People on the move

People on the move in the grains and cropping sector

Grain Central, May 25, 2018

Who is on the move in the Australian grains and cropping industry? Catch up with our latest update of industry appointments, rewards, retirements and achievements.

  • Croker returns to lead Advanta Seeds
  • USQ professor to head global ag climate body
  • Baton change at Mallee Sustainable Farming
  • John Deere technology engineer appointment
  • Ready to roll in iconic leadership program
  • Cotton industry award finalists
  • New CottonInfo officer for Namoi
  • New faces for WA Cropping Solutions Network
  • Female ag leaders
  • Murray Darling Basin appointments
  • Global crop role for UQ scientist
  • Baking gong to young gun
  • Horizon scholarships for ag studies
  • Nanango takes out back-to-back sunflower awards


Croker returns to lead Advanta Seeds

AGRICULTURAL seed supplier, Advanta Seeds has appointed Barry Croker as its new managing director.

Advanta Seeds new managing director, Barry Croker.

Mr Croker returned to the position on May 1 following a five-year stint as the global head of supply chain management with the international company.

He brings to the role nearly 25 years of first-hand experience working for Advanta Seeds both domestically and internationally.

Mr Croker said looking outside traditional business and business models for opportunities will be the key to growth.

“The agricultural economy is changing and consolidating, which will require different skill sets and different mindsets in order to flourish. We intend to be a driver of change, not a passenger. Our proven track record of investing in our people, facilities and technology to constantly improve product standards demonstrates this,” he said.

“Our response to the rapidly changing landscape will be built around innovation, delivering more efficient and effective solutions, engagement of our people and our global network.

“The company has changed a lot in the past five years. In many ways it is like walking into a new business, but I’m looking forward to the learning curve and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.”

Former managing director Nick Gardner has moved move into a global projects manager role, working across a range of projects until his official retirement in December this year.


USQ professor to head global ag climate body

UNIVERSITY of Southern Queensland (USQ) climatologist, Professor Roger Stone, has been named president of the World Meteorological Organization’s Commission for Agricultural Meteorology.

USQ Professor Roger Stone (right) is congratulated by Dr Sayed Darani, Lead Delegate from Iran, after being elected President of World Meteorological Organization’s Commission for Agricultural Meteorology.

Professor Stone will provide strategic direction and guidance in agricultural meteorology for farmers and agribusiness around the world, in a global position with the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

He is the first Australian to be selected for the role.

The four-year position will see Professor Stone lead the Commission, which will prioritise the need for better services for farmers and agribusiness (ranging from localised weather forecasts to seasonal climate outlooks) and better weather and climate risk management.

“There is a greater need than ever for the knowledge and expertise of agrometeorologists to assist farmers and the wider agricultural community and for more research and technology development in agrometeorology,” Professor Stone said.

“Now more than ever, we need to better prepare farmers for extremes of climate but also enable them to become more resilient.”

The Commission’s key areas of focus for 2018 to 2022 will include drought research and management, issues related to global food security, weather and climate services for agriculture and risk management associated with extreme weather and climate patterns.

Professor Stone currently leads USQ’s Fundamental Climate Science Research program and is Director of the University’s Centre for Applied Climate Sciences.

He is recognised as a global leader in climate science research and is also an expert team leader within the UN Commission for Climatology.


Baton change at Mallee Sustainable Farming

Long-time Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) chairman, and former president of VFF Grains Group, Ian Hastings, has stepped aside and passed the chairmanship to NSW Gol Gol grain grower, Daniel Linklater.

“I am delighted that this succession plan, put in place by the MSF Board a few years back, has now come to fruition. Daniel has been Deputy Chair for two years and now is the right time to make this change,” said Ian Hastings.

“One of the things I am proud of at MSF, is that with the support of the Board and its staff and contractors over the years, we have not only delivered the traditional agronomic extension to grain farmers, but have extended our reach to include entire Mallee communities,” Mr Hastings said.

“Programs like Strengthening Rural Communities, Landcare, Catchment Management Authorities and the like mean MSF is making a significant contribution to rural life throughout the Mallee – that’s been good to be part of.”

Mr Linklater, who had been deputy chair for the past two years, paid tribute to Mr Hastings’ leadership of MSF over the past 13 years.

“He stepped in at a time when MSF faced some significant challenges and has steered it through a period of growth to become a recognized regional partner for delivery of Research & Extension to Mallee farmers across the tri-sate zones in Victoria-NSW-South Australia,” Mr Linklater said.

MSF is a farmer-based and farmer-led organisation based in Mildura to serve the Mallee farmers of Victoria, NSW and South Australia.


Steven Rees

John Deere technology engineer appointment

STEVEN Rees has been appointed as a senior technology development engineer with John Deere based in Toowoomba, Queensland.

Dr Rees comes from a background in family farming and agricultural machinery design and fabrication, and was most recently an adjunct research fellow at the University of Southern Queensland’s National Central for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA).

He has extensive experience in developing precision agriculture solutions for dryland, irrigated and horticultural operations, and will continue his association with the NCEA through its relationship with John Deere.


Ready to roll in iconic leadership program

GRAIN industry representatives are among the 31 people who will begin this year’s Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) in Darwin in July.

  • Emma Thomas

    Emma Thomas is a crops and livestock producer from Forbes NSW who runs management consultancy services for farmers and is a member of GrainGrowers’ National Policy Group and an Australian Grain Farmers Leadership Program graduate;

  • Wade Dabinett From Parilla in South Australia is Grain Producers SA (GPSA) chair;
  • Amy Fay

    Amy Fay, the Accelerating Change Project Manager from the Murray Dairy Team, Dairy Australia, from Echuca Victoria, formerly worked for the Grains Research and Development Corporation and is also a graduate of the AGFLP.

The ARLP is a 15-month leadership program which takes place across Australia and Indonesia, immersing participants in a series of unique experiences to develop their leadership capabilities.


New crop of GRDC research scholarship recipients

NINE young researchers from across Australia have embarked on studies aimed at supporting grain growers through the development of new knowledge and understandings.

They are the successful applicants in the latest round of Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) research scholarships.

The GRDC’s research scholarship program supports post-graduates in fields of study aligned with the GRDC’s research priorities. The program is part of the GRDC’s thrust to build research capacity within the grains industry.

The 2018 GRDC research scholarship recipients are:

  • Soodeh Tirnaz

    Christopher Ward, The University of Adelaide

  • David Brunton, The University of Adelaide
  • Alicia Merriam, The University of Adelaide
  • Mohammad Ali, The University of Queensland
  • Brooke Schofield, The University of Adelaide
  • Aurelie Quade, University of Southern Queensland
  • Soodeh Tirnaz, University of Western Australia
  • Ian Marang, University of Sydney
  • David Cann, La Trobe University


University of Adelaide GRDC research scholarship recipients Brooke Schofield, Christopher Ward, David Brunton and Alicia Merriam.


Cotton industry award finalists

COTTON growers, researchers and industry members from cotton-growing regions across NSW and Queensland are amongst the finalists for this year’s Australian Cotton Industry Awards.

The finalists are:

Monsanto Grower of the Year and AgriRisk High Achiever of the Year

  • Maryann and Greg Bender

    Glen and Narelle Whittaker, GS & NM Whittaker – ‘Wingfield’, Warren, NSW

  • Bernie Bierhoff for Avondale Ag – ‘Avondale’, Rowena, NSW
  • Peter Lennox for Morcott Pty Ltd – ‘Battery Hill’, Gunnedah, NSW
  • Brett Corish, Corish Management Pty Ltd – ‘Mundine’, Goondiwindi, Qld
  • Greg and Maryann Bender, Burradoo Enterprises Pty Ltd – ‘Burradoo Plains’ Chinchilla, Qld

ADAMA Chris Lehmann Trust Young Cotton Achiever of the Year

  • Sam Simons, Agromax Consulting – Gunnedah, NSW
  • William Back, Auscott Ltd (Namoi Valley) – Narrabri, NSW
  • Jake Cutcliffe, Auscott Ltd (Gwydir Valley) – Moree, NSW

Cotton Seed Distributors Researcher of the Year

  • Robert Eveleigh

    Robert Eveleigh (formerly Cotton Seed Distributors Ltd) – Wee Waa, NSW

  • Dr Joseph Foley, Dr Malcolm Gillies and Dr Alison McCarthy, University of Southern Queensland – Toowoomba, Qld
  • Dr Kristen Knight, Monsanto – Toowoomba, Qld

The recipients for the 2018 Australian Cotton Industry Awards will be announced at a gala event to be held on the Gold Coast on August 9. It is held in conjunction with the 2018 Australian Cotton Conference.


New CottonInfo officer for Namoi

COTTONINFO, the Australian cotton industry’s joint extension program, has announced that a new regional extension officer, Elsie Hudson, has joined the team.

Ms Hudson will provide the latest research outcomes and findings direct to cotton growers, consultants and the wider cotton industry in the Namoi Valley in north west NSW.

She brings a strong understanding of cotton and the issues and challenges facing growers to the role, having worked as an agronomist at Auscott Narrabri.

Her role is funded by Cotton Seed Distributors.

Cotton Seed Distributors marketing, extension and development lead, James Quinn, said Ms Hudson’s role was to connect growers in the Namoi with relevant industry research and bestpractice, supporting them to continue to increase their farm productivity.

Mr Quinn thanked former Namoi regional extension officer, Geoff Hunter, for his work in the role since CottonInfo’s inception.


New faces for WA Cropping Solutions Network

SEVERAL new appointments have been announced for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) groups in Western Australia.

The five, western region RCSN groups are an important part of the GRDC’s consultation process with growers and industry stakeholders, identifying issues critical to ensuring the prosperity of the grains industry in their grain receival port zones and initiating ideas for locally-focussed projects.

Western region GRDC RCSN coordinator Julianne Hill welcomed the 14 new representatives who join several other RCSN representatives across the State.

“The RCSN groups – representing WA’s Albany, Esperance, Kwinana West, Kwinana East and Geraldton port zone areas – provide regional intelligence to the GRDC, including to its Western Regional Panel, helping to fine-tune grains research, development and extension (RD&E) investments,” she said.

New RCSN representatives include:

  • Albany zone – Tim Mathwin, adviser; Peter Bostock, adviser
  • Esperance zone – Cameron Mudge, grower; Joel Ebert, grower; Monica Field, agronomist
  • Kwinana West zone – Chad Hawksley, grower; Dani Whyte, agronomist
  • Kwinana East zone – Callum Wesley, grower; Nic McGregor, adviser; Natalie Purdy, financier; Floyd Sullivan, adviser
  • Geraldton zone – Phil Smyth, agronomist; Andrew Cripps, rural services; Jerome Critch, grain marketer

GRDC grower relations manager – west, Jo Wheeler, and Kwinana West RCSN representatives Jon Hasson, Ballidu, and Gary Lang, Wickepin.


Female ag leaders

EIGHT outstanding women have been selected to grow their leadership ability through the Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

The program is an initiative of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and aims to see more women join the senior executive and Board level ranks of Australian agribusinesses and farm-representative bodies.

The eight aspiring female leaders were selected from more than 120 candidates, to take part in a one-on-one, mentoring program with already-accomplished agriculture leaders:

  • Deanna Lush

    Amy Cosby – Wattle Grove, Victoria

  • Brigid Price – Injune, Queensland
  • Lucinda Hawkins – Dubbo, New South Wales
  • Mary Retallack – Crafers West, South Australia
  • Penny Schultz – Field, South Australia
  • Sally Martin – Young, New South Wales
  • Skye Douglass – Neumgna, Queensland
  • Deanna Lush – Palmer, South Australia

The current and first female president of the NFF, Fiona Simson, said the number and calibre of the applicants confirmed what she had always known.

“Agriculture has a wealth of untapped leadership talents in its female participants. I was blown away by the diversity of the qualifications and experiences of applicants and their approach to what agriculture needs in terms of leadership into the future,” she said.

“Currently, only 2.3 per cent of chief executive officers in Australian agribusinesses are female, compared with an average of 17pc across other industries. In leadership roles, only 13pc of representatives are women, compared with an average of 28pc in non-ag related industries.

The group will travel to Canberra on May 31 for an introductory workshop where they will be matched with their mentor and attend a luncheon at Parliament House.


Murray Darling Basin appointments

MINISTER for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud has appointed Joanna Hewitt and Professor Stuart Bunn to act as the part-time members of the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

Both will act in the roles until the substantive appointments are made.

Ms Hewitt has a wealth of experience in public and private sectors where she has been a leader in agricultural exports and has a strong background in resource economics.

She has also served as both an adviser to the World Bank on water policy and a Commissioner of the former Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

Professor Stuart Bunn is the director of the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University in Brisbane and was previously a Commissioner with the former National Water Commission.

His major expertise is in the ecology of river and wetland systems with a particular research focus on the science that underpins river management.

Minister Littleproud thanked outgoing Authority members Professor Barry Hart and Diana Davidson for their many years of service to the Murray-Darling Basin.


Global crop role for UQ scientist

PROFESSOR Mark Cooper has been appointed to the newly-created role of global crop improvement innovator at The University of Queensland (UQ).

Mark Cooper

He will join UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Innovation as the chair in Prediction Based Crop Improvement – a role which aims to find innovative solutions to the world’s food-gap issue.

Professor Cooper pioneered the emerging field of prediction agriculture to develop and deliver AQUAmax drought-adapted maize hybrids into one of the largest plant breeding programs on the planet.

He spent almost two decades in the United States working with DuPont Pioneer and as CEO of his own consultancy firm Zenrun42 before returning to UQ – in part to address the gap in training of agricultural scientists with the needs of industry.

Professor Cooper has pioneered the development of novel genetic modelling methodologies, based on gene networks, to study important properties of quantitative traits in biology, and demonstrated how this new genetic modelling framework can be successfully used in plant breeding to improve prediction of important traits under the influences of selection.

His advancements in scientific methodology have resulted in significant awards, including several business and impact awards from DuPoint Pioneer and the Thomson ISI fast breaking paper award.

Professor Cooper’s appointment involves links with industry, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation will support his program by sponsoring a post-doc researcher in prediction agriculture.


Baking gong to young gun

THE TITLE of Baking Apprentice of the Year has been claimed by Queensland for the second year in a row, thanks to young gun Toowoomba baker Amie Stewart.

Amie Stewart

From Westbrook on the Rise Bakery in Toowoomba, Ms Stewart fended off some strong competition to win the coveted 2018 LA Judge Award, hosted by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC).

Ms Stewart decided she wanted to become a baker in 2012, after working at a small bakery as a shop assistant and falling in love with the trade.

“The thing that motivates me to be a baker is the constant learning opportunities that come with it,” she said.

“I love learning and playing around with artisan breads and experimenting with different flavour profiles. The best thing about being a baker is you become a lifelong learner and you are a part of a wider community full of support and guidance.”

As part of her prize, Ms Stewart will receive a special five-day all-expenses-paid trip to Belgium to visit the headquarters of eminent baking and ingredients company Puratos.

She will have the opportunity to take part in bakery demonstrations, tour Puratos’ famed sourdough library and visit its various museums and facilities.

Jacob Saunders, representing New Zealand, was this year’s runner up and has been awarded a two-day work shop in the Puratos Hong Kong baking centre.

The LA Judge Award has been running since 1967 and is open to young apprentice bakers under 23.


Horizon scholarships for ag studies

FOURTEEN university students from across Australia have been awarded a 2018 AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship, in recognition of their leadership potential and commitment to the future of Australian agriculture.

The scholarship provides $5,000 per year to assist with study and living expenses for two years of the students’ agricultural related degree.

Students are paired with an industry sponsor that aligns with their career aspirations and industry experience.

They will attend a four-day workshop in July focused on leadership and personal development, underpinned by the theme of “Game Changers”.

2018 AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship recipients:

Name University Sponsor
James Peacock University of Queensland Australian Eggs
Anna Horton University of New England AWI
Andrew Gray University of New England Dairy Australia
Sarah Ludington University of New England Dairy Australia
Aaron James University of Melbourne GRDC
Ashley Smith Australian National University GRDC
Charles Bergmeier University of New England GRDC
Joe Gibson La Trobe University GRDC
Lochlan Jepson Central Queensland University GRDC
Emma Moss University of Queensland MLA
William Scott University of Tasmania Westpac
Thomas Taylor University of Sydney Westpac
Jack Lane University of New England Westpac
Indiana Rhind University of Southern Queensland AgriFutures Australia


Nanango takes out back-to-back sunflower awards

BUDDING plant scientists from Nanango State High School in southern Queensland have won the Overall Grand Champion prize at The University of Queensland (UQ) Sunflower Competition for the second year in a row.

Nanango State High School students won the Overall Grand Champion prize at The University of Queensland Sunflower Competition.

Building on last year’s formula for success, the small South Burnett school grew a giant sunflower weighing 2.97 kilograms, which topped the competition at UQ Gatton campus.

More than 4000 students from 103 high schools across Australia participated in this year’s competition.

UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences head Professor Neal Menzies said the University worked hard with schools to make it a fair competition, given the different growing conditions across the country – from soil varieties to extreme weather events.

“All schools work with the same genetic source material – the same seed variety – and must use a specified pot size, but they are encouraged to be as creative as they can within the rules to get the prize,” Professor Menzies said.

Thirteen schools attended the competition weigh-in day at Gatton, while others submitted videos.

The students grew their sunflowers over a 12-week period, aiming to beat the all-time record weight of 4.455kg set by Mueller College in 2014.

“Since the initial planting date in February, students have tended their potted sunflowers at school, experimenting with different soils, light regimes, water applications and fertilisers,” Professor Menzies said.

“They have had to learn about and consider environmental factors such as weather, growing conditions in their regions, and how this affects sunflower growth.”

2018 sunflower competition results:

Overall ‘Heaviest’ Grand Champion: Nanango State High School Years 11-12, weight 2.97 kg

Tallest Sunflower Prize: Year 10, Glasshouse Christian College, 3.1 metres

Most Ornamental Sunflower Prize: Wilsonton State High Year School, Toowoomba, Year 11

Encouragement Award 1: Ferny Grove State High School Year 10B

Encouragement Award 2: Fairholme College Toowoomba Year 11

Heaviest yields in the regions Year 7-10:

  • 1st Harristown State High School, Toowoomba Agriculture Science class 941g
  • 2nd Atherton State High School 561g
  • 3rd Redlands College 535g

Heaviest yields in the regions Years 11-12:

  • 1st St Stephen’s College, Mareeba, 159g

Heaviest yield Gatton weigh-in day Years 7 to 10:

  • 1st Brisbane Adventist College 806g
  • 2nd Nanango State High School 803g
  • 3rd Brisbane Adventist College 673g

Heaviest yield Gatton weigh-in day Years 11-12:

  • 1st Nanango State High School 925g
  • 2nd Glasshouse Christian College 871g
  • 3rd Marymount College 851g


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