Our final scholar reflections – from the Sunshine State

March 7, 2023

Scholars from QLD (L to R) Rafaela Barbosa de Andrade Aragao, Joel Johnson, Ziwei Zhou, William Ramsay, Yichen Kang, Peter Harris, Trinh Huynh, Elena Hoyos, Sam Wakefield, Sabrina Morrison and Silas Atworekire pictured with the Crawford Fund QLD’s Coordinator Bob Lawn.

The Crawford Fund’s Annual Conference was held in August 2022. 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 approaching 400.

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 student awards to enable students to be involved in overseas projects as part of their university study. Applications for these awards are now open!

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.

Eleven scholars from QLD attended the 2022 Crawford Fund conference. Six were supported by our QLD Committee, three by Central Queensland University and one each by the University of Queensland and the University of Southern Queensland.

One of the requirements of the scholarship is that each scholar provides us with a reflection on their experience. Highlights of their experiences have been captured below:


QLD CRAWFORD FUND COMMITTEE SUPPORTED SCHOLARS

Rafaela Barbosa de Andrade Aragao, Griffith University
“I really liked to see innovations such as the BioClay that Professor Neena Mitter from the University of Queensland presented. The application of science into practice is so important, this is the kind of research that motivates me to pursue a career in the international agricultural field.”

Trinh Huynh, University of Sunshine Coast
Inspirational stories and tips help me want to jump out of my comfort zone for continuous learning, improvement, and renewal. Key lessons and useful personal skills mentioned in the conference allow me to see things from new and different perspectives.”

Yichen Kang, University of Queensland
“The conference strengthened my passion for being engaged in international agriculture. I am glad that my research expertise can play a key role in addressing food security and agricultural economies, as continuously improving varieties through plant breeding is the most viable option for smallholders around the globe who feed largest populations.”

Sabrina Morrison, University of Queensland
“It was wonderful to not only hear from, but also engage with so many inspirational professionals. It was so interesting to learn about their personal career trajectories, and how their interests have changed as their journeys have progressed.”

William Ramsay, University of Sunshine Coast
“The conference offered an array of speakers from a multitude of scientific, cultural, and practical backgrounds. This key attribute highlighted to me the profound importance of integrating many different disciplines and approaches to solving food security problems in any, and all, project designs and implementations. The speakers were also hugely valuable not only through their academic and professional lessons but through sharing their personal journeys and experiences working in development.”

Ziwei Zhou, Griffith University
“The Crawford Fund 2022 Annual Conference titled “Celebrating Agriculture for Development – Outcomes, Impacts and the Way Ahead” was certainly impressive and invigorating. As a third-year PhD student approaching graduation, it was a great opportunity for me to gain the most updated knowledge of agricultural research for international development and, also to find out more possibilities in my career path.”


CENTRAL QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY SUPPORTED SCHOLARS

Silas Atworekire
“My take home was the discussion by different speakers about the opportunities available in agricultural international research. It was such an honour to hear and learn from the experiences of experts in the field. I am forever grateful and privileged to have been part of the conference as it shaped my thoughts on the way forward regarding volunteering opportunities…”

Elena Hoyos
“The volunteering experience continuously promoted by Madeline Healey and Anika Molesworth during the event reminded me how to fulfil a spiritual human need to contribute and leave a legacy for future generations. Moreover, the chance to discuss amongst scholars, attendees, mentors, and different speakers through the wide range of planned activities kept me intrigued and motivated to network daily.”

Joel Johnson
“One of my favourite parts of the conference was hearing from Prof Andrew Campbell and others about concrete examples of what ACIAR and other institutes have done in developing nations such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Pacific nations. I was also interested to hear Dr Alison Bentley talk about ongoing research at the CIMMYT wheat centre. As my main area of research is in food science, I was encouraged to learn how current breeding programs are increasing genetic diversity and disease resistance without compromising on yield or protein content.”

UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND SUPPORTED SCHOLAR

Sam Wakefield
“The grouping of scholars into shared accommodation aided in the development of interactions amongst scholars and fostered a cooperative mindset that is required to address some of the challenges, and realise opportunities, in research for agricultural aid and development. I made some great connections during the three days; we all shared a few laughs and I hope to stay in touch.”

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN QUEENSLAND SUPPORTED SCHOLAR

Dr Peter Harris
“The Scholars Program offered by the Crawford Fund was an invaluable opportunity and I encourage anyone with an interest in agricultural research to get involved. This program has expanded my knowledge and given me the confidence and the network to progress my ambitions to contribute to the global story in fighting climate change while providing life-changing solutions and opportunities to rural communities in developing nations.”


Read on for the full reflections of each QLD scholar:

Rafaela Barbosa de Andrade Aragao, Griffith University
Mentor: Lyn Hinds

The 2022 Crawford Fund Conference, titled “Celebrating Agriculture for Development – Outcomes, Impacts, and the Way Ahead”, was an enriching experience, where I got to listen to exciting outcomes on international agriculture. We heard valuable experiences and advice from experts in the area and had a taste of what is coming next. I could reflect on the ways forward and the challenges for sustainable and innovative agriculture.

The conference location was already a big win – in Parliament House. It was my first time there, and I got really excited about all the history behind it and got to know more about Australia’s political context. The former deputy prime minister of Australia, John Anderson, opened the conference and welcomed the scholars who attended this year. We had a long day at the conference, filled with presentations, panels and Q&As. The subjects were all exciting, and I learned a lot from the speakers and the other people attending the conference.

I really liked to see innovations such as the BioClay that Professor Neena Mitter from the University of Queensland presented. The application of science into practice is so important, this is the kind of research that motivates me to pursue a career in the international agricultural field. We also heard Jessica Raneri talk about nutrition-sensitive food systems. She highlighted the importance of nutrition in rural development, and how different seeds can contribute to better nutrition. Her presentation made me reflect on the significance of healthy food to having healthy people. Finally, Dr. Philip Pardey from the University of Minnesota talked about how Australia is positioned in the world agricultural market, the investments that we are making, what we have done and what we have found so far. As a foreign student in Australia, it really helped me to understand the agricultural context we have here.

In addition to the great conference presentations, all the scholars were matched with mentors.  The mentors talked with us about their careers and stayed with us during the entire conference. I am grateful to my mentor who shared with me tips for my career pathways and introduced me to people within organisations where I would like to work in the future. It was an invaluable opportunity, I gained different perspectives on the many different paths that I can follow after finishing my PhD.

Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to hear about the exciting projects in international agriculture that the other scholars are working with. I met scholars from different states in Australia and could share experiences with them. Finally, another positive point was that some organisations such as the ACIAR had a stall at the conference. Having the stalls there gave me the opportunity to talk with people working for the organisations and understand more about the organisation’s culture and employment opportunities.

I really appreciated the entire experience at the Crawford Fund Conference and would definitely like to attend again. For the next conferences, I would like to see some participation from farmers. They are important stakeholders in the international agriculture context and seeing how they are using the technologies or policies that we created would add a very nice perspective to scientists. We can always learn from them about their necessities and how we can contribute more to that. 

Trinh Huynh, University of Sunshine Coast
Mentor: Madaline Healey

#1. A fresh perspective – Why do we focus on agriculture? Why international agricultural research? And why do you want to work in a developing country?  What these questions mean here is that we if want to make a difference in Agriculture we should focus on “Why” and ask ourselves what we want to contribute? Where do you want to be?  The presentations of Dr Alison Bentley and Dr Deirdre Lemerle provided the best opportunities for this. Also, the lessons presented by Anna Mackintosh were quite impressive to me, particularly reflection on what you want to do using the Ikigai Japanese concept. I realise that I have a passion for pursuing agriculture research, but it is not always clear why until I hear these shares. I think the Ikigai diagram would be useful for answering the 5W’s + H questions and linking back to what Alison and Deirdre said. Inspirational stories and tips help me want to jump out of my comfort zone for continuous learning, improvement, and renewal. Key lessons and useful personal skills mentioned in the conference allow me to see things from new and different perspectives. 

#2. Learning – As a forestry researcher, I was particularly interested in the discussion around climate change, environmental health and biodiversity loss, biosecurity and food system challenges. Many speakers (I cannot name all speakers here) presented throughout the seven sessions helped me see the big picture of sustainable agriculture. With diverse topics and multiple formats to learn and engage in on the second day of the conference, I have gained so many new ideas to address these challenges in agriculture. How can different management strategies and innovations be balanced with economics, the environment, and social benefits in the future? That is the big question that still exists in my mind, and I think learning invaluable knowledge from the conference will be useful to me to answer some small questions before addressing the big question I mentioned above.

#3 Networking, mentoring and volunteering – One of my favourite things about conferences is meeting my mentor and new people – colleagues. First, I’m lucky for having informal mentoring sessions from Madaline at my university and she has continued to support me to expand my network with new colleagues at the conference. Second, the conference designed a networking dinner on the first day, this was a great opportunity to connect and expand my professional networks (national and international expertise) and help me stay better informed. In addition, on the second night, I enjoyed the Networking event with RAID. I had a large group of all scholars, we shared experiences in studying, internship and working in different fields. Interestingly, all scholars also had an incredible network day on the third day of the conference. I’m quite interested in listening to Cathy Reade and Prof Andrew Campbell, about the work and opportunities for scholars to work with ACIAR and Crawford Fund. I have known a bit about ACIAR via my mentor (Madaline Healey) but having more explanation of the work of ACIAR from Andrew will help me in finding future opportunities to work in agriculture/forestry.

Finally, I can’t say how good invaluable the experience from from RAID’s members was! I really enjoyed inspirational presentations from Anna Mackintosh, Maddison Clonan and Madaline Healey very much. Some useful tips to be a volunteer, a project leader and work with ACIAR are very important to me and all scholars to be more open minded. Learning a new language, a new culture, adapting to difficult conditions, and understanding local issues or farmer issues are key messages I have learned so far.

Thank you to the Crawford Fund Scholar Program for giving us such a great opportunity.

Yichen Kang, University of Queensland
Mentor: Tony Fischer

It took a long time for this Crawford Fund conference to take place in person since COVID-19 hit. I was so pleased to meet participants from such diverse agricultural sectors at this conference, including research, industries and government. This enhanced the whole experience as it provided me with profound insights of the global and Australian agri-food landscape. Coming from a crop breeding background, I am particularly interested in food security, which has greatly intensified in recent years due to the rising concerns over climate change, pandemic related matters and regional instabilities (i.e. Russia-Ukraine tension).

Personally, I enjoyed the talk given by Dr Alison Bentley, which highlighted the importance of accelerating wheat improvement to enhance future resilience of food systems. This is so relevant to my research and inspires me to better think of how to translate my scientific findings into policy and practice that would make an impact on our communities. It was also encouraging to see efforts across all disciplines being made to deliver innovations that empower agricultural research and development forward. At the end of the day, our goal is to build sustainable agri-food systems that are capable of feeding the world. And this will only be achieved if we apply quality science and revolutionary technologies (e.g. ‘BioClay’ spray for crop protection as mentioned by Prof. Neena Mitter), more importantly, we need to support partner countries across the globe. Furthermore, I had a strong impression of the growing community of the younger generations and women being more and more involved in tackling agri-food challenges. Improving these peoples’ access to financing, agricultural training and education would represent a dramatic contribution to ending hunger in the future.

The conference mapped out the broad outlines of how our agri-food systems need to move forward, strategically and systematically. This has strengthened my commitment to agricultural for development, as I can tell that us youth have great opportunities to lift the impact of our research and collaborations on transforming agri-food systems for a better future. Agriculture is a complex physical-biological-human system, but coming from a pure science background, it has been hard for me to connect what I am doing with other system dimensions.

Attending the Crawford 2022 conference gave me a rare opportunity to start conversations with other Australian scholars, representatives of different sectors and mentors. This experience absolutely expanded my horizons in agricultural development from a socio-economic perspective and provided additional input for my PhD research. Lastly, the conference strengthened my passion for being engaged in international agriculture. I am glad that my research expertise can play a key role in addressing food security and agricultural economies, as continuously improving varieties through plant breeding is the most viable option for smallholders around the globe who feed the largest populations.

Sabrina Morrison, University of Queensland
Mentor: TJ Higgins

This year’s Crawford Fund Conference coincided with the 35th anniversary of the Crawford Fund, as well as the 40th anniversary of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Being involved in this conference as a Crawford Fund Scholar was probably one of the most interesting conference experiences I have ever had. One of the biggest highlights for me was seeing so many people – not just academics but professionals from all areas – working towards the common goal of global food security.

My conference experience commenced nice and early with a 6am flight from Brisbane to Canberra. I arrived on the day before the conference to attend the Conference scholars’ activities, where I was able to connect with my fellow scholars, my conference mentor, TJ Higgins, as well as many of the amazing members of RAID (Researchers in Agriculture for International Development) who were involved in organising the day. Talking to TJ about his work in cowpea and his international experiences was a highlight and really gave me an insight into a career in this area.

One of my favourite talks from the whole event was the speech from Dr Audrey Aumua during the memorial address and networking dinner later that night. After the dinner I talked to Dr Aumua about her career and was fascinated to hear about her background in public health and involvements with ACIAR. This conversation really helped me to understand the multifaceted nature of food security challenges and the diversity of skills needed to address them.

The Crawford Fund Conference day was jam-packed with talks and panels from speakers in all areas of international agricultural research. It was amazing to see the breadth of specialists working towards international food security and sustainability. One of the talks that stuck with me was Dr Jean Balié’s presentation on the agricultural research of CGIAR. I found it interesting to learn about the social and environmental projects that CGIAR supports in addition to those directly related to agriculture, as well as the interplay between socioeconomic challenges and food security.

It was wonderful to not only hear from, but also engage with so many inspirational professionals. It was so interesting to learn about their personal career trajectories, and how their interests have changed as their journeys have progressed.

The key message I took away from the conference was the value of collaboration between disciplines, organisations, and countries in the field of international agriculture. Food security is a multifaceted challenge that requires a dynamic range of contributors. Increasing cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaborations has led to leaps in international agriculture in recent years and will likely be important as we address climate-related challenges in the future.

William Ramsay, University of the Sunshine Coast
Mentor: Sarah Paradice

The theme of the 2022 Crawford Fund Conference was “Celebrating Agriculture for Development – Outcomes, Impacts, and the Way Ahead” and given my key interest in agroforestry, the conference left a profound impact on my curiosity and desire to learn, practice, and implement more holistic approaches to food security.

The conference offered an array of speakers from a multitude of scientific, cultural, and practical backgrounds. This key attribute highlighted to me the profound importance of integrating many different disciplines and approaches to solving food security problems in any, and all, project designs and implementations. The speakers were also hugely valuable not only through their academic and professional lessons but through sharing their personal journeys and experiences working in development. One story I will always remember and draw from was by Madaline Healy, it struck a chord with me that she came from a similar cohort and slowly volunteered, worked, and gave of herself to the development space to the point of being a mentor and presenter at the conference. Her story provided me with hope and confidence that I too am on the correct path.

The format of the conference created an incredibly welcoming and inviting space for young scholars such as myself to approach, learn and network with more experienced and learned academics. The conference held friendly and fun energy throughout its program that kept me engaged, curious, and eager to learn more. Furthermore, the connections I made with my fellow scholars were invaluable as they gave me the chance to bounce ideas, laugh, and learn what the future generation of agricultural development can be.

The more profound taking point from the conference for me was delivered by Dr David McGill, his presentation introduced me to the notion of ‘Extention’, little did I know that my interest, studies, and Crawford project were securely cemented within this approach. After returning from the conference, his presentation gave me a scope in which I have focused my career trajectory.

Ziwei Zhou, Griffith University
Mentor: TJ Higgins

The Crawford Fund 2022 Annual Conference titled “Celebrating Agriculture for Development – Outcomes, Impacts and the Way Ahead” was certainly impressive and invigorating. As a third-year PhD student approaching graduation, it was a great opportunity for me to gain the most updated knowledge of agricultural research for international development and, also to find out more possibilities in my career path.

The highlights and key messages of the conference for me are the agriculture challenges during the pandemic, as well as the importance of food sustainability in future. Based on my own opinion, the first eye-catching talk came from Professor Andrew Campbell, who commenced the day as the first keynote speaker and presented the topic of “Science for nourishing the world, sustainably”. He summarised the 40 years of science for development partnerships in just 20 minutes but gave me a deep and comprehensive understanding of the contemporary food security crisis, the converging insecurities, and the imperatives. To date, still around 30% of the world’s population suffers from moderate-severe food insecurity, which indicates that the current agriculture research and innovations are still not enough. While the strategies developed by ACIAR to enhance the collaborations and partnerships between Australia and developing countries sound very inspiring for creating a beneficial impact on the planet.

As I’m coming from a plant genetic biotechnology background, I was moved by the presentation given by Professor Neena Mitter. She showed the research carried out on RNA-based biopesticides for sustainable agriculture using BioClay technology. With the increasing usage of chemicals as crop disease control agents, it was heartbreaking to see that children die from eating legumes contaminated by chemical pesticides. Therefore, it is essential and urgent for developing clean technologies for agriculture. From Professor Mitter’s presentation, BioClay is an environmentally sustainable platform for crop protection, which is a ground-breaking technology to influence agricultural production and the socio-economic dynamics of the farming community. The tomato leaves look so gorgeous when treated with BioClay! I wish our future research in biotechnologies could more focus on environmental sustainability like Professor Mitter’s study and assist in delivering real-world outcomes.

I have deeply appreciated The Crawford Fund for selecting me as a scholar and arranging such fantastic scholarly activities. It is a valuable chance to talk to so many scholars and share our experiences with each other. Also, it is wonderful to have international agriculture research experts as mentors. I am especially grateful for Dr TJ Higgins; he is an experienced scientist in the gene modification biotechnology area and has remarkable achievements in developing biotechnological approaches to replace pesticides for insect-resistant cowpea. As my mentor, he gave me a bunch of positive feedback on my research project, which really encouraged me. He was also active in introducing me to his colleagues, which inspired me a lot for future career decisions.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the Queensland committee which offered me this opportunity to attend this wonderful event. Moreover, sincerely thank Cathy Reade and Larissa Mullot for arranging the whole three days activities and taking care of us very well. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience and broadened my focus on the future development of the agricultural revolution.


CENTRAL QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY SUPPORTED SCHOLARS

Silas Atworekire
Mentor: Jessica Fearnley

Where can I start from? The 2022 Crawford Fund Scholar conference was my very first conference as a young and inexperienced researcher. Though the conference gave me a huge opportunity to interact with researchers from all walks of life. The program discussed issues which affect agriculture in a broader context. The 2022 Crawford Fund Conference major theme was celebrating agriculture for development, outcomes, impacts and way forward.

The conference was officially opened by the address of the Hon John Anderson, current chair of the Crawford Fund. I loved the charisma of the Hon John Anderson as he emphasised the points that agriculture development faces enormous challenges, however, he gave hope to deal with the current agricultural problems of food insecurity, climate change among others.  Mr Anderson is a farmer so he understands the challenges Australian farmers face and his speech was rather seasoned and full of experience as one of the affected. He called upon young researchers to tackle issues which affect farmers in Australia and globally, to be part of solutions and changes in the industry. His opening remarks could easily relate with my previous studies in environmental science and the conference was so appealing to me.

The conference gave me a bigger perspective regarding the different challenges impacting on international agriculture research development, the impacts of the 3 Cs- climate change, covid and conflict were mind blowing particularly how prices of wheat have skyrocketed due to conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Dinner at the Australian Parliament House was great for networking and RAID networking after the dinner was great. Many mentors in the conference shared their experiences and the scholars benefited interacting with their mentors. Personally, my mentor was supportive all the way during the process of the conference, and it was the starting point to connect with my state RAID network.

The second day of the conference had a series of presentations by different speakers, the day started with the keynote address from Professor Andrew Campbell with a message on science for nourishing the world. Professor Campbell demonstrated great research which has been done by ACIAR mostly in Asian developing countries and Africa, highlighting the great strides ACIAR has made in combating the impacts of climate change and covid. Professor Campbell made it clear that international agricultural research will move forward through great partnerships among different researchers. There is a need to commit resources to agriculture research by different development organisations, innovations are needed to deal with the current problems and use of sophisticated methodology and technology.

My take home was the discussion by different speakers about the opportunities available in agricultural international research. It was such an honour to hear and learn from the experiences of experts in the field. I am forever grateful and privileged to have been part of the conference as it shaped my thoughts on the way forward regarding volunteering opportunities and the process of funding available in agriculture.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Crawford Fund conference committee, Cathy and team for the amazing work done at the Fund and their great care for the young scholars. Great thanks to all the conference speakers and organisers. I thank the Queensland state committee and Central Queensland University for giving me such an opportunity to be part of this conference.

Elena Hoyos
Mentor: Tony Gregson

The Crawford Fund Conference was a great opportunity in 2022 as it ignited a huge desire within me to keep pursuing a career in agriculture with the exciting combination of analytical chemistry. Most of the oral presentations and particularly the one presented by Jessica E. Raneri, left me with a sense of positivity about the future of agriculture, nutrition, and much-needed innovative developments, which motivated me to impact positively in research worldwide.

I am currently enrolled as a full-time candidate Master of Research in Chemistry in Rockhampton at Central Queensland University and an active member of the Bioactive Group, at the School of Health, Medical & Applied Sciences, North Rockhampton, QLD, since early 2021. My major research project aims to estimate the typical levels of the major nutritional compounds of the black sesame seed cultivated in northern and central Queensland. This project also aims to compare this nutritional content between several sesame varieties grown in two different irrigation conditions, which simulates one of the most prominent topics like climate change affecting numerous crops across the world. As an engineer, passionate about food chemistry I have become more interested in the practical use of diverse expensive equipment in combination with the basic principles of analytical chemistry, which are highly needed to overcome potential challenges in developing nutritionally superior cultivars.

I have loved working in a collaborative environment, where several fields and multicultural expertise have enriched my experience of studying overseas by becoming enthusiastic about emerging technologies in close collaboration with industry, growers and government, to boost innovation, productivity and economic growth. For example, the remarkable work performed by Neena Mitter, collaborators and associate PhD and master students has inspired me to seek and ultimately engage with current industry challenges in which creativity, science and innovation may lead to the development of pesticides, an eco-friendly by-product commercially available like BioClay.

Additionally, the volunteering experience continuously promoted by Madeline Healey and Anika Molesworth during the event reminded me how to fulfil a spiritual human need to contribute and leave a legacy for future generations. Moreover, the chance to discuss amongst scholars, attendees, mentors, and different speakers through the wide range of planned activities kept me intrigued and motivated to network daily.

Furthermore, I was moved by the current challenges carried out in agriculture mentioned by Professor Andrew Campbell who commented that “the 21st century’s innovation system structure requires a combination of different field of knowledge such as research, cutting-edge technology development, private sector value chains, financial investment, extension, education and governance”. Rather than being a critical reflection of the current status quo, I saw this as an emerging opportunity in which agricultural development should be focused on sustainability and the current side effects of climate change, something I had lost sight of in the task at hand. As professionals in different fields, it is our responsibility to provide the best of our knowledge, by ensuring to do things well by doing good.

Finally, I am so grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to attend the Crawford Conference as a 2022 scholar, and I am encouraged to pass this important message to others who may benefit in the future.

Joel Johnson
Mentor: Tony Gregson

I was very fortunate to attend the 2022 Crawford Fund Conference and scholars’ days. It was a great experience and included a range of topics and speakers which are rarely found at any other forum. It also opened my eyes to the diversity of research which is being conducted in the international agriculture sector.

Prior to this conference, I had quite a limited view of Australia’s role in international agriculture. Although I knew that Australia is a world leader in agricultural innovation, I also learned that we are also punching above our weight and leading the way in international agriculture education and development. It was also emphasised that this is not just a one-way street, as Australian producers can also benefit from the research done overseas. This is increasingly important, given that we anticipate having an additional 2 billion people to feed by 2050.

One of my favourite parts of the conference was hearing from Prof Andrew Campbell and others about concrete examples of what ACIAR and other institutes have done in developing nations such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Pacific nations. I was also interested to hear Dr Alison Bentley talk about ongoing research at the CIMMYT wheat centre. As my main area of research is in food science, I was encouraged to learn how current breeding programs are increasing genetic diversity and disease resistance without compromising on yield or protein content.

However, as was highlighted throughout the conference, having enough calories or protein alone is not sufficient. There are some countries where sufficient calories are available, but the types of food available are not sufficiently diverse to provide adequate nutrition. I hope that as I progress through my career, I am able to contribute to the breeding or production of more nutritious crop varieties, using my background in food composition analysis.

Another highlight of this experience was the scholar sessions, where we were provided with advice and expertise about working in international agriculture. All of the speakers and people from the RAID network were very friendly and approachable. Having Tony Gregson as my mentor was also a great opportunity, as he was able to provide an abundance of advice and introduce me to other researchers working in my area.

The Crawford Fund conference highlighted the significant challenges that we face in the coming years. However, it also showed the way forward: through innovation and collaboration. I would highly recommend attending to any other students who are involved in the agricultural sector.


UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND SUPPORTED SCHOLAR

Sam Wakefield
Mentor: Madaline Healey

I was delighted when I heard that I was the recipient of The University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences 2022 Crawford Fund Scholarship Program, especially so, given that my original application for the 2021 conference was deferred, thanks to COVID-19. Nevertheless, the wait was well and truly worth it, with The Crawford Fund Conference 2022 “Celebrating Agriculture for Development – Outcomes, Impacts and the Way Ahead” and Scholar Program activities brimming with networking opportunities, cutting edge scientific learnings and new perspectives, while driving home the importance of food security for ongoing world peace and prosperity.

The grouping of scholars into shared accommodation aided in the development of interactions amongst scholars and fostered a cooperative mindset that is required to address some of the challenges, and realise opportunities, in research for agricultural aid and development. I made some great connections during the three days; we all shared a few laughs and I hope to stay in touch.

My mentor, Madaline Healey, was a wealth of knowledge and shared her experiences of her foray into agricultural research for aid through her involvement with The Crawford Fund and the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) network. Her advice of just doing it, not overthinking the obstacles that could hinder your path to success, is poignant to myself as I rapidly approach graduation.

As far as content was concerned, there was no shortage of interesting sessions. I gained valuable insight into the current trajectory we are on in relation to research funding cuts, increasing world hunger and education required to reduce nutritional deficiencies associated with the increased consumption of processed food once incomes improve. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, various speakers demonstrated the value of agricultural research for development, both in terms of economic payback, and in contributing to achieving the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. In addition to this, I had the opportunity to converse with researchers and industry heads over topical issues. I had conversations with Fiona Simson from the National Farmers Federation, about the complexities of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, the former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, about the nexus of energy and world peace, the aspirational Dr Anika Molesworth, discussing agricultural sustainability, and Professor Neena Mitter, with her team’s incredible work on the development of BioClay, a sustainable alternative to conventional chemical pesticides.

The dinner at Parliament House was an excellent experience. The setting, and delegates, demonstrate the importance of agriculture for development to Australia at a federal level. And particularly, its objectives in strengthening ties with our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific region, in response to the increasingly unstable geopolitical climate.

Overall, the conference was a great experience, and I would like to thank The University of Queensland, The Crawford Fund and the great people at RAID for allowing me the opportunity to participate in such an awesome program.


UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN QUEENSLAND SUPPORTED SCHOLAR

Peter Harris
Mentor: David Shearer

The 2022 Crawford Fund Scholar Conference was an incredible opportunity to engage with experienced researchers and program managers working in agriculture in developing nations. This year celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Crawford Fund and 40th anniversary of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) with theme of celebrating the outcomes, impacts and the way ahead for agriculture in developing nations.

The first day was opened by the Hon. John Anderson AC who reminded us that advances in agriculture are required to decrease global poverty, but agriculture is a hard-to-abate sector that is still reliant on a linear economy and fossil fuel consumption. As a researcher in the bioenergy and biofertiliser space, this address gave me great confidence that my work has a big role to play in overcoming these challenges. Subsequent speakers outlined pathways to get involved in agricultural research in developing nations. These pathways were highly focused on volunteering and student projects that provide excellent opportunities for young researchers, though one should be prepared to go with the flow when managing these projects feels like chaos.

Researchers shared the benefits that volunteering in developing nations has provided for them in inspiring presentations. Finally, meeting the mentors that the Crawford Fund had provided was super valuable and facilitated the start of a mentoring relationship that will continue well beyond the conference.

Day two; conference day. While the conference had an official theme of celebrating outcomes and impacts, to me the focus could be summed up as nutrient security, food security, fertiliser availability, and capacity building. My take-home messages included:

  • don’t assume how people will use their money. As Jessica Raneri documented, increased production may lead to increased income, but that income does not necessarily get spent on improving household nutrition, and that education on this topic is critical;
  • soft skills and diplomacy are king – all the technical knowledge in the world can’t help if no one wants to work with you, and;
  • developing capacity in-country is critical to the adoption and continued performance of introduced skills and technology.

Beyond this, the conference was another invaluable opportunity for networking with people experienced in agricultural research and development both domestically and internationally.

Finally, day three provided further insight into how to get involved. Opportunities such as NextGen offered by the Crawford Fund, and the graduate program offered by ACIAR represent excellent pathways to engage in international agricultural research.

The Scholars Program offered by the Crawford Fund was an invaluable opportunity and I encourage anyone with an interest in agricultural research to get involved. This program has expanded my knowledge and given me the confidence and the network to progress my ambitions to contribute to the global story in fighting climate change while providing life-changing solutions and opportunities to rural communities in developing nations.

I’d like to thank the University of Southern Queensland and the Centre for Agricultural Engineering in supporting my attendance at this year’s conference and scholars program.