University and College Sponsored 2016 Scholars

The Crawford Fund wishes to thank Central Queensland University, Marcus Oldham College, the University of New England, the University of Southern Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast for supporting the following scholar’s to attend the Crawford Fund’s 2016 conference.

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

Central Queensland University (CQU)
Talitha Best, CQU
Addis Benyam, CQU
Elisha Vlaholias-West, CQU

Marcus Oldham
Pete Orrell, Marcus Oldham College

University of New England (UNE)
Thida Hlaing, UNE

University of Southern Queensland (USQ)
Aastha Malhotra, USQ
Timothy Nugent, USQ

University of the Sunshine Coast (USC)
Natasha Jamieson, USC

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Talitha Best, Central Qld University

Taking part in the Crawford Scholars event was an inspiring and useful experience. Meeting and connecting with upcoming undergraduate and post graduate students, learning with fellow peers about the science and the practical considerations in the circular economy of food security as well as connecting with other researchers made the trip a valuable investment of time and energy. In particular, learning about the group called RAID (Researchers in Agriculture for International Development) was one of those “ah-ha” moments as part of the scholar days as it linked, for me, the opportunities and possibilities of how volunteers and experts can contribute to a multiplier effect in capacity building within large projects. To see this group in action and working closely with the Crawford Fund was great to see and be a part of.

Also, it was rewarding to be assigned a mentor who provided great input, strategy and insight into my current ACIAR work and further enhanced my understanding of the important role ACIAR play in international development. In particular, the need for supporting practice change in the “everyday” around food production, food waste but also retaining essential nutrients within the soil and fresh food supply was an informative discussion to be a part of. With new standards emerging for tracking and measuring how much and where food gets lost in the chain, the opportunity to connect with and hear leading researchers, strategists, economists and business leaders at the conference and scholars days provided opportunity for not only learning, but also to think through how the information could be applied – in research, in teaching in the ‘everyday’ awareness of food waste behaviours at home and at work!

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Addis Benyam, Central Qld University

I would like to sincerely thank CQ University for sponsoring and awarding me the 2016 Crawford Fund Conference Scholarship. I also extend my thanks to the Crawford Fund for organizing and hosting such an immensely fruitful event. The focus of the conference on food loss and waste issues and how wasted food can be better managed, was particularly relevant to my PhD research, which is on domestic food waste behaviours and policies in the CQ region. It was an honour to meet and network with distinguished scientists and scholars whose academic and professional inputs are instrumental to Australia’s remarkable contributions to global agricultural growth and development.

I had the tremendous opportunity to be assigned Dr Helen Garnett as my mentor for the duration of the conference. Thank you Helen for all the priceless scholarly and motherly advice that you gave me. The group mentoring discussions were also key pointers for investing time in international research engagement, as crucial paths to advance a single disciplinary niche into a multi-disciplinary prospect. Among other useful knowledge that I gained through the discussions, I learned the importance of delivering and building records of best-case results, which could greatly benefit research communities and governments at the global level.

The networking sessions with scholars and delegates of diverse disciplinary backgrounds were memorable and made the event an extremely engaging and rewarding experience. I had the pleasure of sharing my own and listening to other scholars’ research; learning about innovative ways of doing research from a broad-ranging perspectives. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch and maintaining the connections I formed with the many interesting scholars that I met during the conference.

A range of informative keynote speeches, programs and projects were presented; research undertakings were demonstrated on global efforts to combat food loss and waste in which Australia plays a significant role. The presentations also highlighted exemplary international agricultural research that signify the values of telling compelling stories to engage a wider dialogue around evidence-based research. Dr Louise Fresco’s speech was a notably thought provoking one that also captivated my attention. She highlighted that there aren’t the right sets of policies in place to facilitate agricultural growth, development and appropriate management of waste and loss in most developing countries. Part of the solution, she stressed, includes remedying the under investment in agricultural research through adequate flows of investment and committed collaboration of partners on the ground. Another key highlight of the presentation for me was Dr Brian Lipinski’s overview on the importance of developing global accounting and reporting standards for food loss and waste. I appreciate the emphasis since having such standards as vital tools to manage food loss and waste can help to draw useful conclusions and to encourage action on realistic preventive measures.

As in-depth as the food loss presentations and discussions were, it would have been equally extremely important if the ‘food waste’ theme of the conference was also given sufficient coverage. Evidently, the household supply chain segment accounts for the largest proportion of food waste in most developed countries. Accordingly, presentations on food waste related programs or research in the developed countries would have opened the floor to a more engaging debate and insightful remarks from participants.

The last but not least enlightening part of the conference was the messages conveyed by RAID and Scope Global on strengthening careers and networks through volunteering. The messages have inspired me to recognize volunteering not only as an opportunity to contribute within my field of expertise, but also as an essential tool to develop and enhance creativity that may eventually translate into a research-worthy endeavour.

My overall reflection as a researcher is that the scarcity of natural resources will undoubtedly continue to challenge the primary vessel of food production i.e., agriculture. Therefore, sustainable food production and consumption are indisputable practices every segment of the food supply chain must uphold. I left the conference with an assurance that an interdisciplinary approach to doing a research is a fundamental strategy for aspiring scholars to pursue in addressing food loss and waste challenges, and also to help develop and recommend realistic solutions to tackle those challenges.

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Elisha Vlaholias-West, Central Qld University

Our planet produces enough food to feed all 7 billion people, yet approximately 925 million people across the globe are undernourished as a result of ongoing hunger. The amount of food waste and food losses that result from our food systems are alarming, but as the 2016 Crawford Fund Annual Conference “Waste not, want not: the circular economy to food security” showed, there is much that can be done to reduce this food waste, to prevent these food losses, and to eliminate hunger.

Each issue has its complexities, but one of the key messages I took from the conference was that whilst we need to understand the broader issues of the global food system, we must take a bite size piece of the overarching problem and aim to solve that. I think this is what Professor Louise Fresco meant when she said, we need to be a “Jack of all trades, but a master of one”. We need to be able to understand how the work that we do impacts and “feeds into” the rest of the food system, but we must make sure that we master the part that we can make a difference in.

As a Young Scholar, it was wonderful to learn from “masters” in the field of food security and international agriculture. It was fantastic to learn about the specific work that they do and how they play a role in the circular economy to food security. It was especially great to be able to network with some of the most influential members of the international agricultural community, to hear their stories, experiences, and knowledge in their respective fields. A great example of this was Dr Dana Cordell’s talk about Phosphorous. Prior to this conference, I knew Phosphorous was important to the production of our food, but I never realised how crucial the reuse of phosphorus will be to the future food security.

I really enjoyed the Parliamentary Conference, as I learnt what organisations, researchers, and businesses are currently doing and what they are planning to ensure food security for the future. I also loved the Scholar’s days, where I learnt about the various career paths and international volunteering opportunities that are available to people working in this field. My favourite part of the conference was the opportunity to meet and build friendships with the other Young Scholars that had a passion for food security and similar interests to me. It was great to be able to discuss the conference content with them and to reflect on all that we had learnt across the Scholar days.

I would like to express my thanks to the Crawford Fund team and to CQ University for the opportunity to attend this renowned conference, and to learn more about international agricultural research and the significant food security issues that our world is currently facing.

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Pete Orrell, Marcus Oldham

It was a great honour to be invited to this year’s conference as a scholar. Admittedly, the invitation to apply was the first time I had heard about the Fund and the yearly event but I am very glad that I took the chance and applied to attend – I would not have the opportunities that I do now.

Professor Louise Fresco, President of Wageningen University was the key note speaker for the Sir John Crawford Memorial Address. Speaking about the fact that agriculture was the most important thing that human beings could do, she highlighted that despite having an abundance of food available to the population, the majority of people are unaware of how food goes from farm to fork. Since the conference, I have had several interesting email conversations with Louise, expressing and developing ideas. She has also put me in touch with leading economists who have provided me with the latest agri-economic research papers.

Ashok Gulati described a particularly shocking fact – 1.3 billion tonnes of human grade food is wasted each year and if one quarter of that was saved it could feed 870 million people. Suggesting innovation in agriculture, he raised a few laughs by describing Uber tractors for developing countries. This raised concerns from the audience and following discussion groups about biosecurity although it was stated that in many small nations pest and disease issues were already widespread. Ashok reiterated a common theme from the conference that often food production is not the major issue concerning waste – it is the transportation and logistics that cause the most loss.

Personally, one of the major highlights from the conference day was the discussion topic from Simon Costa, former CEO of the Costa Group. He spoke about the link between food loss and poverty, and that without a reliable food source people cannot work and gain a better life. His work in Uganda helping farmers to reduce grain losses by introducing simple and inexpensive methods to store product has helped over 16, 000 families to reduce wastage by up to 90%, providing 97% of the participants with direct financial gain.

Simon stated that 95% of all research investments over the past 30 years have focussed on increasing productivity with only 5% going to reducing food loss. This was one of the statements that has stayed in my mind. After the conference ended I contacted Simon and shared ideas and asked him to stay in touch as another mentor.
I hope that I will be able to help the Fund and Marcus Oldham develop a working relationship to promote further scholars so that they can have as many opportunities as I now have. If you get the chance to apply, don’t hesitate!
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of the people who made my attendance at the conference possible and so enjoyable. Dr Julie Nicol who first approached Simon Livingstone and Yasmin Chalmers at Marcus Oldham with the proposal of sending a scholar to the conference; Cathy Reade and Melina Gillespie for their support before and during the event; Tony Fischer and Neil Inall for spending time with me during the scholar days and Tony Gregson, my mentor for introducing me to so many industry leaders I lost count!

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Aastha Malhotra, University of Southern Queensland

I attended the Crawford Fund Conference from 29-30 August 2016, Canberra. The theme of the conference “WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: The Circular Economy to Food Security” and delved on issues such as food loss and waste issues along the supply chain. The various speakers broadened my understanding about food security, brought to the forefront the role of governments, public and private sectors and the importance of partnerships and innovative models. The insights gathered informed one of my research interests, the role of entrepreneurship in agriculture and its potential for socio-economic development.

The scholar days and conference events were well organised and facilitated exchange of ideas and information with fellow scholars, delegates and senior members of the Crawford Community. Key takeaways are below:

  • The first scholar day was focussed on setting the context for PhD students and to some extent early career researchers. Discussions covered insights on ‘Working in a Developing Country’ and government supported volunteering opportunities. The key takeaway was the range of opportunities available to get involved in agricultural research through the Crawford Fund and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Sir John Crawford Address and conference: The key-note speaker was Louise Fresco, President of Wageningen University and Research Centre. She shared her views on food scarcity and scientific ways to overcome the same. The key takeaway was the detailed understanding of the supply chain (production, product to market, and reuse of waste) and its intersection with food security.
  • Discussion with Mentor – Brian Lipinski is an Associate in the Food Program at World Resources Institute in Washington. Unfortunately, Brian’s flight was delayed and we were only able to talk for a short time. We discussed the role of innovative business models, start-ups and private enterprises in reducing food-loss. It was great to get insight into the developments in the US which are further along in terms of maturity and feasibility.
  • I went to an ACIAR Workshop on Policy effectiveness for food, energy and water security in South Asia instead of Scholar Day 2. I was initially invited by Prof Woodhead and after meeting with senior members from ACIAR at the conference, I felt that it would be a great opportunity. I am from India and the issues around food security impacting one of the largest populations of the world have always been of interest to me. The workshop focussed on multi-stakeholder research initiatives addressing issues of food, energy and water security in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. I was also able to share my research interests and contributions with Crawford Fund, ACIAR personnel and DFAT representatives, some of whom were speakers at the conference (for example, Professor Ashok Gulati). This not only served as a great platform but also a pathway as I have been invited to contact the Indian representatives upon my next visit and see their projects in action.

The conference was a rewarding and valuable experience for me and I would like to thank University of Southern Queensland for supporting my attendance at the same.

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Timothy Nugent, University of Southern Queensland

The conference was built on a single stage format, with speakers on topic covering the full breadth of the food supply chain. Speakers I found especially engaging included: Louise Fresco, who presented the keynote on future trends in food including tailored nutrition and food printing and the simultaneous challenge of sufficient calories in the developing world, and adequate nutrition in the developed world; and Simon Costa who developed and distributed a micro hermetic silo for grain storage reminding us that funding is mainly directed towards researching increased agricultural production while post-harvest losses go unaddressed. I was also fortunate enough to hear my supervisor Professor Alice Woodhead address the conference on the topic of the last mile challenge which covered the tremendous difficulty of moving perishable goods through the infrastructure networks of mega-cities.

At mealtimes I had many interesting conversations focussed on the global food system and received an introduction to an economist who studies intellectual property. Scholars’ days were held before and after the conference. At these the content was focussed on research careers and practical advice on working overseas. I had the opportunity to connect with other researchers, in particular the RAID network, a group of agricultural researchers working in Agriculture for International Development. This is an active community that holds meetups and workshops orientated to building research skills and collaboration networks.

I was partnered in the Crawford Scholar’s mentoring programme with a Sector Specialist in Agricultural Productivity and Food Security at the Department of Foreign Security and Trade. My mentor was kind enough to teach me about DFAT’s role in foreign aid and the potential opportunity for businesses as suppliers of food etc. We have been in contact since the conference and I hope this will prove to be a positive relationship going forward.

Overall the Conference was a very worthwhile experience with many opportunities to learn about developments in food security and develop practical research knowledge.

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Natasha Jamieson, University of the Sunshine Coast

We currently produce enough food to feed 7 billion people, yet 1.2 billion people remain malnourished and another 1 billion suffer obesity and food related illness. By 2050 we will have 9 billion mouths to feed, and will need 70% more food. However we currently produce 1.3 billion tonnes of wasted food p/annum (FAO 2011); equal to $750 billion USD ($310 billion from developing countries). So why is this? What is being done? And what can we do to address food security for the future? This was the key focus of this year’s Crawford Fund Annual Conference.

As a scholarship recipient I was fortunate enough to attend the 2016 Crawford Fund Conference on the circular economy to food security titled ‘Waste not, Want not” – focussing on reducing food loss and wastage along the supply chain. This annual conference allows students, academic researchers, industry professionals and government agents to network, share ideas and brainstorm new initiatives for improving global food security policies.

Although my current research project is not directly linked to food production and agricultural practices the conference was beneficial for expanding my network and horizons.

The introductory networking session for the scholars on Monday afternoon was a fantastic way for students to meet their assigned mentors, who acted as guides, role models and network contacts; and to learn of the Crawford Fund programs and affiliated organisations such as RAID, ACIAR and Scope-Global who offer volunteering and post-graduate study opportunities overseas. This session provided a valuable experience to the scholars by allowing them to settle in, practice their introductions and communication skills and workshop ideas before attending the formal memorial address dinner session and full day conference on the Tuesday.

This year’s memorial address was delivered by Professor Louise Fresco, President of the executive board of Wageningen University research centre and member of the steering committee of the FAO panel of experts on food security and nutrition. Professor Fresco’s address was a passionate and inspiring story of past, present and future food necessities and offered an insight of where we stand in understanding the future of food. The additional speakers complimented her talk by addressing a wide variety of topics encompassing farm losses, farm gate to fork initiatives (packaging, transport and processing), supermarkets and supply chains and food waste management and re-use; not to mention some innovative, and slightly scary (who’d have thought of printed foods!) technological food developments.

The final day’s workshop session drew out key pearls of wisdom and advice for scholars moving forward. This session really helped cement new ideas in my mind and gave me the boost of confidence I was needing, such as to take action now, to not be afraid of trying once, or trying again, to show initiative, think outside the box, to apply any of, and all of the skills I have to each new situation, and to trust and believe in myself…. and luck!
My closing advice to future scholarship attendees is read up on the companies and organisations, take business cards (even if it is just a piece of paper), collect cards and learn names! Take notes and follow-up with contacts.

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