November 2, 2019
The Crawford Fund’s Annual Conference was held in August in Parliament House, Canberra. As well as bringing together the world’s leading experts in agricultural science, research, policy, development and industry to address the conference topic, the Crawford Fund is committed to encouraging the next generation in international agriculture for development to the event via scholarships awarded through our State and Territory committees and scholar supporters.
Our conference scholarship program started in 2010 in the hope that by experiencing the Crawford Fund conference and network, our special program of activities around the conference and being mentored by inspirational experienced researchers, young researchers would be inspired and energised to be more involved. The results have been fantastic, with a great mix of youth and experience at our flagship event each August and a growing and enthusiastic conference scholar alumni of more than 320.
Our competitive Conference Scholarships are offered to young people with a genuine interest in international agricultural research and development to attend the conference and a special set of activities that we have developed since the program commenced in 2010.
Our other activities to encourage university students and early career researcher include highlighting opportunities in volunteering for projects overseas through the Australian Volunteers Program; our work with Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID), and our special international student awards to enable students to be involved in overseas projects as part of their university study.
One of the requirements of the scholarship is that each scholar provides us with a reflection on their experience. We are now presenting these reflections grouped by State or Territory.
Once again, we would like to thank our wonderful mentors, mentioned alongside the scholar they supported, who volunteer their time and offer valuable guidance, support and insights to the scholars throughout the conference.
Fourteen scholars from Queensland attended the 2019 Crawford Fund conference. Six were supported by our QLD Committee, three were supported by Central Queensland University, two each were supported by Sunshine Coast University and the University of Queensland, and one was supported by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI). Their experiences have been captured below.
Kazbek Dyussembayev, Griffith University
“The most enjoyable part of the scholar program was meeting some wonderful people in my field. Thanks to RAID, I had a chance to talk to all scholars, who are early career researchers like me and passionate about learning more and more, and all our friendly and lovely mentors.”
Vithya Krishnan, University of Queensland
“I was particularly captivated by the presentations given by Professor Sir Charles Godfray and Sarah Barker. It was simultaneously depressing yet encouraging to hear from these experienced speakers within the science realm and in the corporate sector.”
“It seemed very appropriate to be in the great hall in Parliament House listening to experts talk about how climate has changed and what we can do now and how to go about planning for a future which will be characterised by climate conditions which haven’t been previously experienced.”
“The mentorship program created an opportunity to expand my knowledge about agriculture development whilst engaging with people and organisations making incredible impacts in agriculture sustainability and climate change adaptation. The overall experience of the conference was guided by the incredible mentors, my mentor, Rebecca Cotton, guided myself through the three days introducing myself to a diverse range of people.”
Daniela Medina Hidalgo
“Having the opportunity to openly discuss my future, my fears and aspirations about my career and how much we can really contribute, was extremely rewarding. This made me realize that despite how daunting the future might seem, the contributions from research and the work I am engaged in have the potential to help ‘weather the storm’.”
“A key message that resonated with me was discussion regarding ‘not creating more with less, rather creating enough with less’. This point, in my opinion really summed up the entire conference and the experience that I had, identifying that there is no longer a feasible way to continue agriculture research unless a sustainable approach is adopted. This is something that I will keep with me and continue to identify throughout both my career and personal life.”
“Overall, I can say with a doubt that the Crawford Fund Conference has been the highlight of my year and I gained some wonderful experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed. The opportunities and the ideas have broadened the horizon for me after engaging in some thought-provoking discussion with many world leaders in the field of agriculture that further fuelled the passion in me.”
Luke Dieters, University of Queensland
Mentor: Anika Molesworth, Crawford Fund NSW Committee and RAID
The Crawford Conference “Weathering the Perfect Storm” in 2019, allowed for me to experience a professional environment of networking, and conference speakers. Coming from a livestock and poultry production background, where I currently study sustainable agriculture this conference was directly related to my subject of study. Despite the limited presenters on livestock aspects, this conference provided an exciting platform to listen to other agricultural and nutritional professionals. Speakers ranged from Dr Ajay Mathur who was speaking on the interesting developments in New Delhi with solar pumps. Others included Di Mayberry who spoke about, ‘Raising the Steaks’ and the great strides Australia has made in the reduction of GHG emissions in the red meat industry. As this was directly relevant to my areas of interest, I was able to talk with her afterwards and ask her some questions.
Another interesting speaker was Sarah Baker who labelled herself as a “corporate lawyer who only cares about money,” this brought an interesting change in perspective. The Q&A sessions were very informative especially with Sarah Baker and Dr Charles Godfray, despite their massively different backgrounds and professions they had constantly overlapping ideas and opinions. Some great quotes that were said during this time included: “It’s not about producing more with less, but producing enough with less,” and “The transition to net zero is good for everyone but also different for everyone.” These quotes particularly stood out to me because they illustrated the, at times, tough but worthwhile future that we need to have in order to continue with a healthy earth and climate.
The Crawford Scholar activities were a further source of professional sources and activities, ranging from networking with other scholars and mentors (as well with my own), to speakers from ACIAR and Australian Volunteers. My mentor, Anika Molesworth, was an awesome match for me as she had experiences with a large range of areas that I was interested in, right down to capturing and selling rangeland goats on her family property in Broken Hill. I would like to extend a big thank you to not only the speakers at the conference and the scholar activities but also to those that arranged for me to come down to Canberra. It was an awesome experience and has helped me focus on the areas that I want to progress into for honours.
Kazbek Dyussembayev, Griffith University
Mentor: TJ Higgins, Crawford Fund ACT Committee
The Crawford Fund 2019 Annual Conference titled “Weathering the ‘Perfect Storm’: The Agriculture, Energy, Water, Climate Change Nexus” and Scholar Program provided a great opportunity for listening to lectures of leading researchers and practitioners in the field of international agriculture and climate change. I am extremely grateful to The Crawford Fund for selecting me as a scholar and to RAID for an opportunity to be part of their outstanding networking program.
In terms of the conference, there were many highly knowledgeable experts. One of them was Professor Sir Charles Godfray from Oxford University who spoke on feeding the world without destroying the environment. He showed very interesting statistics on global population growth and touched coming challenges: growing demand, hunger and over- and under- nutrition, agricultural pressure and water scarcity, climate change and geopolitical shocks. Then, Dr Bruce Campbell continued with his outstanding speech on large food challenges faced by the global community.
Furthermore, very informative presentation was given by Ms Sarah Barker, who is not only a professional expert on investment governance issues relating to climate change, but also a magnificent speaker able to gain attention of an audience. She mentioned all possible climate-related financial risks and also financial opportunities for the food sector. Many thanks to Professor Timothy Reeves and Dr Colin Chartres for finalising the conference with their meaningful talks encouraging us to work together against global agricultural challenges.
The most enjoyable part of the scholar program was meeting some wonderful people in my field. Thanks to RAID, I had a chance to talk to all scholars, who are early career researchers like me and passionate about learning more and more, and all our friendly and lovely mentors. Personally, I was very glad to have Professor TJ Higgins as a mentor and had learned a lot from him in short period of time. He is a very remarkable and experienced scientist and doing a great job as a volunteer in the field of international agriculture. Also, he gave me some very useful advice on next plans for my PhD project and future career.
Overall, the Conference and Scholar Program were exciting and really helped me to build my knowledge on global challenges in agriculture and climate change and new methods and technologies used towards solving these issues. I highly recommend that other young researchers and students looking to further their career in agricultural research apply for the Crawford Fund scholarship programs in the future.
Vithya Krishnan, University of Queensland
Mentor: Carl Menke, Griffith University
“Weathering the ‘Perfect Storm’” was an apt title for the 2019 Crawford Fund conference which addressed the agriculture, energy, water, and climate change nexus.
The depth and breadth of presenters allowed me to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding the topics covered during the conference. I was particularly captivated by the presentations given by Professor Sir Charles Godfray and Sarah Barker. It was simultaneously depressing yet encouraging to hear from these experienced speakers within the science realm and in the corporate sector. Climate change is here and now, and the speakers addressed these issues with a push which is ultimately necessary. It was also interesting hearing from Sarah Barker and understanding how the corporate sector was responding to climate change.
The presentation by Professor Alice Joan G. Ferrer was also uplifting, as she talked about climate smart villages and the need for context specific approaches for agriculture within South East Asia. This is important given the variability in climate conditions, resources, and knowledge between various countries. Thus, the need to develop context specific approaches for each community is pertinent to their livelihood and well-being.
Mark Noyce from Biofilta also addressed food system challenges and presented an avenue for mitigation through their wicking garden which prevents high water usage during crop production. It was great to see its use within urban and rural environments and especially important when water can become a limiting factor in agriculture.
I also thought that there were great discussions and questions raised during the moderated Q&A sessions. It was good to hear from speakers and the thoughts from various audience members, especially about ways in which climate change can and needs to be tackled. The opportunity for networking during the conference was definitely a highlight. It was great meeting various people from fields outside of my own and learning from their experiences which really helps with putting things into perspective and with broadening my knowledge base.
I’m extremely grateful that I had this opportunity to be a part of the Scholar program and conference organised by the Crawford Fund. I like to extend my gratitude to the Queensland committee which offered me this opportunity to attend a wonderful event. I would also like to thank Cathy Reade and Larissa Mullot for coordinating and organising the scholar event and conference.
Cristina Ocana Gallegos, QAAFI, University of Queensland
Mentor: Tony Fischer, Crawford Fund ACT Committee
Attending the CF19 conference has given me back a sense of personal empowerment and collective hope in my generation for the challenges that lie ahead in the agricultural realm. Having international agriculture research experts as mentors enhanced the whole experience and facilitated interactions with industry representatives from the Australian context. I was provided with profound insights of what it will take to create the next agricultural revolution and reminded that efforts from across all disciplines are required to tackle such challenges.
Personally, the first highlight of the conference came from Dr Di Mayberry’s talk, regarding GHG emissions linked to red meat consumption. She reminded us of the power we have to shape our environment and how we cast a vote for the world we live in, three times a day, seven days a week. Although alteration of our diets is often regarded as a sensitive topic, I believe that it is important to raise the question and stop the indulgent behaviours that had led us to our current environmental and climatic crisis.
Coming from a plant biotechnology background, it was interesting to learn about the financial and liability perspectives of climate change in Sarah Barker’s talk. The main take-home message was that climate change will also cause devastating effects in the economic sphere. Learning that some private entities are already leading the way to a more sustainable environment, by investing in clean energy for example, was inspiring and relieving. She also provided thought-provoking arguments that challenged us to be part of the change, because we no longer experience ‘Climate change’ but a changed climate.
Lastly, I was pleased to see the amount of women taking part in the conversation for this year’s conference, both as attendees and speakers. I particularly enjoyed Dr Aditi Mukherji talks and appreciated her proposal of ‘Maybe it’s time to slow down’, in the context of a consumerist and highly competitive society. It was the first time I heard someone proposing the opposite of agricultural and economic expansion and I applaud the boldness of her words. After all, I believe that going back to the basics is also part of the solution.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to attend the CF19 conference where I could learn about the efforts of every agricultural sector towards a more sustainable future. I also appreciate the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from other Australian scholars and hope to see a growing community of young leaders taking part on agriculture.
Peta Stockwell, University of Queensland
Mentor: Peter Wynn, Crawford Fund NSW Committee
Attending the Crawford Fund conference was an incredibly worthwhile and eye-opening experience. As a fourth year student attempting to navigate the next step in my career path, it was an invaluable opportunity to meet new people, gain different perspectives and hear about the exciting things currently happening in the world of agricultural research for international development.
The two scholar days were excellent; it was great to have presentations tailored to the scholar group from a range of interesting speakers. I found this resulted in speakers giving generally positive, informative and inspiring talks. Dr Peter Carberry described how young scientists have to act as change agents to tackle the various challenges faced by agricultural systems globally, while also being reflective and critical in order to develop the necessary learning culture. Dr Robyn Alders similarly addressed the audience of young people, discussing the perspectives of farming families, the decline in Australian aid funding, and working out how we can support international agriculture using our driving interests. An international perspective was provided by Dr Aditi Mukherji and Dr Jenny Hanks, while we were exposed to the role of the private sector by Dr James Nelson and Rebecca Boustead. The program delivered for us by RAID was well run and very informative for those unsure about how to begin a career working in international agricultural development.
The Sir John Crawford address was delivered by Professor Ross Garnaut. It was a captivating address highlighting the breadth of the Australian landscape, as he described the tragic scenes he had witnessed along the Murray-Darling, and the potential role our landscape has in the low carbon world economy.
The conference itself opened with Professor Sir Charles Godfray’s keynote address. He delivered an incredible description of the climate nexus, highlighting the human perspective. He shared his outlook on our ability to live within planetary boundaries, and the need for a double-green revolution. He also made a point which was one of the key messages I took from the conference; if by 2050 we all adopted WHO recommended diets, not only would 5.1 million deaths be avoided annually, but a reduction in the increase in food system associated greenhouse gas emissions by up to 71% could be achieved. Professor Sir Charles also introduced us to the term “economic vegan”, describing someone without access to animal source foods, stating that we have seen the detrimental effect this has on human livelihood. This was a concept that resonated with me, as I often feel those of us fortunate enough to have so much choice in our diet forget that there are still some who go without adequate macronutrients.
There were many incredible speakers throughout the day, all delving into the nexus issues from a unique perspective. Another resounding key message was the importance of understanding flow-on effects development activities may have in other areas. Professor Tim Reeves excellently synthesised the conference, reminding us of the “tremendous intrinsic value of food”, and that perhaps we should shift our focus to producing enough, rather than more, with less.
Attending the Crawford Fund conference has been one of the most valuable experiences of my undergraduate degree, I am very grateful for the support I have received. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this area to get involved.
Valentin Thépot, University of Sunshine Coast
Mentor: Lyn Hinds, Crawford Fund ACT Committee
The Scholar Program for the 2019 Crawford Conference “Weathering the ‘Perfect Storm’ – Addressing the agriculture, energy, water, climate change nexus” was an enriching experience with both optimistic and less so take home messages, all of which had positive impacts on me personally and as a researcher. The facts cannot be ignored; our health and nutrition, the climate, and the environment are all interconnected. The time to act was at least a decade ago; we now need to limit the adverse events and one of the key paths we can take to achieve this is to change how we produce food and energy.
The scholar day was a great way to get to know our peers working/studying/researching ways to address the issues we are all too familiar with in regards to nutrition, farming and the impact it has on our environment. This is why, in my view, the presence of Bayer and Kellogg’s on that day, considering their track records in environmental and human health, was controversial to say the least. In a world where we farm enough food to sustain the current population the focus should not be how we must farm more (“scale up”) with more chemicals, machinery and fossil fuels it should have been 1) how we farm it with minimal environmental and human health impact and 2) how we better distribute it and minimise waste. In addition, diet induced metabolic syndromes is a huge issue for first world countries and now increasingly so in the developing world. Sugar rich and processed foods are known to cause a range of serious life-threatening diseases. In 2014, 2 billion adults were overweight while 460 million people were underweight of which 600 million were obese. That year while 42 million children under the age of 5 were already overweight, 156 million children were affected by stunting. Something is clearly wrong with this picture and I highly doubt that “scaling up” our farming practices the way we do now and have been doing for too long would help.
“What if we ate healthy?” as Professor Sir Charles Godfray puts it. If we did so, he predicts that GHG emission would drop and so would the rate of deaths associated with poor dietary habits. The forecasted financial benefits of eating healthy on environmental health and human health and wellbeing come to $US 80trillion/yr! Although Dr. Aditi Mukherji acknowledged that this is a key strategy to reduce our impact on our environment the way we grow food matters. Tackling climate change not only positively influence the environment, it would simultaneously improve land, food security, nutrition and help to end hunger. A refreshing approach to growing food was one mentioned by Marc Noyce who showed us that food could come from small scale and highly productive systems. Including the community, school and teaching the next generation how to feed and grow food is essential for a better environment, better nutrition and overall wellbeing.
As a marine scientist working in aquaculture, I thought this area was greatly overlooked. Aquaculture being the fastest growing food-producing sector in the world, producing more fish than fisheries, and considering 71% of our planet is covered with water, this industry will be key to secure quality food for the growing population. Compared to agriculture, aquaculture is at its infancy. This is a critical time to shape this industry to warrant a sustainable and environmentally friendly development so we make sure the mistakes from its land counterpart are not repeated in the aquatic environment. Finally, a huge thank you to Cathy Reade who did an awesome job at organising the event and to the Crawford Fund for allowing me to attend this eye-opening conference.
Emily Bryson – Mentor: Lisa Borthwick, ACIAR
Anita Milroy – Mentor: Shaun Coffey, The Crawford Fund
Sanjaya Timilsina – Mentor: Kathy Dibley, Crawford Fund ACT Committee
As an increasing population faces limited resources, CQUniversity scholarship recipients have tapped into a prestigious national event which seeks to find workable solutions.
Postgraduate researchers Emily Bryson and Sanjaya Timilsina recently joined CQUni researcher Associate Professor Anita Milroy as scholarship awardees at the recent Crawford Fund Annual Conference in Canberra.
Ms Bryson is researching the potential for home composting of dog poo as a way to reduce faecal pathogens and plastic bag waste while recovering soil nutrients and organic matter for small-scale food production.
She said that climate change issues and the UN Sustainable Development Goals were prominent at the Crawford event.
“Messages that stood out were around evidence that our climate has already changed and that data from the past is not indicative of what is likely to happen in the near future,” Ms Bryson says.
“It’s becoming increasingly important to factor in the health of soil, water, production, animals, and people to ensure we all have enough nutritious food.”
Ms Bryson said she particularly enjoyed having a mentor from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to help make introductions with relevant people.
“I have a number of potential collaborations to follow up, particularly around small-scale food production and the Planetary Health/One Health concept.
“I’ve already joined the RAID network (Researchers in Agriculture for International Development) and look forward to staying connected with the people I’ve met.”
Associate Professor Milroy, a trans-disciplinary art, science, technology, engineering, mathematics and industry academic, said the Crawford [Fund] scholars were provided with a variety of opportunities, including networking for future collaborations.
“We were also provided with a mentor, and I was extremely lucky to have Professor Shaun Coffey as mine,” she says.
“Professor Coffey has a history with CQUniversity and a wealth of agricultural and training knowledge that he was generous enough to share.
“I was impressed by the calibre of Crawford [Fund] Scholars and pleased to see young people proactively involved in innovative local, national and international agricultural industries and initiatives.
“It seemed very appropriate to be in the great hall in Parliament House listening to experts talk about how climate has changed and what we can do now and how to go about planning for a future which will be characterised by climate conditions which haven’t been previously experienced.
“Professor Ross Garnaut’s keynote on ‘Weathering the Perfect Storm’ was extremely thought provoking, and in particular his observations caused me to pause and think more deeply about what the future could look like, from both a local (Central Highlands) and global perspective.
“He noted there is immense potential for storing more carbon in the vast range lands of Australian, but that there is great uncertainty about the potential and what is needed to secure it, and that we need research to find the possibilities to maximise the value of production from this land.”
Postgraduate researcher Sanjaya Timilsina, who is assessing the drought tolerance of spice and condiment crops, said he appreciated the chance for professional networking and felt blessed to have CSIRO scientist Dr Kathy Dibley as his conference mentor.
“The key message that stuck with me would be that it’s not about ‘climate change’ anymore. Its ‘climate changed’ and we are already late, and our best hope could be to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius at the best,” he says.
“The other thing that I noticed is that there is no silver bullet to solve these problems. It’s mind-boggling to just think how much solar waste we will have in next decade without the proper mechanism in place to recycle or reuse solar panels.
“Also, it’s ironic how sources of clean energy like hydroelectricity dams have been limiting fish migration along the Mekong river in Laos, leading to decline in fish output and causing risk of nutrition insecurity among poor fishermen families.
“The point is that nothing is a panacea. A new technology will for sure bring its own set of challenges and we have to be vigilant to keep on coming up with new ways to mitigate those problems.
“I also appreciated the story of how the Indian government was trying to promote LED bulbs and solar water pumps but was failing to gain momentum until the government approached the business sector and gave incentive and investment security for the businesses to promote these LED bulbs and solar panels. It has been a huge success.
“The business sector is the least thought of regarding the issues of international development efforts but my learning was how businesses actually are one of the biggest forces in making the change happen.”
Mentor: Bec Cotton, RAID and ACIAR
The Crawford Fund Conference 2019 allows students emerging into the field of agriculture to engage with leading experts in the field and current studies. The Conference focus was on weathering and halting the perfect storm, through transforming food production systems, with focuses on crop sustainability, fisheries, food systems and solutions and looking at climate change through a financial and liability risk lens. Dr. Aditi Mukherji address at the RAID networking event and the Crawford Conference, I found particularly interesting, as she stressed the importance of thinking globally whilst acting locally towards the drastic effects of climate change. Many of the other talks as well, demonstrated the importance of engaging with local peoples to create change, and implementing sustainable practices communities deem necessary to promote sustainability.
The seminars offered by the RAID network showed the diversity of the agricultural field tailoring to scholar’s individual interests. Having the networking event in the same area, allowed myself to listen to every talk available to soak in the invaluable knowledge being provided.
The mentorship program created an opportunity to expand my knowledge about agriculture development whilst engaging with people and organisations making incredible impacts in agriculture sustainability and climate change adaptation. The overall experience of the conference was guided by the incredible mentors, my mentor, Rebecca Cotton, guided myself through the three days introducing myself to a diverse range of people from RAID, The Crawford Fund and ACIAR. Bec’s knowledge of navigating the agriculture world I have found invaluable, as an ACIAR Graduate Research Officer, I was able to learn about all the incredible opportunities ACIAR and RAID has offered her in the last two years. In addition to this, discussions about a ‘work life balance’ was touched on quite a bit by other more experienced mentors, hoping to contribute ways to successfully navigate a career through the policy and global action nexus.
As a Bachelor of Arts Honour student focusing on climate adaptation in the Pacific Islands, my experience with the Crawford Fund Conference, allowed myself to engage aspects of the agriculture sectors, previously unknown. I am extremely grateful to be offered the opportunity from the University of the Sunshine Coast, to engage with so many passionate individuals in the fields of agriculture and climate change. The key message I took away from the conference is that, although there is already so much being done, there is still plenty that can be achieved. I plan to use the knowledge gained to help inform my studies in the world of social science that balances my passions for the preservation of human cultures and climate change.
Daniela Medina Hidalgo
Mentor: Tim Reeves, Crawford Fund Victoria Committee
The theme of the Crawford Fund Conference 2019 was “Weathering the ‘Perfect Storm’: addressing the agriculture, energy, water and climate change nexus”. The title of the conference already hints about the complexities and multiple dimensions of the challenges that food systems are imbedded in. The complex nature of the relationships between food production and the environment have been at the centre of my interest from a very young age. When I decided to embark in a career in agriculture, I was drawn to the field by a sense of urgency to explore new and better ways in which agricultural production could co-exists with environmental conservation.
I was born and raised in Costa Rica, a country in which agriculture plays an important role in the country’s history and economic development, but also one that prides itself for its progressive environmental policies. This meant that since a really young age I was exposed to both sides of the story. The side that recognizes the vital importance of agriculture in the wellbeing and development of the population and the one that is also aware of the multiple negative effects agricultural production can have on the environment.
The conference presentations and discussions highlighted this dichotomy and underscored the need to carefully balance the multiple objectives that food production is involved in, so that it can be developed within existing planetary boundaries. One important aspect that was emphasized during the conference was the need to look at food production with a food system’s perspective. This means including in the analysis all aspects and stakeholders involved in the production, value adding, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products. Also, the need to always look for “unintended consequences”. A perhaps uncomfortable argument to listen to is the need to re-evaluate our consumption patterns and our food choices, as demand driven changes in food systems might be shaping our agricultural production well beyond those planetary boundaries. The conference highlighted the increasingly important role that the food industry, the private sector and the consumers have in pushing for the most drastic changes that need to occur and that Governments seem to be delaying.
The conference for me was a reaffirmation of the magnitude of the challenge of providing enough quantities and quality of food for a growing population in times where climate change already threatens life in some of the most vulnerable regions of the world. It seems like despite all the effort, resources and knowledge that has been dedicated for decades into research and development, they have been merely drops of water into an ocean of challenges. Yet, I was surprised to hear the positive messages and solution-oriented mentality of the more senior attendants of the conference. This was highlighted repeatedly throughout the conference. Including the two sessions for early career researchers in which the underlying message was how important the next generation of researchers are in solving these challenges and how exciting and rewarding is to be following a career in research for agricultural development.
I left the conference with a renewed sense of excitement and responsibility about my work. At times, the conference seemed like we were all preaching to the choir, in the sense that most people attending are already very aware of the magnitude of potential consequences humanity faces, if we do not accelerate a radical transformation of our food systems. While we all seem to agree that we are facing massive challenges, there is more room for discussion on what the solutions might be and how these are to be implemented at different levels and in different contexts. One of my favourite aspects of participating in the conference was the possibility to engage in conversations with my mentor. Having the opportunity to openly discuss about my future, my fears and aspirations about my career and how much we can really contribute, was extremely rewarding. This made me realize that despite how daunting the future might seem, the contributions from research and the work I am engaged in have the potential to help “weather the storm”.
Mentor: Joshua Bishop, WWF
It was my great privilege to attend the 2019 Crawford Fund Conference through the sponsorship of the Schools of Agriculture and Food Sciences from the University of Queensland. This conference was a tremendous experience both for professional and personal growth and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the field of international agricultural research. The conference was attended by a range of interesting and insightful industry members all of whom had something unique to discuss about their experience in the international agricultural industry.
In my final year of my Masters of Agribusiness, I came to the conference already aware of the issues that the world will be facing in the next century however with an overwhelming sense of misdirection in where and how these issues were to be managed. Through my time at the conference, I discussed this idea with a range of industry professionals and scholars, all of whom with different perspectives and words of advice for my journey to address these issues. These were further addressed during the Scholar Days and the conference itself where I was confronted with perplexing discussion and insight into the industry. Key discussion included that contributed by Sarah Barker, Tim Reeves and Dr Aditi Mukherji whom all discussed the current state of the industry and the importance of grass roots participation in both the research process and industry engagement.
A key message that resonated with me was discussion regarding ‘not creating more with less, rather creating enough with less’. This point, in my opinion really summed up the entire conference and the experience that I had, identifying that there is no longer a feasible way to continue agriculture research unless a sustainable approach is adopted. This is something that I will keep with me and continue to identify throughout both my career and personal life.
Finally, it must not go unsaid the important role that my mentor Dr Joshua Bishop had in making this conference an enjoyable experience. Joshua’s input during the conference inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and converse with a range of industry professionals, many of whom I would not have through to introduce myself unless Joshua identified the commonalities we shared. I recommend to anyone who attends the Crawford Fund Conference as a scholar in future years to take full advantage of their mentors for both professional and personal mentorship.
I am grateful for having this opportunity to attend the conference, not only for the fruitful discussion I was involved with from a variety of stakeholders but for the industry and personal connections that I made which will only benefit my career as it progresses.
Mentor: Julius Kotir, CSIRO
To begin with, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the 2019 Annual Crawford Fund Conference as a scholar which I consider a spectacular opportunity that has helped to improve my knowledge and broaden my experience in the field of international agricultural development. The theme of this year, “Weathering the ‘Perfect Storm’ – Addressing the Agriculture, Energy, Water and Climate Change Nexus” was based around the food and nutrition security interaction along with the threat the global food production system faces as a result of climate change. The discussions urged policy makers, farmers and scientists to reshape strategies in order to improve the nexus between food, health and agriculture.
As a 3rd year Agricultural Science student seeking to pursue honors, the Crawford Fund Conference provided me with an apt platform where I could hear about and discuss the various career opportunities and pathways in my area of specialization along with networking with like-minded scholars and lead researches. Interaction with my mentor and other scholars was truly enlightening as I had the opportunity to meet and speak with colleagues pursuing the similar path to myself which enabled insightful discussion.
In terms of the conference, one of the most interesting aspects was the focus on international development and food security along with rampant exploitation of natural resources. In particular, I was completely in awe of the presentations given by Prof Sir Charles Godfray and Dr Aditi Mukherji. Sir Charles highlighted the need to understand the population trend through the Malthusian lens and the difference one could make to the environment just by tweaking our diet and lifestyle. The importance of considering context when developing management systems and global goals was pertinent as well as using non-partisan approach towards addressing such issues. I believe that we are at a critical conjecture where the meat consumption has had a larger environmental impact and footprint but on the other hand, halting livestock production worldwide in response to that without recognising the contributions it makes to reducing poverty in developing countries cannot be ignored. It was also astonishing to learn about the emerging threat human faces from obesity and over-nutrition of food than from hunger and under-nutrition.
Furthermore, a theme explored throughout the conference that I had not previously looked into in depth was the diversification of our food systems and the Mega Adaption Challenge by Dr Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell highlighted the danger we face with the ever-changing climate and how a spike of just 4°C global average temperature can cause irreversible detrimental damage to the earth as a whole. He discussed important aspects such as how climate risk drives poverty and the fact that food system if changed can significantly improve a lot of factors affecting the environment. Prospects of developing heat and water tolerant varieties of crops and use of efficient technology was also discussed. Dr Ajay Mathur from TERI also contributed by providing invaluable inputs and innovative ideas such as using solar powered irrigation as a form of “Remuneration Crop”. Both of these presentations were highly informative and shed light on the potential future of our food systems. Learning about the various organisations to initiate involvement was extremely useful as a first year student with much more to learn and experience.
Overall, I can say with a doubt that the Crawford Fund Conference has been the highlight of my year and I gained some wonderful experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed. The opportunities and the ideas have broadened the horizon for me after engaging in some thought-provoking discussion with many world leaders in the field of agriculture that further fuelled the passion in me. If given a chance, I would attend this prestigious event again without a second thought and would hope to contribute in it with more experience, innovative ideas and a lot more inquisitiveness. In the end, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Crawford Fund organisation and the University of Queensland for this incredible opportunity.
Mentor: Michael Robinson, Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation
It was my great pleasure to get an opportunity to attend the 2019 Crawford Fund Conference in Canberra. The overall program of the conference, “Weathering The ‘Perfect Storm’ The Agriculture, Energy, Water and Climate Change Nexus’’ was exciting, encouraging and particularly inspiring experience as a PhD student.
The conference was packed with highly skilled experts in the field, a wide selection of researchers working on various aspects related to agriculture and climate change. It started with Professor Sir Charles Godfray’s excellent talk on “Is the perfect storm on track to happen?” He began talking with global challenges – population growth, increasing food consumption, hunger and over-under nutrition, agriculture pressure, competition for land soil degradation, and water scarcity. He concluded his talk with some critical questions – what if we eat healthy foods? Can we adhere to the planetary resource boundaries for feeding global population? Obviously, we would see reduced greenhouse emission and increased economic benefits.
The following speaker Dr Bruce Campbell raised some mega mitigation challenges such as industry, electricity and heating, agriculture and transport. He also mentioned current agriculture system could only achieve up to 40% of what we required by 2030. To improve our goals, we need to scale up climate innovation and adoption to the 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide. The last section of his talk covered the possible solutions to transform our food system, where he mentioned, policy and institutions can play a significant role in bringing global change in current food system. The next speaker, Dr Ajay Mathur stated that increasing farm efficiency would be the critical solution for reducing the impact of climate change on global agriculture. He also raised the issue of temperature rise scenario and how to address this challenge by enhancing water, energy and fuel efficiency which can offer considerable benefits to the farmers.
Professor Timothy Reeves summarized the final thoughts by stating the most crucial challenge in coming years is food security. He concluded with a statement that sustainability is the future path, and policy cohesion and team efforts in taking decisions are most essential factors for changing global issues. Finally, Dr Colin Chartres concluded the conference with a final statement that global problems can be solved if we come together and do it together. On that note, it was pleasing to meet and see all keynote speakers not only addressed the current challenges with food, climate change, energy and agriculture but also shared some thought-provoking solutions for changing global scenario.
I firmly believe that I learned and benefited from the Crawford Fund conference and RAID’s scholarly group activities and I would like to thank immensely for that. This conference was one of the first networking events I have attended, and my mentor Dr Michael Robinson encouraged me to ask questions, network with experts and students and guided me in right direction in such a foreign setting.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped, motivated, encouraged, and supported my presence at the conference and scholars networking events. I strongly encourage you all to attend this exciting and inspiring Crawford Fund Conference.