People on the move

People on the Move in the grain industry

Grain Central February 26, 2024

Western region Emerging Leader Award winner Robert Harrison, GRDC Western region panel chair Darrin Lee, Western region Seed of Light winner Professor Ross Kingwell, and GRDC chair John Woods.

  • Seed of Light for Kingwell
  • Harrison named Emerging Leader
  • Dixon wins Emerging Leader award
  • Grains100 participants named
  • Cay awarded Seed of Light
  • White joins StoneX 
  • Vale Don Cattanach
  • Sloman joins advisory committee
  • New Mallee Sustainable Farming MD
  • Professor to lead data-driven mission
  • New CEO for National Irrigators Council

Seed of Light for Kingwell

Professor Ross Kingwell, lead economist at the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre was awarded the prestigious GRDC Seed of Light award for the western region.

One of Australia’s most highly respected agricultural economists, Professor Kingwell also teaches in the School of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Western Australia and is a leader and mentor to young economists in DPIRD.

He said it was an honour to be the first agricultural economist in Australia to receive the Seed of Light award.

“Over my decades of interactions with farmers, I’ve seen them embrace many new technologies and techniques and most are now reaping their commercial benefits,” Professor Kingwell said.

GRDC western panel chair Darrin Lee said Professor Kingwell had an incredible ability to distil complex economic data into farm-ready, relatable insights for grain growers.

“Professor Kingwell has admirable rapport with researchers, grain growers and industry colleagues alike,” Mr Lee said.

“Whether he is communicating about global market trends, supply chain issues, or changes in farmland values, Prof Kingwell consistently extends economic insights in a way that is relatable and enjoyable.”

Harrison named Emerging Leader

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development research scientist Robert Harrison has received the GRDC Emerging Leader award for the western region.

Robert Harrison

Mr Harrison is a research scientist at DPIRD and Murdoch University, specialising in the areas of legume and pasture agronomy.

Since then, he has managed field and glasshouse experiments for national projects and co-authored multiple international research papers for CSIRO, DPIRD and Murdoch University.

“As researchers we are all trying to make a difference for farmers in WA, and I’m just blown away to be collecting an award like this along the way,” Mr Harrison said.

“Working with the farmers is the most rewarding part of what I do. I’m positive I learn more from them than they do from me.”

Mr Harrison said that long term, he hoped his work would contribute to a closer linkage between sustainability and profitability.

GRDC western panel chair Darrin Lee said that as a relative newcomer to the grains industry, Mr Harrison had demonstrated impressive professional growth and had built strong relationships with growers and researchers.

“Mr Harrison is a natural communicator who has made a significant contribution to legume and pasture research extension since joining the industry in 2016,” Mr Lee said.

Jana Dixon, recipient of the 2024 GRDC Emerging Leader award for the southern region and GRDC Southern Panel member Ruth Sommerville. Photo: Sophie Clayton

Dixon wins Emerging Leader award

South Australian agronomist Jana Dixon was awarded the GRDC Emerging Leader award for the southern region.

The Emerging Leader award recognises the commitment of a professional with less than 10 years’ experience working in the grains industry who has contributed to the future of the industry and is emerging as a leader in their field of endeavour. 

As a graduate consultant Ms Dixon investigated sustainable weed control practices and helped deliver the GRDC Weedsmart initiative which led her to play a key role in organising the National WeedSmart Conference in South Australia in 2020. 

“Jana has emerged as a shining light among the highly regarded agronomic advisers servicing South Australian grain growers, demonstrating professionalism and enthusiasm in everything she does,” GRDC Southern Panel member and South Australian agro-ecologist and grower Ruth Sommerville said.

Ms Dixon primarily delivers technical advice to broadacre cropping clients in the mid-North and Mallee regions of South Australia. 

Ms Dixon acknowledged all the leaders who came before her and who had helped her develop her career including her colleagues at Pinion Advisory who she credits with sharing valuable life and technical skills.

Grains100 participants named

GrainGrowers has announced its next eight participants in the Grains100 program, expanding to 60 the number of people participating in the social licence, leadership initiative. 

The participants, from across Australia, will now undertake an eight-week program involving online and face-to-face learning to build leadership, communication, and stakeholder engagement skills. 

The 2024 Grains100 participants are:

Victorian grower Christine Plant

  • Brad Griffiths – Mallala, SA
  • Christine PlantManangatang, Vic
  • Ethan VogelsangPadthaway, SA
  • Jules AlvaroMerredin, WA
  • Mick HancockPearlah, SA
  • Russell Hocking – Prairie, Vic
  • Ryan MilgateMinyip, Vic
  • Stewart Hamilton – Inverleigh, Vic

GrainGrowers CEO Shona Gawel said Grains100 is a vital program for ensuring the sector has strong advocates on issues that matter to growers. 

She said the nominated focus of attention for incoming participants was grain freight and supply chains. 

“Having Grains100 support discussion in this area will allow grower participants to explain why issues impacting grain freight and supply chains are critical to their farming operations,” Ms Gawel said.

Grains100 is directed at establishing a group of 100 growers – both emerging and established leaders and influencers – who are prepared to get involved in discussions on issues relevant to the future development of the grains industry. 

 Cay awarded Seed of Light

South Australian agricultural communicator and facilitator Belinda Cay has won the GRDC Seed of Light Award for the southern region.

GRDC Southern Panel chair Andrew Russell, Belinda Cay and GRDC managing director Nigel Hart. Photo: Sophie Clayton

The GRDC Seed of Light recognises the outstanding contribution, dedication and commitment of individuals to communicating research outcomes to people working in the grains industry. 

“Ms Cay is an outstanding advocate for the grains industry, making research and development accessible and relatable to growers through her expert communications – ensuring that growers are engaged and can reap the benefits,” says GRDC Southern Panel chair and Victorian grain grower Mr Andrew Russell said. 

Ms Cay is the director of Ag Communicators, which also supports GRDC through its communications services.

She has worked on a number of GRDC investments directly including GRDC’s National Grower Network, the Australian Fungicide Resistance Extensions Network and several soil acidity projects. 

“Communicating science and research on behalf of the grains industry is a privilege – the work done to improve crop yield and productivity is outstanding and benefits the whole value chain,” Ms Cay said.

White joins StoneX 

StoneX has its first vice president derivatives in Bob White, who joined the global brokerage firm this month. 

Bob White.

After starting his working life in aviation, Mr White joined McIntosh in 1988 prior to it being bought by Merrill Lynch. 

He moved to Bell Commodities in 1997, and Bell’s closure of the division saw him finish up there last month and move to StoneX. 

“StoneX has a strong agricultural and commodity background, and they have the facilities and capabilities to onboard clients,” Mr White said. 

“I’m helping to expand their client base here, and also provide more service to existing ag clients.” 

Working with derivatives broker Daniel Cardona, Mr White will continue to look at hedging opportunities on commodity exchanges around the world.  

“I’ll be working closely with the cash desk, and looking to add value through cash and futures trading for our clients.” 

Vale Don Cattanach

The grain industry has lost a respected trader, broker and personality with the passing earlier this month of Don “The Catt” Cattanach at age 63 to leukemia. 

Don Cattanach.

Based in Brisbane, Don joined Riverina Stockfeeds straight out of school,

He became an accomplished trader before taking over the Shearwater International brokerage from Andrew Jowett in 1997. 

His business primarily serviced the eastern Australian markets, and wound up on his retirement.  

“Throughout his time in the industry, Don touched the lives of many with his integrity, mentorship, musical talents, and a wicked sense of humour,” industry spokesman and long-time friend Steve Burt said.  

“He will be dearly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.” 

Don is survived by his wife Nicole, and their children Dylan, Holly and Cooper. 

Sloman joins advisory committee

 Cotton Australia policy officer, Paul Sloman has been appointed by the Queensland Government to a key rural advisory committee. 

Minister Grace Grace appointed Mr Sloman to the Rural Industry Sector Standing Committee which gives industry-specific advice and make recommendations to the Work Health and Safety Board about the WHS requirements for our industry.

Paul Sloman

The WHS Board then advises the Minister on all aspects of Queensland’s WHS requirements, thereby informing the development of policies, regulations and legislation by government. 

Mr Sloman said it was an honour to be appointed to the committee.

“Workplace health and safety issues are a key priority for me so to be able to provide responses to WHS issues faced by Queensland’s agricultural industry is very rewarding,” Mr Sloman said.

“Part of the role is to consult on industry specific WHS issues and to promote and distribute work health and safety information to our growers. 

“If our work contributes to saving just one life in the agricultural sector then the effort will be an amazing success.” 

New Mallee Sustainable Farming MD

Mallee Sustainable Farming announced the appointment of Jenny Garonne as its new managing director.

Jenny Garonne

MSF chair Steve Burt expressed his enthusiasm about Ms Garonne’s appointment, stating,

“Her proven leadership in Mildura brings a fresh perspective to our board and the entire MSF team,” Mr Burt said.

Ms Garonne, based in Mildura, acknowledged the resilience of the region’s dryland farmers who have navigated years of drought and low rainfall.

“I look forward to understanding [farmers’] needs, supporting our committed board’s decisions, and leading our team of professionals and researchers in serving the dryland farmers and the wider community for which MSF is dedicated,” Ms Garonne said.

Ms Garonne’s extensive experience and qualifications make her an outstanding addition to the MSF team, reinforcing the organisation’s commitment to advancing sustainable practices in the dryland farming industry across the tri-state region. 

The geographical expanse of the MSF services stretches from Pooncarie to Ouyen, Tailem Bend, close to Adelaide, and north of Renmark. 

Professor Adam Sparks is the new technical lead of the Curtin Biometry and Agricultural Data Analytics initiative.

Professor to lead data-driven mission

Curtin University’s Centre for Crop and Disease Management has welcomed internationally renowned epidemiologist, modeller and data scientist, Professor Adam Sparks to the role as technical lead of the Curtin Biometry and Agricultural Data Analytics initiative.

The initiative is a major CCDM research area that aims to build statistical, data science and modelling capability for Australian agriculture. 

Initially his key focus will be on Curtin’s involvement in the Analytics for the Australian Grains Industry program – a recently announced five-year strategic partnership involving a co-investment from GRDC with strategic partners Curtin, UQ and University of Adelaide. 

CCDM Director Professor Mark Gibberd said Professor Sparks will fill a leadership gap using his plant pathology background along with well-established skills in biometry, modelling and data analytics. 

Hailing from the USA and having completed a PhD at Kansas State University, Professor Sparks is known for his research at the International Rice Research Institute where he investigated rice disease management strategies for Asia and south-east Africa. 

More recently he was positioned at the Centre for Crop Health at USQ where he led research on sorghum, mungbean and tropical rice pathology before moving to Perth to take up a position with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development as a bioeconomic modeller. 

New CEO for National Irrigators Council

The National Irrigators Council welcomes Zara Lowien as their new Chief Executive Officer.

Zara Lowien

“We are excited to be welcoming Zara to the organisation at this important time for members and at this crucial juncture for national water reform,” National Irrigators Council chair Jeremy Morton said.

“Zara brings more than a decade of experience in water policy working with diverse range of stakeholders, having spent the last 13-years as the executive officer at Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association, a member organisation of NIC.”

“She has a wealth of water policy knowledge as well as a grounding in hydrology and

Incoming CEO Zara Lowien said “it is a privilege to be representing the members of the National Irrigators Council and bringing their voice to decision makers on key issues that affect the industry and the communities we live in.” 

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