September 27, 2019
The Crawford Fund’s Annual Conference was held last month 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.
Five Tasmania scholars attended the 2019 Crawford Fund conference supported by our Tasmanian Committee. Their experiences have been captured below:
Lucy Cooper, University of Tasmania
“A theme that I felt ran throughout the conference was that change will not occur if we work alone. Each industry, each sector, each business, must work together to ensure sustainable progress in agriculture occurs.”
Faruq Shahriar Isu, University of Tasmania
“I would like to thank my mentor for his words of wisdom, encouragement and guidance throughout the conference process. I think the mentorship program is unparalleled in building confidence, gaining valuable insights and helping to make the right connections for the young scholars in attendance.”
Anna Mackintosh, University of Tasmania
“The enthusiasm and optimism of speakers and fellow scholars at the Crawford Fund Conference made me even more excited about international agriculture and the many opportunities that await me at the conclusion of my degree.”
Kai Peersman, University of Tasmania
“My experience at the Crawford Fund Conference exceeded my expectations. It was a marvellous experience listening to inspirational speakers, learning about future opportunities in international agricultural development and meeting like-minded people from all over the country.”
Olivia Woodiwiss, University of Tasmania
“Being able to speak with so many professionals helped me decide to take up an Honours project next year, after huge encouragement to pursue my aspirations… I feel fortunate to have been able to attend such an informative conference which so closely aligns with my passion and continued learning.”
Lucy Cooper, University of Tasmania
Mentor: Tara McKenzie
I was fortunate enough to attend the 2019 Crawford Conference as a scholar funded by the Tasmanian Crawford Committee. I would like to thank the Crawford Fund for this opportunity and my mentor Tara McKenzie for her continuous support and guidance throughout the conference.
The conference centred around the term ‘The Perfect Storm’ which was coined by Sir John Beddington. He predicted that by 2030, scarcity of food, water and energy would lead to unrest, conflict and mass migrations and the aim of the 2019 conference was to examine if the ‘storm’ will still occur or if current practises and innovation will delay or lessen the impact.
The first day of scholar activities was a great opportunity to meet other scholars and mentors. It was an extremely beneficial day as it focused on the scholars and how we can better ourselves in the International Ag sector. It was wonderful to have a day that allowed scholars to receive insight on ways to get into international ag research, working in a developing country and what working in the private sector would be like. The chance to interact with speakers such as Aditi Mukherji who is the Principal Researcher at the International Water Management Institute through the means of Q & A was a wonderful opportunity to connect with industry leaders.
The Sir John Crawford Memorial address was presented by Professor Ross Garnaut AC. He spoke of the opportunity to have profitable, productive and sustainable farms that produce products that are of high quality, enhance food security and allow for carbon sequestration in depleted soils. While this is very much a possibility for the future, he noted that it would be up to all of us to come together and seize this opportunity as a nation. A theme that I felt ran throughout the conference was that change will not occur if we work alone. Each industry, each sector, each business, must work together to ensure sustainable progress in agriculture occurs.
It was refreshing to hear speakers such as Sarah Barker from Minter Ellison who delivered a sobering address stating that the climate is no longer changing, rather the climate has changed. The messages delivered throughout the conference were in a way conflicting to each other. Some speakers spoke about how we are on track for a climate Armageddon whereas others noted that things are looking optimistic in the realm of climate change. While this could have been frustrating for some, it should be seen as an opportunity for further research, work, and development in agriculture. Change is upon us and the role and power that young people already hold will be instrumental in the drastic requirement for change. If we do not act now, then we will reach a breaking point where food inequality, environmental distress and economic uncertainty will dictate everyone’s lives.
Crawford Fund Board member Professor Timothy Reeves perfectly summed up my take of the conference in his synthesis. He recommended that we need to change our outlook of our goals for the future and to do so we should say rather than ‘produce more with less’ we need to ‘produce enough with less’.
Faruq Shahriar Isu, University of Tasmania
Mentor: Neville Mendham, Crawford Fund Tasmania Committee
When I first learned about the 2019 Crawford conference scholarship, the title “Weathering the ‘perfect storm’ – Addressing the Agriculture, Energy, Water, Climate Change Nexus”, immediately caught my attention. It had all the right keywords to pique my interest, given my background in environmental science and my current master’s degree in agricultural science.
When I sat down with the application, I was a little disheartened to find out the eligibility limitation – as it holds true in most cases for international students. But, given my passion for the topic and the immense opportunity the conference would offer, I wanted to pursue it. I spoke to my thesis co-supervisor Dr. Beth Penrose, who supported and inspired me to contact the Tasmanian Crawford committee coordinator, Dr. Neville Mendham. I heard back from Dr. Mendham (who would later be assigned my mentor) quite promptly and he encouraged me to put in my application. Needless to say, when I got the acceptance email, I was thrilled.
The scholars’ event on the first day was a great way to break the ice and meet other scholars and mentors. It was soon evident that there were people from a vast array of backgrounds which presented an immense opportunity for knowledge exchange. Later in the day, the Memorial Address and dinner provided good context and set the scene for the main conference.
The main conference at the Parliament House was impressively laid out and covered a range of interlinked issues. From a “gloom and doom” scenario to a “there is still hope” point of view, the key message was the same – we are almost at the tipping point, the time to act is now. It was unanimous that no one wants to see a 4 degree rise in temperature by the year 2100, but the varying views and standpoints brought forth during the Q and A sessions were outstanding. It was also interesting to see a presentation from a legal and finance lens, where the deterministic – worst case scenario perspective was used. This was unique and quite new to me and just went to show how different schools of thought can come together, albeit in different ways, to fight the same battle. At the end of the conference, I was left with the thought of whether more research should now focus on climate change mitigation approaches, rather than adaptation?
The RAID network event to end the day was the perfect way to unwind, have lively discussions and turn some new contacts into friendships.
The last day scholars’ event was a good way to exchange our thoughts on the conference and learn about different opportunities that are present for budding researchers. It was also nice to hear about the challenges and experiences from people who were, not so long ago, on the same boat as us.
I would like to thank my mentor for his words of wisdom, encouragement and guidance throughout the conference process. I think the mentorship program is unparalleled in building confidence, gaining valuable insights and helping to make the right connections for the young scholars in attendance. I must also tip my hat to Cathy Reade and her team for so gracefully and elegantly running the conference, on top of handling arrangements for the 51 scholars in attendance, which I am sure was no easy feat.
Finally, my sincere gratitude to the TAS Crawford Fund Committee for granting me the scholarship and to the Crawford Fund for creating such a wonderful platform.
Anna Mackintosh, University of Tasmania
Mentor: Harry Campbell-Ross, ACIAR
Sir John Beddington’s prediction of a ‘perfect storm’ a decade ago set the theme for the Crawford Fund’s 2019 Annual Conference, “Weathering the ‘perfect storm’: Addressing the Agriculture, Energy, Water, Climate Change Nexus”. I was fortunate enough to be selected as a Crawford Fund Scholar for Tasmania to attend the 2019 conference, an experience I cannot speak highly enough of. The key message from speakers throughout the day was that without significant change, a global climate disaster will be upon us in the very near distant future.
The Sir John Crawford Memorial Address was appropriately presented in the Hotel Realm Ballroom by Professor Ross Garnaut AC, a former student and associate of Sir John Crawford. He highlighted the challenge of reducing the weight of our global footprint and the need for revolutionary science with the adoption of modern policies. His Memorial Address set the theme of the conference, being that by 2030, the ‘perfect storm’ will be upon us if we do not take immediate action.
The most memorable speaker was Professor Sir Charles Godfray, who presented the morning keynote speech titled, “Can we feed the world without wrecking the environment?”. His speech referred to the three waves of Malthusian Pessimism and hence asked the question, “Is the perfect storm still on track to happen?”. His answer was yes; however, I particularly admired the way Sir Godfray answered the question in such a positive manner, explaining our ability to make changes to address the third wave of Malthusian Pessimism. As an undergraduate studying agriculture in the midst of global climate change, it was refreshing to experience a more optimistic perspective and stressing the fact that we can still make change. This optimism was continued and highlighted throughout the conference by all speakers.
Professor Ross Garnaut AC and Professor Sir Charles Godfray are two of the many speakers who addressed and raised important topics surrounding international agriculture and weathering the ‘perfect storm’. The opportunity to not only listen to such admired speakers but be able to ask questions as well as partake in networking sessions provided an incredible opportunity to further my connections in this space. As a student studying in my third year of a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree, the conference highlighted the importance of working together to achieve global food security and the many opportunities for graduates in being able to contribute towards this great challenge.
The plethora of knowledgeable and passionate speakers, opportunities to meet other students and graduates with similar interests, and exposure to acclaimed eminent international public and private sector experts are several reasons why those interested in international agriculture and development should attend future Crawford Fund conferences. Professor Timothy Reeves concluded the conference with a synthesis and final thought that, “Instead of producing more for less, we should be producing enough for less”.
The conference highlighted the fact that there is no simple solution to solve global food security and it requires the partnership of experts around the world to share their knowledge and resources to ensure global food security now and into the future. The enthusiasm and optimism of speakers and fellow scholars at the Crawford Fund Conference made me even more excited about international agriculture and the many opportunities that await me at the conclusion of my degree.
Kai Peersman, University of Tasmania
Mentor: Margaret Reid, Crawford Fund ACT Committee
My experience at the Crawford Fund Conference exceeded my expectations. It was a marvellous experience listening to inspirational speakers, learning about future opportunities in international agricultural development and meeting like-minded people from all over the country. On the first day it was welcoming to meet my mentor, Margaret Reid. She was very kind to me and always up for a chat in between presentations. John Anderson kicked the conference off with why international agricultural research is so important. Then, Dr Peter Carberry told us about his career as an Agricultural researcher and how to break into the field. Afterwards it was interesting to hear from two representatives of private companies Kelloggs and Bayer and what they had to say about what impacts the private sector has on international development. Notably, that the future of international development not only lies in the work of government or nongovernment agencies, as that the private sector also has an important role to play.
In the evening we went to the Hotel Realm for further networking opportunities and to listen to the memorial address of Professor Ross Garnaut. His address was particularly insightful in the sense that it provided an economic strategy to combat the perfect storm. Climate change could be mitigated through smart land use of agricultural land. Australia has a fantastic opportunity to step up its efforts of combating climate through the use of carbon farming.
The next day we listened to a range of keynote speakers. These talks were incredibly interesting covering topics such as climate smart villages in South-East Asia, fish passage design on the Mekong river and a climate resilient food-cube system.
Talks that particularly made an imprint on me were those made by Sarah Barker and Professor Sir Charles Godfray. Sarah Barkers talk about climate change through a finance and liability lens was notable because of the way in which the topic was presented. This talk showed me that clear communication about climate change to the private sector is possible. It could make a tremendous difference to persuade the private sector to invest in climate smart investments. Prof Sir Charles Godfrey elaborated his view on the challenges associated with feeding the world without wrecking it. His view was not utterly pessimistic, instead he showed that there is a way forward, granted that hard decisions are made. These decisions include revolutionising our agriculture, improving on productivity and sustainability at the same time. On the consumption end of the spectrum, Professor Godfrey outlined how our diets need to drastically change and could be achieved through a plant-based diet with proteins sourced from insects.
The RAID networking event at the end of the second day provided a fun and relaxed environment to further get to know the other scholars and people involved in RAID. The quiz accompanied by drinks and snacks made for a good time.
On the final scholar day, we were fortunate to learn about ACIAR, RAID and volunteer opportunities. This provided a great opportunity to view presentations by people with experience in undertaking projects in development countries. The struggles they encountered, but also the fondness with which they were speaking about their experiences was simply inspiring and made me aware of the many opportunities ahead.
The whole scholar experience of the Crawford Fund has reinvigorated me to do well in my studies and pursue my ambition to seek a career within international development. For this I am very grateful.
Olivia Woodiwiss, University of Tasmania
Mentor: Suzie Gaynor, ACIAR
The Crawford Fund Conference was a fantastic platform to meet many people from different backgrounds, all with a common goal – ensuring food security and agricultural sustainability into the future. The scholar activities which initiated networking among peers, was a great way to learn about the potential pathways into agricultural research and development.
Looking over the attendee list, I was very overwhelmed with all the speakers and networking opportunities – so it was a relief to have a mentor to guide the way. Suzie Gaynor (ACIAR) knew all the people that I needed to know and went out of her way to make sure I met the people I was interested in meeting. On the Monday night networking dinner, I shared a drink with Professor Sir Charles Godfray after letting Suzie know I had watched some of his speeches before and found his knowledge very inspiring. I was apprehensive of what to speak with him about. Sir Charles was down to earth, and, surprisingly to me, interested in my thoughts and future aspirations! This was my absolute highlight of the conference, and I would not have had the opportunity without Suzie’s ‘push’ of support.
Being able to speak with so many professionals helped me decide to take up an Honours project next year, after huge encouragement to pursue my aspirations. The RAID events gave the opportunity to speak honestly with other ‘early career’ individuals which allowed for true information sharing about the challenges and benefits of international research.
The Crawford Fund Conference ran without missing a beat, and it was fantastic to be a part of such a prestigious event for the organisation. Not only highlighting the circumstances that need change, but also identifying how these can, and are, being addressed.
Sarah Barker triggered important points about the necessity of cost and benefit, when urging a dramatic shift in societies views, to encourage the need for change in our current circumstances that would ensure sustainability into the future. She acknowledged the initiative of private sectors who have been able to lead a change which they have inevitably recognised as ‘valuable’ by the consumer driving force. This highlighted to me, the overarching power of money and identified the need to combine the use of effective marketing and communication to promote foreseeable benefits for the entire globe. There is no ‘silver bullet’ to our nexus, but collaboration and sharing will be the key to effective change.
I am keen to keep in contact with the professionals and students that I met at the conference and through RAID. I have sent my ‘follow up’ emails from the business cards I was able to collect, and I have received a reply from every one of them – confirming that support, and reassurance, I have established for the future. I feel fortunate to have been able to attend such an informative conference which so closely aligns with my passion and continued learning. I am privileged to keep Suzie as a mentor throughout my study and career. I look forward to future opportunities that I have gained as a result of attending the 2019 Crawford Fund Annual Conference as a Crawford Fund Scholar.
I would like to thank the Crawford Fund Committee for allowing me to be able to participate in such an exceptional event. Without their financial support, I would have missed out on the inspiring activities.