Bayer CropScience Sponsored Scholars
These scholars reported on the Crawford Fund conference to the recent Global Youth Ag-Summit (GYAS). Click on the links below to view their bios and conference reports.
Brittany Dahl, Australian National University
Victoria Pilbeam, Australian National University
Tom Rochford, Deakin University
Sally Stead, The University of Melbourne
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My name is Brittany Dahl, and I am a twenty-year-old Australian from Canberra. I am currently in my third year of a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (Sustainability) Advanced (Honours) at the Australian National University, majoring in Sustainability Science and Geography. I have a passion for food and the environment, which have been a focus of my studies at university. Courses I have taken in Sustainable Agricultural Practices and Environmental Policy started my interest in the topic of food security, and have provided me with practical experience exploring the development and management of sustainable local and global farming systems.
The Crawford Fund 2015 Conference on the “Business of Food Security” was an excellent opportunity to hear from leaders in the Biological Sciences and Agricultural industry. I enjoyed hearing speakers from Bayer, Syngenta, Elanco, Grow Asia, and Olam; who all showed insights into the way business in this industry is conducted, and plans for dealing with the issue of a future food secure world. Most of their ideas had encompassed a ‘Cornucopian’ framing, which focused on improving the efficiency of global food systems. However, I really appreciated the small amounts of ‘Catastrophist’ thinking, which acknowledged the need to better integrate social sciences into these food chain systems. For example, these businesses discussed the need for greater engagement with local communities, more public-private partnerships, and the need to provide more transparency to their value chains for changing consumer behaviour. Nonetheless, majority of speakers highlighted the fact that these methods for social change were impossible without economic gain, and thus, their business models still revolved around profits. Gerda Verbrug, chair of the Global Agenda Council on World Food Security, suggested that their is a great need to link profitability to sustainability in the Agricultural sector, in order to initiate industry-wide change. This was the most important point I took away from the conference; but, in practice implementing this idea is a very difficult task due to institutional barriers. I would have liked to hear a speaker from the state or federal government, who could have commented on this issue, in regards to public-private partnerships, and policy design and implementation for a food secure world. This could be included in a future conference. Although this, it was still inspiring to hear from all the speakers, and I hope they continue their work with a consideration of global food security.
I am currently studying a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sustainability at the Australian National University. My Honours project is on the influence of science and traditional ecological knowledge on environmental decision-making in the North Pacific Nation of Palau. Outside of university, I have been involved with a range of Youth NGOs, helping to educate young Australians about the environment, Indigenous issues and other contemporary global issues, and advocating on intergenerational challenges like climate change and international development. I am very much looking forward to meeting everyone and to gaining further insights into food.
The theme of the 2015 Crawford Fund Annual Parliamentary Conference was on promoting links between business and agricultural research. Gerda Verburg, the chair of the UN Committee on World Food Security, set the tone for the conference by stating that “there can be no sustainability without profitability” and that responsibility for food security fell across a number of different sectors. These statements have a particular resonance in the Australian context, where public investment in agricultural research is waning and those looking to bolster food production in the Asia-Pacific through research must look to new sources of support. Business also has an important role to play in scaling up agricultural innovation in a way that other entities struggle to do. I would have loved to see more critical engagement with the some of the shortcomings of placing the onus on business to drive research. For example, the fact that more often than not the private sector benefits from asymmetries in knowledge between producers and retailers, between retailers and consumers and between competitors. That being said, the Crawford Fund Conference, by bringing together representatives from business, research and government, has taken practical steps to stop the siloing and to create a more inclusive model of agricultural progress.
For me, as a young scholar, the biggest highlight was really getting to know the other participants. In particular, it was a really powerful experience to come into contact with researchers who have had a long and successful engagement with international agricultural research. The conversations that I had with these academics learning about how they had dedicated themselves to their various fields was really inspiring. Getting to know researches as people and not just citations give you a feeling that you too can have a future in research. Discussing ways to get into careers in agricultural research on the second day helped to further reinforce this. In particular, the contributions that the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and Researchers in Agriculture for International Development explained in concrete terms some of the pathways into international research for young scholars. Although there was a lot of concern expressed over the ageing farming population, meeting all the other young scholars gave me a sense that the future of agriculture is in safe hands.
Research has a pivotal role to play in feeding a hungry planet. Seeing the impact of the work of scholars like Dr. Meryl Willliams and Dr. Cary Fowler provided an illustration of this. Their achievements are a testament to what collaboration makes possible. This appreciation was certainly something that I took forward with me to the Global Youth Agricultural Summit.
My name is Tom Rochford. I am from Bendigo Victoria, currently studying a bachelor of Law / Science (Major in Environmental Science) at Deakin University in Burwood and I graduate in 2019. I have a particular passion for the interactions between Australian agriculture, Australian environment and the influence of policy. Ultimately, I would like to work between promoting greater cohesion between agriculture and the environment whilst promoting productivity. I also believe that Australia can become a model in this, which in turn can be extrapolated to an international scale.
Initially prior the conference the topic of “The business of food security” appeared as a very broad and ambiguous topic and a concept I could not simply grasp.
However, after the initial opening night with Dr. Cary Fowler’s fantastic presentation it became apparent very quickly that the following few days would fall into three categories;
- The known known.
- The known unknown.
- The unknown unknown.
Because prior to this conference I had a very basic understanding of what the challenges of the future will present and how it is best to combat these.
The format of the conference however allowed for sophisticated and in-depth research to be presented in a manner that allowed for a scholar as myself to be able to access, interpret and understand the critical and relevant information that was needed for understanding “The business of food security”.
The pertinent information primarily revolved around three key areas;
- The need to develop Public – Private relationships between key organizational bodies. It is now clear to me that this is now critical due to crucial relationships they can form. Often complementing each other through funding, research power and networks that can allow for extremely efficient distribution of this information and access to different technologies that either party may not have had before. This in turn will foster important discoveries into the future and will create.
- The discussion held by Elanco about improving agricultural efficiencies was a fantastic eye opening discussion, focusing on the power that a small percentage increase in production capacity of a plant or an animal by a small percentage can have wide-ranging effects.
- The presentation by WWF highlighted the accepted belief of the power the consumers hold in influencing production methods and decisions and what is consumed. This is especially important for the discussion of sustainable food production.
A fantastic facet of the conference is the networking opportunities and access given to prominent members of both the business and scientific communities that revolve around their connection to agriculture. These people provided excellent career advice; I found this particularly beneficial, given I do not study agriculture, and I was unsure of the best way to progress forward with my degree and involvement. However after talking to this variety crowd I found validation in what I am studying which was fantastic for a young scholar to hear.
The Crawford Fund Conference was fantastically executed, with a informative and interactive structure that creates a format that is able to deliver the information in both an understanding and accessible manner that allowed for a wide demographic of people to be in engaged in the conference, this was reflected in the wide variety of questions asked during Q&A sessions.
I enjoyed my time at the conference and will be heading back later in my degree!
I would like to thank World Youth Ag Summit for providing me the opportunity to attend the conference and the Crawford Fund for a fantastic few days.
I’ve studied agricultural science and business, and am currently working with a non-profit social enterprise in Melbourne called the Open Food Network. The OFN is a software tool which benefits local food distribution enterprises and seeks to foster diverse, local and transparent supply chains, in Australia and abroad. I’m excited to attend the conference as I’m interested to learn about what initiatives are underway in the private sector that are contributing to enhancing food security.
As a business student, I was inspired to hear the speakers share their experiences of how business interests can be aligned with development objectives, to achieve win-win outcomes. The speakers raised numerous examples where public and private sector stakeholders had tackled issues in a creative and cooperative manner, revealing that doing what’s good for the community and the environment can also yield profit and growth potential to corporate players.
Alison Eskesen shared Grow Asia’s philosophy of encouraging corporate leadership and engaging companies to be part of the solution. A theme which was consistently recognised throughout the conference, was that partnerships between diverse stakeholders can bring about amplified benefits, in comparison to when individual players act in isolation. In recognition of this, Grow Asia works to engage companies who operate within nations to work alongside local researcher institutes, farmer advisors and civil society, to commercialise technologies at a meaningful scale, and in doing so, bringing profitability gains to small holder farmers.
Chris Brett brought a corporate perspective to the discussion, sharing the ways that Olam International views their responsibility to the 3.9 million small holder farmers who supply this global agricultural commodity company. Olam recognise the interconnection between the welfare of these supplying small holder farmers and the security and sustainability of the company’s supply chain. When viewed from this perspective, investments which assist smallholders with market access, financing and access to technology can be seen as both good for business and good for the farmer.
Lastly, Jim Jung Lee from the Syngenta Foundation illustrated that crop productivity pilot projects, conducted by partnerships including local extension organisations and private sector players could reach enormous numbers of farmers, bringing benefits to the nation and to the business’ bottom line. Yet, he recognised that cooperation and inclusiveness between organisations can be a challenge, likening the rivalry to having ‘two tigers on one hill’. He advised that a common agenda, clear roles and shared responsibility are key to a successful partnership.
These examples are representative of the conference’s overarching emphasis on multi-stakeholders partnerships and their central role in bringing about social and environmental improvements with greater scale and speed and success. I’m inspired by these proven models of partnership, which show that corporate responsibility can be financially justifiable while also contributing in a meaningful way to enhancing the productivity and sustainability of agriculture.
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