AN Albany student has won an inaugural award at a think tank aimed at attracting young people to work in agricultural science.
The significant shortage of science graduates wanting to work in agriculture was the topic of the think tank held in Canberra last Tuesday.
The Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) combined with AgriFood Skills Australia to hold the think tank with Federal Independent MP Tony Windsor, one of two rural independents controlling the balance of power in the current Federal Parliament, the headline speaker.
Current year 12 students spoke about how their PICSE experience had encouraged them to pursue careers in sciences that supported primary industries, especially in the food security sector.
Brydie Creagh, a year 12 student at Albany High School, said she planned on a career in acting prior to her PICSE industry placement, but now aims to undertake an agricultural science degree so she can work in animal research.
Brydie also won the inaugural PICSE-Dow Agro-Sciences international student travelling scholarship award that was announced by Mr Windsor at the event.
The award will cover her flights and accommodation and expenses to visit the Dow-Agro-Sciences field station in New Zealand.
She plans to go to the University of WA and is looking to incorporate her acting and communications skills into her new found science career.
Mr Windsor said his second love was agriculture but his first love was his wife.
He said he lived in the country his entire life and enjoyed his time as a farmer before entering politics more than two decades ago.
He said there was a lot of opportunity for future employment in agriculture, in light of technologies and sciences, especially soil science, relating to issues currently at the forefront of national and international political challenges, including climate change, the Murray Darling Basin and food security throughout the world.
"We do need young people in agriculture and there are enormous opportunities," he said.
"Even the debate that we are currently having at the moment in relation to the dreaded carbon tax, opens up incredible opportunities, irrespective of whether there's a tax or not.
"There are issues in terms of population pressures, the climate, drought, all of those things - water, how do we deal with some of the greenhouse gases, all of those things open up an incredible living science and we do need soil science.
"We are back out there now scouring the floodplains looking for people who will understand the technology and understand the very basics of how soil and water interacts to grow things in an uncertain world.
"If you look at the issues confronting Australia now, like the Murray Darling, we need scientists.
"Incredible challenges, not only in terms of people's career paths, but in terms of the future of the world."
Professor Alan Robson, Vice Chancellor of UWA, said to maintain Australia's global leadership position in food and water security issues, Australia needed a steady stream of passionate young people moving into a range of science based careers in primary industries.
Professor Robson said without it, Australia's research and development would be less efficient, food and fibre production would also drop and the country would fail to adequately address food and water security challenges.
The forum was attended by a range of industry representatives including officials from the government, education, research, agribusiness, food retailers and students.
PICSE national director Professor David Russell, said Australia's food security issue was of national concern and one that PICSE had been addressing since 2000.
He said Australia's future rested on its ability to "attract the brightest young minds to careers in agricultural science".
WA's Dow Agro-Sciences R&D leader Australia New Zealand Dr Matt Cahill said the company had about 4500 people employed globally but 40 to 50 per cent of that workforce was due to retire in the next four to five years.
Dr Cahill said there were ample career opportunities available for young students entering the industry, not just in Australia but internationally.
He said it was important for people in the industry to listen closely to what young people had to say about what they wanted to gain from their careers, to help set direction.
Dr Cahill said there was high demand for good people in the industry, with a broad range of skills, which highlighted a strong future for the industry.