas of expertise enabling people from any walk of professional agricultural life to jump on board. If you’re an agronomist, consultant, advisory, or policy expert (plus many more) then check it out and take your career to the next level.

4. Announcement of the first F1 hybrid wheat breeding system

The University of Sydney launched the first hybrid wheat variety at its Narrabri-based Plant Breeding Institute’s field day in September. The discovery stems from over 30 years research in developing a scalable system for effectively producing commercial quantity of F1 hybrids. Hybrid varieties offer the potential to increase yields through hybrid vigour, an opportunity for yield increases not possible in conventional plant breeding approaches.

Typical hybrid production approaches are incredibly labour intensive, requiring plant breeders to manually transfer pollen from sterile ears of wheat, and the removal of male stamen from those sterile ears.

3. Announcement of first new herbicide mode of action in over 25 years

In a development that’s sure to excite weed scientists, farmers and consultants alike, BASF announced a new mode of action at the Australasian Weeds Conference in September. It is currently under evaluation by the APVMA, but is expected to be released in 2019 for a world-first release in Australia.

The chemical compound named Luximo “was designed as an active ingredient which provides pre-emergence, residual control against a broad range of grasses, including difficult-to-control blackgrass and ryegrass in winter cereals”.

2. Inclusion of compulsory agricultural subjects in NSW curriculum from 2019.

NSW school students will soon be learning about agriculture as part of its introduction as a compulsory component of the curriculum.

It comes after the 2013 Pratley review recommended inclusion of agricultural topics and examples in everyday classes, to ensure students knew about opportunities in the ag industry.

Very exciting developments, hopefully other states follow suit!

1. Response to the 2018 drought

The 2018 drought was one of the worst in living memory for farmers across the eastern states. Its impact on agriculture in the region has been terrible, with many forced to destock, not plant any crops or in the worst cases move on altogether. Yet in the midst of this despair emerged a community-led movement to support farmers and livestock through hay donations, transport, food and family support and general appreciation of the hard work involved in producing food and fibre. So whilst the impacts of the drought were devastating, the banding together of Australians and people from around the world to support Australian farmers was undeniably an influencing and important part of 2018 in agriculture.

…to the future, and beyond!

Not to remain in the past, we’ve closed out our top 10 with a list of where to look for inspiration and from-the-horse’s-mouth news this year. So if you’re someone who has dabbled in the @Twittersphere, here is a list of our 19 accounts to follow for 2019 (inspired by @AnikaMolesworth).




















So with 2018 done and dust(y)ed, here’s to 2019 with the current shearing season, upcoming summer crop harvest, as always the ongoing milking of dairy herds and planning for the winter season already happening. We’re looking forward to all the new developments that 2019 will offer!

The most powerful tool in the global shed: moving to a food systems paradigm

AgriEducate attended the Crawford Fund Conference in Canberra last month, which covered the nexus of agriculture, food, nutrition and health. Christine Freak is a passionate development ag writer and policy thinker, and was one of the AgriEducate representatives at the conference. Christine has put together the following article, exploring the biggest lever in the shed to help improve nutrition, environment and food security. Enjoy! 

“In the Anthropocene, agriculture is the biggest lever humans can pull”

– Andrew Campbell.

So what does this mean?

For centuries, agriculture has been at the heart of societies across the world. Not only does agriculture provide a means to subsistence, but it defines livelihoods, is essential to health and well-being, forms the basis of trade, is an essential part of culture and traditions, forms gender roles and ultimately shapes the human relationship with Earth. Since agriculture is so fundamental, it is inextricably linked to multiple facets of human life. This means that our approach to managing the global food system must consider and support these linkages through a systems approach. So, what this really means is that agriculture is a very powerful tool in the shed. If agriculture can influence and shape health, environmental, livelihood and gender issues, then agriculture can be an incredibly powerful tool which we can harness to overcome some of the greatest challenges of our time.

The world is facing the challenge of how we can feed a population of 9 billion people by 2050. There has been much talk about how this can be done from the production side, with estimates that global food production will need to double to match the growing demand. There are estimates that the world will need to produce more food in the next 50 years, than in the entire history of mankind together. There is optimism about how this can be done. As Andrew Campbell explains “Agricultural Science has shown it can respond to very big challenges, very effectively”. We have seen through the Green Revolution that technological advancements have great potential for agricultural development to increase yields and improve crop resilience. But, as Robyn Alder explains, “In agriculture, we have made mistakes with good intentions… we thought we could do it [achieve food security] with yields and productivity, but we now realise it’s much more complex”. So, alongside the optimism that agricultural science can address these big challenges, there remains a further step to bridge production advancements to consumption gains, and reach positive overall development outcomes.

The next step towards meeting this challenge, is recognising that given the complexity and interlinkages of food security, a paradigmatic shift is needed to a systems approach. Andrew Campbell explained at this year’s conference that agriculture can respond to these contemporary challenges, but “we’re not going to do it with the same paradigm” as we have in the past. Andrew Campbell explains that this new approach needs to have a food systems perspective, and be tailored to deliver against the Sustainable Development Goals. After all, agriculture is said to be the most effective means to poverty reduction, and is linked to every one of the Sustainable Development Goals!

So, how do we make such a shift?

1) Look to nutrition (demand) rather than simply production (supply)

What is referred to as “The Nutrition Challenge” spans the ‘triple burden’ of food insecurity: malnutrition, over nutrition (obesity), and micronutrient deficiencies (particularly iron and vitamin A). Today, the food insecurity landscape has:

  • 816 million people suffering from acute hunger
  • 2 billion people overweight or obese
  • 2 billion people with micronutrient deficiencies

Clearly, productivity alone (whilst incredibly valuable in its own right) is not the issue. Consumption and distribution remain as two crucial facets of our response to the global food security challenge.

2) Implications for Agricultural Science and the need to address transdisciplinary challenges with multidisciplinary solutions

Taking a systems approach, means new collaborations and partnerships will be required with the multiple actors involved. This spans the full length of the supply chain, from the agricultural sector who provide the inputs and outputs; to the financial sector who trade on markets and invest in the agricultural sector and new technologies, the public sector who regulate food access, availability and utilisation, and implement public health policies; the education sector who communicate valuable knowledge about agricultural production and nutrition consumption; and the health sector who promote and manage nutrition and health outcomes at the individual level. Afterall, 5% of global GDP comes from primary production, but this figure soars to 30% of global GDP if the whole food system is considered in its entirety.

Within academia, the response to the transdisciplinary challenges requires multidisciplinary collaborations and partnerships. The global food system does not fit within any one academic box. Andrew Campbell explained that “we now need to think about how agriculture works with public health, and re-conceive interdisciplinary”. Robyn Alders puts the call out – “Nutritionists we really need your help”. We need to identify the opportunities many other disciplines present to contribute to knowledge of the global food system.  Robyn Alders explains that every discipline has vital contributions to this challenge – “Historians and philosophers have a contribution”. We have seen in the AgriEducate Essay Competition that it is possible for these disciplines to come together, and how every discipline offers a unique lens to approach our food challenges. What now needs to happen is for these lenses to come together to achieve our visions for a global food system.

It is important in this interdisciplinary space, to not only be able to speak our own languages, but to learn to work with others. This will see unprecedented collaborations and partnerships formed to tackle the thread which spans all disciplines and links all aspects of human life – our food system. But just as importantly, as Colin Charters wraps up, “the solutions to these challenges are going to come from transdisciplinary solutions, but they are going to come from disciplinary excellence”. We need to “really knuckle down into our disciplines” and then be able to work with colleagues in theirs. We must learn our own languages, and learn the languages of others.

3) policy implications

Andrew Campbell discusses governance for the Anthropocene within food systems. Humans are now changing the basic biogeochemical cycles of the planet, and exceeding some planetary boundaries already. On-going environmental changes will challenge governments, industries and communities. What is needed is policy convergence across the multiple and interlinked challenges, which spans multiple actors and sectors.

One particular issue for the nutrition challenge is that nutrition falls in a crevice between agriculture and health, as Dr Lindiwe Sibanda’ highlighted at the 2017 Crawford Fund Conference. There is no ministry for nutrition in national governments, in the same way that there are ministries for agriculture and for health. This year, Robyn Alders reiterated this point, stating “until they overlay, we are not going to get there”. So as Lindiwe suggests in 2017, “it’s these two communities coming together” and “the two languages have to meet somewhere”.

This is where the idea of Smart Foods becomes important. These are foods which are good for you, good for the planet, and good for the farmer. Part of this smart food agenda focus means looking beyond the ‘Big 3” (wheat, maize and rice). As Dr Alessandro Demaio explains, “whilst there is a fixation on fixing consumption on a few key species, we often forget to look at the diversity of foods which are available, and by enhancing these we can enhance biodiversity in our ecosystems”. Joanna Kane-Potaka explained how there are valuable gains by diversifying food production, both for agro-biodiversity, nutritional diversity, and for risk mitigation in ensuring production which is sustained and resilient to climate variations. Joanna Kane-Potaka shows that finger millet has three times the calcium of milk, is high in vitamins and zinc, but can also be grown with minimal fertilisers and requires much less water. This presents a valuable opportunity as a smart food which has previously been overlooked in favour of ‘big 3’ staple crops or cash crops. Robyn Alders identifies that “market signals are about quantity and volume; they were not selected for nutritional capacity”. Now is the time we see the value of diversity in crop selection, as a vital part of preserving biodiversity and nutritional diversity.

We can also look at how our policy responses can target multiple policy objectives, given the fundamental and interlinked position agriculture has with other sectors, such as the environmental and human health. Dr Alessandro Demaio points out that “food systems are at the heart of the SDG agenda” and “food is a great driver of achieving all the SDGs at once”.  This is consistent with Glenn Denning who explains      “don’t think of nutrition as a social welfare program, but an economic development program”. This is for the multiplier effects agriculture has outside of the immediate field. However, Dr Demaio also points out that “the SDGs are complex and complicated; to the point they sound confusing”. One way to breakdown this challenge is to look to the single biggest lever which we can pull which spans these multiple complexities – agriculture.  Agriculture offers unprecedented opportunities to achieve some of the greatest global challenges – as Dr Alessandro Demaio summarises – “The biggest opportunity we have is our food”.

Yet there are still a number of challenges in shaping this policy convergence to be able to use the lever of agriculture across many global challenges. For one, as Robyn Alders addresses, “at the end of the day, if it’s not financially sustainable, no farmer can stay in their business”. Further, she explains that “sometimes you have to face the hard reality that what you’re proposing” is not suitable to the most vulnerable populations. This is particularly evident in the shifts to cash cropping in many parts of the world, which presented mixed results for local incomes and nutrition. We also must ensure that whilst we look to a global food system, that we understand how food systems operate on a local and farm level, and tailor our approaches as necessary. As Dr Anna Okello explains, “we cannot deny that these systems are different, and therefore require different solutions to mitigate”. The reality is we cannot compare western meat consumption with those in sub-saharan Africa, as the choices which underpin production and consumption patterns are not equivalent. We must tailor our approaches locally, within a broader global food system.

So what does this lever mean?

In summary, the global food system is complex, has multiple actors and has vast linkages to other sectors. However, this complexity is not only a challenge, but offers valuable opportunities to address global challenges, both within and beyond the agricultural field. So to answer our initial question, perhaps this is what is meant by one of our top quotes from Andrew Campbell: “In the Anthropocene, agriculture is the biggest lever humans can pull”.



Crawford Fund Conference 2018: Reshaping Agriculture for Better Nutrition – The Agriculture, Food, Nutrition, Health Nexus

AgriEducate attended the Crawford Fund Conference in Canberra last month, which covered the nexus of agriculture, food, nutrition and health. Christine Freak is a passionate development ag writer and policy thinker, and was one of the AgriEducate representatives at the conference. Christine has put together the following article, reflecting on some of the key take away messages and themes that emerged. Enjoy! 

This year’s Crawford Fund Conference took a look into a very pressing issue for agricultural development, and global development itself – nutrition.  The 2018 conference, “Reshaping Agriculture for Better Nutrition – The Agriculture, Food, Nutrition, Health Nexus”, looked beyond the production side of agriculture, to explore consumption. Agriculture is at the heart of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With these interrelationships and foundations, improvements in agriculture can have enormous impacts for global development.

For decades, the focus of developing agriculture and food systems was on quantity of production, not necessarily quality for consumption and nutritional needs. This turned focus towards increasing productivity, in a global effort to meet growing food demand spurred by the increasingly growing world population. It is fair to say that these efforts were largely successful, with increasing yields, new crop varieties, and new technologies of the Green Revolution leading to unprecedented quantities of food production, a doubling of the global average life expectancy since 1900, and a halving of the proportion of the global population deemed hungry since 1969. As a result, farmers around the world now produce enough calories to feed the entire 7,650,009,529 (and growing) of us on Earth.

However, now comes the recognition that food security is about more than just meeting demand, but about nourishment too. Despite the production of sufficient calories, the distribution, quality, diversity, and availability of food has created the triple burden of undernourishment, over-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Whilst food has been a major driver of global development historically, it is now one of our greatest challenges.

As described by Dr Alessandro Demaio, “We live in a very complex situation where we have hunger and obesity living in the same household”.

On the one side of this paradox:

  • 155 million children stunted
  • 52 children are wasted
  • 2 billion people lack key micronutrients like iron and vitamin A

Yet, on the other:

  • 2 billion adults overweight or obese
  • 41 million children overweight

As a result, 88% of countries face a serious burden of either two or three forms of malnutrition, and the world is off track to meet all global nutrition targets.

It is now clear that the successes of the past decades are only the first step. As Dr Alessandro Demaio expresses:

“Food has shifted from something which brought such gains [to global development]…. But we now find ourselves in a situation in global history where food is the single greatest threat to human health”

The next step for global food security is nutrition security. This view looks beyond simple measures of calorie intake, particularly of the ‘big-3’ staple crops (wheat, maize and rice) and recognises the diversity and distribution of crop production which is necessary to foster human development. Professor Robyn Alders AO summarised eloquently:

“In agriculture, we have made mistakes with good intentions… we thought we could do it [achieve food security] with yields and productivity, but we now realise it’s much more complex”.

This complexity arises given the human face of agriculture. The complexity is deepened by the many actors involved, complex supply chains, the interrelated components which shape the nexus, the many disciplines required to respond, and delicate transitions required to address these issues. Australia has enormous expertise in agriculture. This is certainly an area where we can do more than our bit for global development.

The nutrition nexus is not only a concern of the developing world, but now presents as a challenge for all nations. The triple burden of malnutrition means that addressing nutrition concerns both under-nutrition (malnourishment, stunting, wasting), and over-nutrition (obesity, and lifestyle/dietary related diseases).  At the crux of this new agenda for food security, is the nexus of Agriculture, Food, Nutrition, Health – a nexus eloquently explored at this year’s conference.

If the entirety of the multiple questions grappled at this year’s conference could be collated into one question, it would be something along the lines of:

What are the best ways for agriculture and the food industry to help promote healthier diets taking into account the opportunities and constraints discussed above? Can it be achieved, what behaviours have to change and what policy levers are needed to assist?

 In response to this core question, AgriEducate has developed a range of articles to tackle this complex question.

As a quick summary, here are our key take-away messages:

  • Agriculture is at the heart of all the Sustainable Development Goals
  • The ‘Agriculture, Food, Nutrition, Health Nexus’ means we need to take a systems approach – Given the intersections and dependencies which exist within the nexus, we can no longer see agriculture in isolation from human health and environmental challenges.
  • Dietary diversity means we need to look beyond the ‘big-3’ (wheat, rice, maize) – agricultural production has tended to focus on monoculture production with economies of scale. But, with the need for dietary diversification, greater emphasis is now needed across a spectrum of crops for greater access to nutrients.
  • The solutions to these complex multidisciplinary challenges are going to come from transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches and collaborations, as well as disciplinary expertise.

For more information on each of these key messages, check out the below articles for an in-depth look into these key themes!

With these challenging ideas about the complex nexus of agriculture, food, nutrition and health, we think we’re best to finish off with the eloquent summary by the winner of the AgriEducate top 10 quotes from this years conference –  Robyn Alders:

“Nutrition can do lots for physical and cognitive wellbeing, but it can also just make us happy”

In-depth thematic focus articles

Moving to a food systems paradigm

How can agriculture be the biggest lever humans can pull in the anthropocene to ameliorate environmental, nutritional and food security issues?


The next-gen in development ag: meet some 2018 Crawford Fund Scholars

Guy and Christine, from the AgriEducate team, had the fantastic opportunity to attend and report on the Crawford Fund Conference, delving into all aspects of nutrition, health, food security and the nexus with agriculture. Part of the Crawford Fund Conference program involves 44 scholars from around the country, some of the brightest minds in the development ag space. Here’s just a brief look into why they chose agriculture, development agriculture and how they are applying their knowledge to benefit food production globally!

First up we have Cooper!

Academic Discipline: Environmental Science – beekeeping for community development in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands

Cooper.pngSo, how did the passion for agriculture begin? Where you born into it, or was it something you discovered over time?

It came through an understanding that the best way to help those in developing nations is through agriculture. I was always interested in the environment, beekeeping and traveling and working in international agricultural research allowed for a fulfilling way to contribute and give back to local communities.

In what ways can you apply your academic background to the agricultural sector, and development agriculture globally?

My studies at Southern Cross University have given me a broad range of practical and professional skills – the ability to conduct research and coordinate projects, working independently and with people in teams under pressure. It has helped me to express and present my concerns, ideas and research passions more clearly, thoughtfully, and critically.

From your experiences, what is either your ‘best story’ or ‘favourite fact’ about agricultural development and global food security?

That poverty is not a fate, it’s not someone’s misfortune, it’s not an accident. It’s a condition. Overcoming poverty is not gesture of charity, it’s the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to a healthy happy life and dignity.

If you could change or improve one thing about agriculture or even just one thing in the world what would it be? Try and be specific!

An increased understanding on the significant role our pollinators play in food security presently and into the future! No trees, no bees, no honey, no money!

And lastly, what’s something completely non-ag related that you love?

Surfing, diving, camping and painting!

Thanks Cooper! Best of luck with the rest of your PhD.

Our next scholar interviewed found agriculture as a way of satisfying a need to help people, environment and communities around the world! Here’s Rebekah Ash’s take on our questions:

Academic Discipline: Agricultural Science

To start off, how did the passion for agriculture begin? Where you born into it, or was it something you discovered over time? 

My passion for agriculture has been a developing process for many years, however, it was not until the beginning of last year that I was able to pinpoint agriculture as the area that would allow me to act on my values and endeavours. Growing up in the Brisbane metropolitan area, it is fair to say that I was never directly exposed to agriculture and quite frankly, I too had a warped idea of agriculture alongside many city dwellers today. Throughout my adolescent years I thrived off leadership, travel, the environment and foreign aid. I would spend every spare second involving myself in a variety of community groups that would pitch ideas to improve sustainability in our local community, lend a helping hand, fundraise for a number of causes or simply get outdoors and appreciate the world around us. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to find a career path that satisfied all of these areas… I had thought about medicine and doctors without borders but still, this did not provide me a chance to act on my passion for our environment. So how did I stumble upon agriculture and discover its importance to our environment rather than its harm? Funnily enough my father is in the agricultural science sector and so I began to look into the course outline for agricultural science at UQ and needless to say I was blown away… all these years I’d thought that the agricultural field was a basic industry ignorant to the needs of a sustainable future but this was telling me that the change and work needed for our future starts and rises at agriculture. As I began to research more into the agricultural science everything began to fall into place. How can we feed our growing population? Agriculture. How can we reduce poverty and malnutrition? Agriculture. How can we reduce human impacts on our environment? It starts at agriculture. All of a sudden agriculture opened up as a field in my eyes that allows for leadership in international development discussing some of the most pivotal challenges to overcome in our society in terms of food security and sustainability. From that point on, I haven’t looked back and my passion continues to grow every day. I’m at the very beginning of my career in agricultural science and thoroughly look forward for the many years to come in this field.

In what ways can you apply your academic background to the agricultural sector, and development agriculture globally? 

I am at the very beginning of my career and therefore I still have so much to learn. At this stage, my academic background allows me to understand the shear significance and importance around agriculture and our future. I am beginning to learn how we can tackle big issues such as closing the yield gap via new technologies and a coexistence of livestock systems that reduces poverty and provides financial security while minimising the footprint of these systems. Finally, my academic background allows me to pitch the endeavours of agricultural science with an educated view to help change the warped view many have in an urbanised world.

From your experiences, what is either your ‘best story’ or ‘favourite fact’ about agricultural development and global food security? 

Approximately 78% of the rural poor (approx. 800 million people) depend on agriculture to make a living. They provide food for our growing population but barely have enough to feed themselves. Agriculture is one of the most powerful tools for raising poor peoples’ incomes hence, it is a major area for development.

If you could change or improve one thing about agriculture or even just one thing in the world what would it be? Try and be specific!

Definitely the perception of agriculture by the urbanised world. As agricultural scientists we understand the importance and significance of agriculture for our future, however, without the wider community’s support, we cannot act to the greatest of our potential.

What’s something completely non-ag related that you love?

Spontaneous travel! I absolutely love jumping into a new culture and surroundings. My favourite way to explore is hiking and being involved with the local community. Learning about another culture allows you to understand how others find happiness in their life creating more doors for growth, appreciation and happiness in your own life.

Thanks Rebekah!

We’ll be updating these with more interviews over the coming weeks, so check our feeds and check back here regularly!

Crawford Fund Conference 2018: Top 10 Quotes

Part of the AgriEducate team Christine (@christinefreak1) and Guy (@geezacoleman) had the pleasure of attending the Crawford Fund 2018 Conference: Reshaping Agriculture for Better Nutrition – The Agriculture, Food, Nutrition, Health Nexus. 

For those after a bit of background, here’s an article we wrote in the lead up to the event describing the importance integrating agriculture, food, nutrition and health.

Featuring some enthralling presentations from global researchers, policy experts, social entrepreneurs, farmers and politicians, there were so many fantastic quotes it was hard to pick the top 10. So without further ado here they are. Do you agree? Let us know if your favourites made the cut!


“Governments such as PNG are dealing with 50% of children with undernutrition while trying to manage 14% of children who are overweight”

Dr Jessica Fanzo


“We live in a very complex situation with the coexistence of hunger and obesity in the same household, city and region. Policy makers will need to adapt to this challenge”

Dr Alessandro Demaio


“We have to use all the tools in the toolkit, with good governance, good design, and good risk management”

Professor Andrew Campbell


“Don’t think of nutrition as a social welfare program, but an economic development program”

Professor Glenn Denning


“I couldn’t think of a better investment for our dollar than helping these young people do great things”

The Hon. Julie Bishop MP


“More perspectives is exactly what we need to address the challenges [in agriculture] we have been discussing”

Professor Maggie Gill


“The biggest opportunity we have is our food”

Dr Alessandro Demaio


“Nutrition, along with climate change, is the meta challenge for agriculture, and agricultural and food systems research, this century”

Professor Andrew Campbell


“All our achievements are thanks to farmers, and those who get food to us”

Professor Robyn Alders


“Nutrition can do lots for physical and cognitive wellbeing, but it can also just make us happy”

Professor Robyn Alders

Agriculture is a pathway to helping many people, environments and societies, so in the words of the #1 quote from the 2017 Crawford Fund Conference:

“if you want to solve a lot of the world’s issues, start working with a farmer”

Stuart Higgins