Monday, 11 June 2012


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.

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