The Crawford Fund wishes to thank Gardiner Foundation for encouraging our Young Scholar program by supporting Mary Abdelsayed and Martin Foerster to attend the conference.
Gardiner Foundation Sponsored Scholars
Click on the links below to view scholar bios and conference reports.
I am Mary Abdelsayed. I am originally from Sydney and did my Postgraduate studies at the University of Sydney. I have recently submitted my PhD which looked at the genetics of extended lactation in Australian dairy cattle on pasture based systems, by providing breeding tools to help farmers improve the fertility problems seen in dairy cows. For the past nine months I have been living in Melbourne after being offered the position with Holstein Australia as the project manager and researcher working on a Gardiner funded project (Health data for healthy cows), looking at the ability to estimate genomic breeding values for common health disorders using farm collected data.
I have always had an interest in animal genetics and being a part of the dairy industry. Seeing how genetics is being applied first hand has increased my knowledge and interest further in this research area, and has also opened up many opportunities that I never thought I would get to experience. The reason I wanted to attend this event is because it is something different, and I feel it allows me to take my experiences and research interest as an animal breeder/geneticist, get me thinking ‘outside of the box’ and have a different perspective on agriculture than I am used to.
The Crawford Fund Conference started off with the network dinner and the night opened up with the Sir John Crawford lecture revealing photographs of his work and legacy to agricultural research. During the evening we were delighted to have Dr Carl Fowler present quite a fascinating presentation on conserving the genetic diversity of crops which lead to the concept of building the seed vault in Svalbard. It was also nice to witness the recognition of Dr Meryl Williams research and the work she does with women in aquaculture in developing countries.
The major themes that were brought up at the conference day was the importance of partnerships and collaboration, doing more with less sustainably and identifying the challenges and come up with solutions and to keep it simple. When the presenters spoke about their newly found concepts, at first I found them challenging to grasp, but they did allow me to begin thinking outside the box in relation to agriculture and the business link. I also gained more of an understanding in relation to the roles of government, private and public sector’s in providing sustainable global food security solutions. As a young animal geneticist, my eyes were made open to the new prospects of international agricultural research and the potential benefits to the farming industry here in Australia and in developing countries. One presentation that really stood out was made by Jessica Ramsden from Elanco. Jessica mentioned meeting the needs of the issues of global food security with less resources. One of the suggestions was that each cow would need to increase production of milk by 140ml a day which would mean 66 million fewer cows, which would mean reduced resource demands on feed, land and water. I really took to Jessica’s presentation because it related to my research on genetic animal improvement and breeding more healthy more productive dairy cattle. After hearing Jessica speak it got me thinking about the avenues and collaboration that could be offered from my research in providing a potential solution.
The structure of the scholar day was spilt up into different activities, presentations on scholars and leading scientist’s experiences in international agricultural research and a science communication session. The program allowed all the scholars to network, and form small bonding groups to help engage all who attended to improve communication and ideas. To top the day off we ended with the movie “The seeds of time” it was very insightful, touching and put everything in perspective on the importance of conserving plant diversity and ensuring a solution was put forward to help with the issues of global food security.
I really love hearing people’s journeys of how they got to where they are now and their personal experiences I feel that it inspires me and encourages me. The resonating words of Dr Carl Fowler who said “fall in love with what you do” “find passion” “keep growing your ideas with the knowledge you continue to pick up as a researcher” “take on different opportunities as you never know where it will lead you” and lastly “Keep it simple”. These words were quite inspirational, awakening and motivational for me as a young researcher as I continue my journey in agricultural research.
This conference has introduced me to many great people which I can collaborate with and has inspired me to draw on my skills and talents and be a part of the bigger picture of finding solutions in providing sustainable global food security. I am now considering taking part in a program which assists with agricultural research in a developing country.
Martin is interested in dairy research, striving to improve the profitability and sustainability of milk powder production. As a PhD student at Monash University in Melbourne, he is studying the microencapsulation and component segregation during spray-drying of milk systems. Before coming to Australia, Martin studied Chemical Engineering in Germany and the UK, and acquired some industry experience in China. Martin is keen to connect with other scientists and industry experts and to discuss ideas on how to tackle our global food supply challenges during the Crawford Fund Parliamentary Conference.
Being a chemical engineer to the core, I personally entered unchartered waters with my participation in the Crawford Fund’s 2015 Parliamentary Conference about ‘The Business of Food Security’. I was nevertheless keen to look at my PhD project within a wider agricultural context, and thus was very thankful for receiving a travel scholarship sponsored by the Gardiner Foundation. In retrospective, my conclusion in fact has to be that research in engineering is an essential component required to reach a sufficient level of world-wide food security. The conference was thus greatly beneficial for my aca- demic development.
One highlight of the conference were the presentations and Q&A sessions, which allowed me to see beyond the little world of my own research work. With hindsight, capturing the bigger picture about the current challenges and possible approaches to the global food crisis encouraged me to realign the focus of my projects in the following days when back at work. Feeding nine billion people by mid- century requires innovative engineering that increases the efficiency and sustainability of processed food. With my research in milk powder production I can contribute towards a better storability and thus less waste losses by finding ways to encapsulate milk fat efficiently during spray-drying. And whole milk powder in which the milk fat is substituted by vegetable oil can become to a more eco- nomical product of high nutritional value in emerging markets. The information that I have obtained during the conference will help me in giving my future studies more direction and purpose.
The other highlight of my time in Canberra were all the interesting and motivated people I had the pleasure to spend time with. I became friends with many other scholars, with whom I will definitely remain in touch long after the conference. In addition, the conference had a lot of prominent speakers, and I was impressed by how approachable they were. Talking with the likes of Dr Cary Fowler, Dr Martin Knopff and Dr Meryl Williams was truly inspiring. I very appreciated the plenty of networking opportunities that were given to us, and possibly never before in my life I had as many and as diverse discussions as throughout these three days.
In view of all the good things that I experienced and all the valuable ideas that I took on board in the course of the conference, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Crawford Fund and the Gardiner Foundation for making this unique experience possible.
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