WA Committee: 2015 Scholars

WA Committee Sponsored Scholars

The WA Committee supported two scholars to attend the Crawford Conference, Nikki Dumbrell and Lachlan Hunter, from UWA, and Curtin University also decided to send two students, who attended the Conference and the students day. The feedback from all of them was very positive, both for the speakers at the conference and for the Young Crawford Day. The scholars were impressed by the energy and enthusiasm evident during the meetings, and in their interactions with other participants.

Click on the links below to view scholar bios and conference reports.

Nikki Dumbrell, The University of Western Australia
Lachlan Hunter, The University of Western Australia
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2015 WA Committee sponsored scholars
2015 WA Committee sponsored scholars

Nikki Dumbrell

I grew up on a beef and dairy farm near Walpole on the south coast of Western Australia. I have a strong interest in farmer decision making, agricultural economics, and resource sustainability in agriculture at both the farm and industry levels. Currently, I am working on a CSIRO-UWA Filling the Research Gap project titled ‘Achieving least cost greenhouse gas emissions abatement—opportunities for Australian grain farms’. Within this project we are looking to estimate the whole-farm financial effects of practices to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and identify the most profitable and productive farm management systems applicable to Australian grain farms (that maximise greenhouse gas abatement). As a young agricultural researcher, the 2015 Crawford Fund conference presents an opportunity to: (1) meet new people; (2) communicate ideas; (3) grow my understanding of the context in which we are conducting research; and (4) think about the best application of our future agriculture R&D efforts.

Conference Report
There was something for everyone at this conference and I am very grateful to the Crawford Fund and their Young Scholars program for the opportunity to be a part of it.
The conference topic was a suitable umbrella for much discussion about the issues and challenges associated with achieving long-term, profitable and sustainable food production and supply chains. Vision, excitement and passion were important contributions of presenters at this conference. The vision to see through the complexity and scale of problems to set pathways for achieving outcomes was inspiring. Dr Cary Fowler delivered the Sir John Crawford Memorial Address with an understated urgency for action and involvement in agricultural research and development for a food secure future. This set the scene for what was an exciting couple of days.
Much could be taken away from this conference, but I have attempted to draw out some of the important ideas and questions that this conference has highlighted for me:

  • We will always be balancing the profitability and sustainability equation. There can be no sustainability without profitability. And no profitability will be sustained unless it is achieved responsibly. Private businesses need profits to satisfy company growth and shareholders. But, increasingly, these companies have a corporate social responsibility to deliver these profits in line with the objectives of the communities in which they work. Further to this idea, environmental and natural resource sustainability is not just a public good, it is an important input in long-term food production. So, private businesses that generate profits from food production and or distribution have a vested interest in the condition of natural resources. Could these businesses be, or should they be the source of investment and funding for improving the condition of natural resources?
  • It appears important to differentiate Australia’s role in securing global food and nutrition supplies into two capacities: (1) food production; and (2) skills and knowledge to assist global food production and distribution. When we say “Australia is in a key position to contribute to the challenge of international food security” what do we mean? Are we in a key position to grow more food and ship it to our increasingly populous neighbours? i.e. be the food bowl of Asia? Or are we limited in the extent that we can increase our food production and thus should look toward exporting skills and ideas on a greater scale?
  • Trade agreements and partnerships, private investment, government aid and donations need to be aligned for efficiency and maximum impact in delivering food security outcomes. The result of this alignment and collaboration between partners will be greater than the sum of the parts. In economics we assume competitive markets are the most efficient. However, in solving the issue of food security (ultimately a public good) there is a role for collaboration from companies and organisations that work in the same sector and we must not let competition inhibit the full extent of the impact that this collaboration could have.

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Lachlan Hunter

Lachlan is currently a student at The University of Western Australia; he is studying a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a Major of Political Science and International Relations. He did his last two years of high school education at the Western Australian College of Agriculture in Cunderdin, his family farm in the Central Wheatbelt, and Lachlan has a passion for all things agricultural.
Lachlan has a strong enthusiasm for the agricultural industry and, in particular, new and innovative science that will strengthen our industry. He has always had a strong interest in world markets for WA commodities, and through this comes his strong interest in international agricultural networks. Lachlan chose to study agricultural science because he felt that feeding a starving world by 2050 is such an important goal and he wants to be a part of this challenge. Lachlan currently works for Co-operative Bulk Handling in the Government and Industry Relations team and also the Parliamentary National Party as a research officer. Lachlan is a keen hockey player and enjoys spending time with family and friends.

Conference Report
The Crawford Fund sure does know how to put on a show! This was a very informative, intellectual and interesting couple of days for young professionals with an interest in a career in international agricultural research. Friends were made, email and phone numbers were exchanged; it was an exciting, but cold, three days in Canberra.
I believe that science comes from ones imagination to think outside the square and dare to dream. Dr. Cary Fowler is an exception global citizen whom I think demonstrates a quality scientist who dared to dream! Fowler delivered the Sir John Crawford Memorial Address and shared some of his experiences. He served as the Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust from 2005 to 2012. The Trust’s mandate is to ensure “the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide.” Fowler was influential in the creation of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which currently houses samples of more than 783,000 distinct crop varieties. What a remarkable individual with a vision for change!
The Business of Food Security: Profitability, Sustainability and Risk. This was a perfect theme which encapsulated the current challenges facing food production around the world. There were so many highlights from the conference. One of the most interesting and relevant was the lecture on Growing Yields, Commerce and Capacity in the Developing World by Richard Dickmann; Head of New Business Development Bayer CropScience Australia. Richard talked about driving grower returns through food chain partnerships and how we can use the latest scientific technology to do science and agriculture better.
Apart from listening to world leaders in international agricultural research at the Conference, we also had to some very productive discussions with likeminded young people who shared their personal goals and their vision as to how they would feed a starving world by 2050. It was fantastic to see a wide range of experienced delegates that were enthusiastic about sharing their interests with younger less experienced delegates, like myself. Everyone was so generous to achieve a common goal.
On the last day was the scholar’s day – this was a great opportunity to listen to real cases of students who have done projects in international communities. It was inspiring to hear of the satisfaction they got from their work and the impact it has made. We also were paid a visit from Hon. Ian Macfarlane MP; Minister for Industry and Science. The Minister delivered a phenomenal speech about his personal journey in agripoltics, the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths programs (STEM) and what future he sees for Australia’s role in international agriculture.
I would like to make special thanks to the Crawford Fund and the Western Australian committee for providing me with the scholarship. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend an unforgettable conference that has inspired me to think about the world of international agriculture in a new and refreshing light, and to help those people in developing counties that aren’t as fortunate than ours.

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