Saturday, 30 June 2012


While in Beijjing we visited the forbidden city, haggled at the silk markets, climbed the great Wall and sang Happy Birthday to Ash Fraser in the Airport Taxi Rank with about 200 people joining in - he was a great asset in China and is proving a complete businessman on or travels. Thanks to Emma Fan for interpreting and especially for introducing her family to us while we were in Beijjing, it really made tyre trip special. Jim Geltch was a fantastic member of the tour and I will look back with fond memories. One of his quotes were  " I'm going to sit back, take it easy and let the pace come to me". I think Jim has always been a pace setter though.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Paparazzi State

Tianaaman Square, The Great Wall and The Forbiden City.

Paparazzi State was in Full Swing in Beijjing. Less cameras in Hollywood, up to 15 on most posts, buildings and walls surrounding the square plus satellites. There are no flights permitted over Beijjing for security, our interpreter knew nothing of what happened until she came to Australia 3 months ago, fascinating the level of governance while we were there people were being arrested for blogging and insighting rumours. If the Chinesse government decides upon policy or project it happens without any red tape, debate or sectarian influence, they make it happen. In terms of opportunity there was not a day go by that Michael Chilvers and I did not see huge potential, with a population of 1.4 Billion the reach is incredible. The people in the corporate ag sphere are desperate for western knowledge and systems and we were continually asked if we were interested in entering business in one form or another, I believe we all will to some degree and this trip has surely bought bought China allot closer.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Memories Of China

Porky Torky: Memories Of China: Have a look at a few short minutes from the Chinese leg of the Nuffield global focus.

Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia

The extremes of investments in China are incredible with regard to agriculture. There is the peasant farmer dynamic - base material, base design, base labour and bare finishing which is reflective of the Chinese agricultural past the food credibility is limited in these systems. There is then the modern influence, capital investment, technology and genetics not a problem in this dynamic it is quite impressive. The challenge China has in Agriculture is not the money they can throw at problems and solutions but the human resources and skill required, they are building top down and we visited a 6 million dollar dairy 3 years old with a capacity of 800 head, at the moment they are running at 300hd due to lack of available management, if they look to the west for capacity it will be expensive therefore the overheads will be too high and place their products high in the market. There is no fast track to becoming a farmer, no short cuts, it is discipline, commitment and devlops with experience. China must be cautious building performance with money as it will more often than not squander commercial profit.

Above is a bloke I gave a hand welding.

I Have Sheep

Kai Feung

Hosted by one of the scholars who has business relations in Kai Feung we had an all expenses paid visit by the Chineese company he deals with. This was an incredible insight into how to integrate with Chinese business. Many opportunities, they employed 1200 in their steel works and produces grain handling equipment and can custom make or imitate any products. They can export to Australia for a fraction of the price from any western nations the difference now is they are catching up with the quality of their products and they are starting to rival the established western firms. Labour was 20 dollars Australian per day. Their tradition in hosting visitors in China is quick dining and fierce rice wine toasting by this stage I was getting a handle on the language and worked out how top tell them "I have Sheep"...... I can't imagine how this sounded, but by their reaction it was funny.  Often once they broke through my accent barrier and realised what i was saying they would launch into tears of laughter. This resulted in many reasons for toasts of rice wine and by the end of dinner we were singing and laughing. During this dinner I became great friends with one of the executives of the company it was touching to note he became very emotional about the poverty in China and asked for help, I said to him through freindship and communication anything is possible, he was a truly nice man.
In America there is a obbeste rate of approximately 40%, in China there is not any, the level of dependence on agriculture in China is massive as they consume most of their resources internally and there is little to no waste. In terms of their export potential and competitive ability on a world stage, I believe the aggressive nature of their agricultural acquisitions is to purely support their own population.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Mind Mapping Notes

Moui China

Gaung Zhou

Finally after years of reading and study I found her China what an intriguing place. You know it when you get there, the scale of undertakings the vision and the relentless quest for superior positioning. You can not describe it. Every farmer should get there.

You will realise how they operate if you read the ancient literature Tsun Tsu the Art of War. At Gaung Zhou we took a ferry from HK then a bus from the sea port to the hotel. We drove almost an hour the roads median strip had manicured gardens all the way and we were skirted by perfect trees at 5 metre spacings, along the roads this was the same all through China. For those that know me, know I love concrete it is the most rewarding aspect of developing a property, in China there are cement trucks everywhere. There is a permanence that attracts me to concrete and the bus load of scholars were in awe of how much concrete has been mixed in China, the engineered structures continually received gasps. At Guang Zhau we meet with Australian Austrade Officials for our first Chinese meal, they were very pleasant people, we visited a farmer and spoke at lengths about their farming practices, he was overwhelmed by our practices and I said to Emma our interpreter that even with or mechanisation we could not get the productivity that he gets, he's reply with a smile was "ofcourse". This showed me suppression was just a perception I had with the Chinese. Bryce Riddel was out of sorts that day and feeling quite unwell, the farmer asked how many moiu he had, not really knowing what he meant, Bryce replied cautiously "oh well I've got about 180 cows" moiu being the measurement for area which is 1/16th of a hectare in which a farmer recieved 1 for farming practices around Guang Zhou.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Haggling with Jim

While We Were Waiting before the Markets

We went there for breakfast and negotiated at a stall for bananas with a boy of about 9. He weighed our bunch that we chose scratched hes head and held up 5 fingers I said 4 and in our hands I had 5 and Richard Fitzgerald had 2 Yuan. The boy reached out and took 5 from me and then leant across and took 1 from Richard we looked at each other and he processed the transaction with he's head down smiling. We walked off with the goods a little confused, as we realised what happened we burst out laughing. We told the group what happened still laughing and they all of a sudden got an appetite for bananas so Jim came to make an attempt at evening the ledger so of we went. Jim held up a big bunch and showed 5 fingers, the boy grabbed the bunch off Jim, pulled out a big knife and decisively struck the bunch. He took over a third of the bunch and held up 5 fingers to Jim, Jim shocked, nodded and the boy weighed the bunch and went back to the cutting board........chop !, 2 more bananas down. The boy walked to the scales repeated the weighing process, he looked up at Jim and held up 5 fingers, with Jim a little confused and us laughing the boy went back to the board and conclusively sliced off another banana and handed the remaining bunch to Jim 4 bananas for 5 Yuan. Bewildered, we took the bananas and walked away breaking out into laughter after a few steps, we went back and took some photos.

Hong Kong Boom!

Boom Hong Kong ! Before we entered China we were briefed by the Senior Economist from Rabobank Hong Kong. Because China and India are positioned similarly in terms of total population and agricultural potential, the defining difference is the investment in infrastructure. On a farming level infrastructure is important also, reserves storage and capital invested in water facilities are key. The government allocation in the four modes of transport road, rail, sea and air are paramount for not only market access but also for distribution speed especially for highly perishable products in agriculture. The newer technologies that are issues for developing countries are refrigeration and internet.

China is especially dependant on the internet for knowledge and information transfer, they seem to be in a position that the corporates have imitated the infrastructure of the western world well in agriculture with brand new state of art high tech dairies, but no skilled management available to run these facilities and no way of encouraging westerners to the lifestyles, they are now in a position where they need to train their population. In the county of China there is limited refrigeration so the produce is localised and is never marketed far from the point of production. This is why they have limited export and consume most of their produce domestically, we visited a cashmere textile company that had 100 thousand camels and 1.5 million goats to shear anaully from this there are no exports. That's what 1.4 billion people will do. For perspective this is the equivalent of 58 people for every 1 person in Australia on the same land mass.

In terms of labour the Chinese farmers are considered peasants. They harvest their crop for money to buy their own food. Different provinces are vary however the government own the land and lease it to the farmers, they are entitled to 1 mieu each and there are 16 mieu to a hectare. What you see in China are people in the fields everywhere impending manual labour from spraying to weeding it is all done on foot by hand, we saw whole fields cultivated by shovel and irrigation channels carved out by spades.

"Thriller in Manillaa"

Today we arrived at the IRRI guest house in los banos manilla. The tour of Manila was titled "The Thriller in Manila" as it was thrilling to see the immediate difference in culture and perspective we gained of agriculture whilst being exposed to it. The Phillipino people have been exposed to many occupying countries, settled by the Spanish their population is the largest practising catholic nation.

It made for great material we had a New Zealand scholar Richard Fitzgerald who is CEO of the New Zealand young farmers on our tour. The first incident was when we visited the local market and he was buying a fanta, the young lady behind the store counter asked him in broken English "Where are you from?" Richard replied "New Zealand - do you know where that is?" Stumbling with the can of soft drink the young lady became very nervous...... She looked up at Richard and stammered "I'm sorry Sir I'm not sure, I am very flustered at the moment you are very handsome"

The work they are doing in research in the Philippines in terms of genetic modelling is embarrassing when looking from a livestock perspective. We are still on a global scale looking at improving animal physiology from an appearance and performance level rather a molecular level. This is an area that I will spearhead my research because at a molecular level performance gains are at an instance where as at a physical level the performance gains are generational.

While in the Philippines we visited the Taal Volcano, by boat over lake Taal. What was initially a sombre activity turned to a journey deserved of a few beverages on completion. We knew the mole hill turned into a mountain when there were over 500 pack horses stabled at the base. With Michael Chilvers as the professional trekker in the group we set off on foot and decided against paying for a horse, just as the climb was getting really tough we came to a group of horses positioned to take advantage of our weaknesses, the locals were taunting and encouraging us to pay and ride the horses up while we were grappling with the climb. Defiant we pushed on.

The reward at the summit was amazing as we looked back down the path of struggle and at views that amassed us it seemed a similar picture ahead for or research and alas it was within minutes storm clouds were closing in and we were to be swamped by torrential rain, the only way to go down was to run before the slopes became slides. Matt Simmons, our fun loving pig farmer caught us on film as he thought the margin for error was great and with Scholar Jim Geltch as one of the subjects would have made for great laughs. Jim however championed up and down the hill with great valour.........a remarkable man.

Irri gave me some great perspectives and valuable contacts, one is in Nairobi at the livestock research institute to which I will visit as there is a Nuffield scholar based there and the system I want to create must involve the field of science if it is to be recognised.


This week we were privileged in visiting the international rice research institute (IRRI) in Manilla. We were joined by Jim Geltch a 1986 scholar who contributed greatly to the studies. The institute is positioned perfectly with science, technology and funding and I have wanted to visit IRRI because I was intrigued that Bill Gates is the major philanthropic investor, initially I thought it was for commercial interest in Agriculture but it is due to the ability that rice has as the largest staple food in the world to address poverty and starvation. 3.5 Billion people worldwide depend on rice for their Daily Calorie intake and consume in excess of 100kg per person per year. There are 200 million rice farms in Asia and the institute is focused on accelerating quality and efficiency through trials on the 110 thousand varieties they have accumulated. The greatest advance in Rice is through their work on gene mapping the top 3000 commercial varieties to identify resistance to particular diseases and pests and to create higher yields with fewer inputs. It is good to note that in the sheep industry we have mapped all the genes recently at UNE, this information will be vital for selection parameters for identifying hybrid sheep with in flocks and has altered the course of my project to a molecular level. Instead of visual appraisals to determine traits we can utilise gene mapping individual sheep as the costs of marking will reduce significantly in the future.

 I have taken a photo of a trial plot started in1963, it has been harvested 3 times per year since then and has had no fertiliser ever applied. The yield difference is down 30% compared with the conventional crop which represents 12 tonne per hectare as opposed to 18 tonnes. Our next leg is China and Inner Mongolia

Monday, 11 June 2012


Due to the Chinese Government social network policies, facebook and blog sites are forbidden.
Updates will be available soon.


The next commitment of the Nuffield journey has commenced ! I would like to say that my Darling wife Manny has been an endless amount of support in seeing the value of this research. Manny has more work to do than me while I’m away with the Business, Sophia and Chloe and she has got off to a flying start selling Hay and getting 55mm of rain !   

I think you can see by the scope of the first part of this 7 week tour it is pretty amazing and I feel very privileged to receive the Award, thank you to AWI and Nuffield Australia. I have included a photo of a meeting at Parliament house we met with Federal Member for Maranoa, Bruce Scott and he’s lovely wife Joan who have great interest in the sheep and wool industry. Our first leg was an orientation week in Canberra and the positioning of Australia in International  Trade. We were presented from heads of department such as NFF, DAFF, American Embassy, the Agricultural trade minister Joe Ludwig, Chris Back and Bruce Scott.


We also toured the Australian War memorial which was very moving for many of us, visited the high court, national art gallery, national museum, old parliament house, and attended Question time.

At the national Museum it was fitting to note the presence of sheep and wool in the recent history of Australian settlement and found exhibits by the Secombe family of Kenya, Mutaburra, the Cowper family of Merino Downs Aramac and Adam Walker Longreach.

As our research commenced we initiated with a focus on the importance of Agriculture on a World Scale. The position of Agriculture is that the world population is growing by 82 million people per year or a billion every 12-13 years. The true enormity of a “billion” is important when thinking about human population. For example, if a person is fined a million dollars and ordered to pay back $100 dollars per day, it would take 27.4 years to pay off the debt. If however, the fine were a billion dollars, the time required to pay off the debt would be 27,397 years. When discussing a billion of anything, we should really consider the sheer scale especially when they are mouths to feed.


In agriculture we are required to feed and clothe this population increase and it is here where our research as ten scholars will attempt to find relevance from our perspective food and fabric fields. Our first stop on our research tour is the international rice research institute in Manilla in the Philippines, here we will work with the largest staple food in the world and look at the opportunities scientists are working on to feed Asia and Africa with the 114,000 rice varieties available. One example of innovation that has been developed with rice so far is that 1 million children a year die worldwide due to lack of vitamin A, as rice has no vitamin A but is the main diet source for these children, the scientists crossed rice with a daffodil plant to make a strain of rice that now holds Vitamin A. .  As Nuffield scholars we are seeking out new innovations that can address shortages of food and bring back techniques to farming and grazing that can help keep ahead of growing demand. My study topic will attempt to address real time management of sheep flocks and attempt to build accurate live feeds of their health by transfer of data. Please join my journey,   For any further information,,

I have included the other scholars I have received the award with, they are on the travels with me, they include;

Michael Chilvers, from Nile in Tasmania will research strategies to efficiently transition from a traditional family farming structure to a diversified agricultural business. With wife Fiona and two children, Michael farms 1080 hectares, with 400 hectares of crops such as poppies, wheat, processing peas, lucerne and tic beans under centre pivot irrigation. They also grow malt barley, canola and trade in prime lambs. Michael is planning on using his scholarship to investigate models for managing production systems on his existing farm and in potential new areas of production as the business expands.

Ashley Fraser from Rutherglen, Victoria will study how seed coating protects and enhances crop growth. Problems with poor crop establishment due to a variety of nutritional, disease, insect and seed bed issues prompted his interest. He is general manager of Baker Seed Co, a family owned and operated business centred on extensive seed processing and processed grains plant. Within the family they also crop approximately 3000 hectares for seed production and operate a small feedlot.

Kelly Manton-Pearce, from Yealering in Western Australia will investigate the supply-demand balance for the Australian sheep industry and how sheep farmers should respond to the growing demand for a high-quality retail-ready lamb product. With her husband Alan, Kelly runs a 4500 acre cropping and sheep farm. Kelly is also currently employed as a Research Fellow for The CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation.

Matthew Neumann, from Mundulla in South Australia will investigate how to iron out inefficiencies in the fresh food supply chain. Matthew and his wife own 800 acres, of which 300 acres is under centre-pivot irrigation. They produce 1000 tonnes of onions for the fresh market, crop 160 hectares of clover for certified seed, wheat, barley and canola and have 50 hectares of hay and seed lucerne. They have 650 Border Leicester Merino cross ewes.

Bryce Riddell, from Yarrawonga in Victoria will study commercial production and value-adding opportunities for alternative hay crops, such as Orchard Grass, Timothy Grass and Tiff Grass. Also, he would like to investigate domestic opportunities. He is a co-manager of their family-run farming business, which comprises of a commercial Angus herd and lucerne and oaten hay production. They also run a lucerne cubing plant based in Yarrawonga, where they produce lucerne hay cubes, as well as a variety of other types of hay cubes for the domestic and export markets.

Scott Samwell, from Mount Barker in South Australia will study soil and plant interaction by researching the concept of ‘fusion farming’. He will review intensive and viable agriculture systems that have implemented biological, organic or biodynamic principles into their practices to see if these methods produce better plants.  Scott would like to look at the level of inputs required in the different systems and examine the benefits, if any, in reductions of inputs.

Matthew Simmons, from Ebenezer in New South Wales is the owner-manager of Swallow Rock Organics and Melanda Park Free Range Pork. With his wife, they grow certified organic potatoes and run 80 free-range sows. The property is 115 acres and turns off 1000 pigs a year. He will study free-range pig production with focus on the relationship between the pig and cropping phase of a rotation system, and how to best manage nutrient build-up for environmental benefits.

James Walker, from Longreach, Queensland will study intensive breeding systems which maximise sheep production and fertility. He is in a family-operated grazing business with a five-year production charter based on sheep meat, wool and lamb production. They currently run 15,000 sheep. He says a major focus for his study will be on breeding cycles, and the possibilities of data management in sheep flocks.

Richard Weston, from Brighton in Tasmania will investigate white asparagus production for the gourmet market. He is self-employed and produces cut flowers, olive oil and fresh produce on his property, which is situated just north of Hobart. Richard has already started investigating white asparagus production in Tasmania, acquiring white asparagus seed with plan to undertake a trial plot.

Richard Fitzgerald, from Methven in New Zealand, receives a 2012 Nuffield New Zealand Scholarship. Richard and his wife Ruth farm an intensive 253 hectare irrigated mixed cropping property with their three children. They farm 700 breeding ewes, finish 2500 trading lambs, produce barley, milling wheat, rear approximately 800 calves per year and lease land for potatoes. He will explore other farmer networks and how they interact with their farmers. After farming for ten years, Richard commenced a full time off-farm position working for NZ Young Farmers and is currently CEO.