Quick Year in Review 2018-2019

December 18, 2019

From our Chair and CEO

As we approach the third decade of this century and the Fund tracks towards 33 years in operation, the challenges around food and nutritional security are ever increasing. Global population continues to increase on a trajectory to at least 10 billion, climate change is impacting how and where we can grow our food, cities are swallowing up an ever increasing share of our natural resources including fertile soils and vital fresh water resources and biodiversity, ecosystems services such as pollination are under threat from pesticides and biosecurity is threatened by an increasingly mobile, but risk unaware, global population. Additionally, over 815 million people are under-nourished, whereas up to 2 billion people are over-nourished and subject to an increasing impact of lifestyle diseases.

These issues mean that agriculture and food production, dietary habits and caring for our natural resources will become increasingly prominent on the political, economic and environmental agenda. 

The business of the Crawford Fund is focused on promoting the benefits that accrue to developing countries and to Australia from research and development aimed at increasing food and fibre production and improving nutrition whilst maintaining environmental quality. The global challenges are immense and recent increased funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and some other donors to the international centres of the CGIAR is welcomed. Given our very small budget, our role has to be very strategic and value adding to the work of the CGIAR and other international centres, and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). 

However, we are very proud of our work that focuses on bringing together world scientific leaders to present on key emerging problems at our national conference, the key role we play in enabling Australian expertise to train overseas and Australian scientists and farmers in emerging issues and methodologies, in leadership and management and in encouraging young Australians (the NextGen) to become interested in international agricultural R&D. It’s our belief that developing solutions to the issues of our time – such as sustainable intensification, climate-smart farming, reducing on-farm and consumer waste of food, and improving nutrition offer exciting and fulfilling career opportunities to the emerging and next generation of agricultural scientists, and not necessarily just through the study of agriculture. 

We further believe that given the quality and depth of expertise available in Australia developing what might be described as clean, green solutions to feeding ourselves, offers the nation considerable opportunities to increase agricultural exports and to export technologies and know-how that will provide economic and soft diplomacy benefits. The Crawford Fund already has a very strong reputation in catalysing this kind of work as well as in relationship building with agricultural scientists across the developing countries of the Indo-Pacific region and with the CGIAR and other international centres. A key challenge, however, is to convince governments of the magnitude of the challenge ahead and that Australian scientists and strategic overseas partnerships can play a very major role in the solution!

This annual report explains some of key work undertaken in 2018-19 and our budgetary outcomes.

Highlights have included a very successful annual conference focused on the “Reshaping Agriculture for Better Nutrition: the agriculture, food, nutrition, health nexus,” including the Sir John Crawford Memorial Address on “Food, Climate Change and National Security”, presented by Ms Frances Adamson, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; a number of Master Classes focusing on Biosecurity, Genetic Database Management, Fish Passageways and Agricultural Research Leadership and Management, and the important role that State and Territory committees have played in focusing leading researchers and the ‘NextGen’ by supporting mentors, local scholars and scientists via awards, scholarships and small training grants.

We would particularly like to highlight the ongoing important work of the RAID network, which now has approximately 800 members. The RAID network provides a critical channel through which young researchers can keep abreast of key events, employment opportunities and training courses using both interactive web technologies and in-person events. During the year, we partnered with RAID network on public events and also in provision of training for their members through our workshops on research leadership and management.

In the same vein, in collaboration with ACIAR, we now have a boosted strategy to further engage the next generation of agricultural scientists. This strategy is being rolled out in the 2019-2020 financial year through a number of specific events and interactions with schools and universities, as well as organisations and individuals who are already working to encourage Australians into agriculture.

We would also like to acknowledge the very significant contribution of Dr John Radcliffe AM, who retired at the end of the financial year as Chair of the Crawford Fund Committee for South Australia. John has contributed tirelessly for the Fund for almost 20 years. His contribution, as is that of all our Directors, pro bono and demonstrates the benefit that the Fund and Australia gets from the involvement of senior researchers and leaders in terms of expertise, knowledge and access to their overseas and national networks. The end of the financial year also saw the retirement of our Office Manager, Ms Marchien van Oostende. Marchien was also with the Fund for almost a decade and single-handedly provided outstanding support to the CEO, Board and State and Territory coordinators.

Finally, this year we are piloting this biennial ‘Quick Year in Review’. We feel that in this fast-paced world, and with the plethora of long, printed and online annual reports, we would try to save our stakeholders and partners some time with a review style electronic document, and perhaps do our bit for the environment and for our own budget! We hope you enjoy this electronic document for 2018-2019.

The Hon John Anderson AO

Chair, Crawford Fund

Dr Colin Chartres

CEO, Crawford Fund