New crop of Nuffield Scholars explores the future of farming

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A record 23 farming scholarships were awarded by Nuffield Australia for 2017.

Each of the recipients will have the opportunity to explore his or her agricultural area of interest in a global context. The idea is to help scholarship-holders acquire the latest information on their chosen topics, enhancing their understanding so that they, in turn, can pass on new and useful information to Australian farmers.

This year’s scholars, says Nuffield Australia, have “shown the capacity and desire to learn about the international agricultural marketplace”.  As a result of the organisation’s long-term investment in them, it is hoped that each Scholar will make a valuable contribution to “the advancement of Australian agriculture”.

In the video below, 2015 Scholar Jonathan Dyer, from Kaniva, Victoria, addresses last year’s Nuffield Australia Conference on the opportunities and challenges presented by big data. 

A handful of 2017 Nuffield Scholars

This year’s Nuffield Scholars are keen to help create a better, brighter future for Australia’s primary producers. Below, we introduce you five of this year’s bumper crop of 23 recipients.

Over the next few months, we’ll post profiles of more of the 2017 Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarship-holders and their chosen projects.

 

Alexander Nixon.
Alexander Nixon.
Nuffield Australia

Alexander Nixon

Since his early twenties, Alexander Nixon and his brother Thomas have been diversifying production on the 6,900-hectare family farm on Queensland’s Western Darling Downs. They’ve turned more than a quarter of the property over to rotational cropping, and recently introducing Wagyu cattle into their 2,000-strong herd.

Nixon is keen to “identify and supply niche markets” for Australian beef and to explore  sustainability strategies for broadacre farming, a sector that faces many challenges, including topsoil depletion, degradation of the soil structure, erosion, plant disease and pest infestations.

With his scholarship, Nixon will travel to the USA to study broadacre properties with similar soil issues to those faced by Australian farmers, and to China to gain greater insight into marketing Australian beef in this emerging market.

 

Bao Duy Nguyen.
Bao Duy Nguyen.
Nuffield Australia

Bao Duy Nguyen

Nguyen is a geotechnical engineer who returned to his family vegetable-growing business in 2014. The business produces 300 tonnes of cucumbers and 150 tonnes of tomatoes per year in ‘low-tech greenhouses’ and open fields.

Nguyen wants to find instruments that will support other farmers’ transition into growing crops in low-tech greenhouses.

Noting the low crop rotation and poor water-quality management in many existing commercial greenhouses, Nguyen will also use his Nuffield Scholarship to explore protective cropping in horticulture, with an emphasis on greenhouse monitoring technology and water sustainability practices.

 

Stuart Tait.
Stuart Tait.
Nuffield Australia

Stuart Tait

With his parents, Tait manages two farms in central NSW; one producing certified grass-fed Angus beef cattle; the other used for dryland cropping.

Tait plans to travel to countries such as the United States, Sweden, New Zealand and South Africa, to investigate integrated beef and cropping systems, dual-purpose grazing crops, and soil and nutrient management.

He hopes this research will show how an integrated system can increase food production and profitability.

“Combining two separate enterprises assists in creating a stable business which is better able to ride out fluctuations in the markets of individual commodities,” Tait says.

 

Jessica Pitkin.
Jessica Pitkin.
Nuffield Australia

Jessica Pitkin

Pitkin, from Singleton, NSW, is a broiler serviceperson for Baiada Poultry, where she’s responsible for “overseeing and assisting growers within her region ... to produce a high-quality bird”.

Though poultry farming has fewer carbon emissions than other intensive livestock sectors, Pitkin would like to see it become more sustainable.

 “A whole systems approach, as used in other primary industries, may be a way of addressing issues around transport, fuel and electricity,” she explains.

“For example, the waste from intensively farmed pigs and rabbits, plus [that of] cattle in feed lots, are contributing to the production of electricity on farms.”

“Integrating some of these practices into Australian farms may help improve not only the industry’s environmental impact but also [have a] positive effect on producers’ bottom lines,” she says.

On her scholarship travels, Pitkin will visit Europe, China and the United States to talk with poultry-shed ventilation experts and see whole-systems farming in action.

 

Lara Ladyman.
Lara Ladyman.
Nuffield Australia

Lara Ladyman

Ladyman is a director in her family’s mixed-farming business, Tennisdale Grazing, near Katanning in Western Australia, having returned to the farm full-time in 2014 after a career in agricultural journalism.

She is passionate about the future of food and keen to understand more about the impact of new technologies on food production chains.

Ladyman plans to use her Nuffield scholarship and travel support to “take a big-picture look at evolving technologies” and other drivers of change that will shape how we’ll farm and what we’ll eat in 10, or 50 years.

“Will we be eating cell cultured meat and 3D printed foods and what will be the future implications for tomorrow’s Aussie farmers?” she asks.

“If we know what lies ahead, we can be at the forefront of change.” 

Apply for a 2018 Nuffield Scholarship

Applications for the 2018 Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarships open on 1 April 2017 and close on 16 June 2017. To find out more about the application process and/or to download an application form, click here

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