WA young gun explores global ag issues

30 Nov, 2016 10:23 AM
University of WA Bachelor of Science in Agriculture student Lachlan Hunter explores agricultural issues on a global scale.
University of WA Bachelor of Science in Agriculture student Lachlan Hunter explores agricultural issues on a global scale.

JAPAN and Australia share the challenge of an ageing agriculture workforce, but Japanese land-owning farmers are highly regarded in their homeland.

These are among insights shared in Perth this week by University of WA agriculture science student Lachlan Hunter, who represented UWA and Australia on an agricultural-based tour of Japan.

The tour was part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UWA and the Tokyo University of Agriculture (Tokyo NODAI).

"There are many differences between WA and Japan's agriculture," Mr Hunter said this week.

"But there were some similarities, we both have an ageing population within the industry."

Mr Hunter said the number of agricultural students at the university outweighed all of UWA's students.

"It was impressive that they had so many people studying agriculture," he said.

"But the difference was that Japan is food production focused, including food wastage and food consumption, as everything had to meet a certain specification, so there are a lot more jobs in that sector.

"Their agricultural studies were very broad by comparison."

Mr Hunter said the demand in Japan for clean, quality products was evident.

"Japan want our products, from what I saw their middle-class is rising," he said,

"People were driving new cars, living in new houses and there is a huge demand for quality produce.

"They have a fast growing economy and we are so close - it is an amazing opportunity for us that we need to start tapping into.

"We just need to ensure we have the relationships and resources right."

Mr Hunter was selected to travel to Japan to represent agricultural students in Australia after presenting a thesis.

"The opportunity was given to all the agricultural second and third year students at UWA," he said.

"I had to write an expression of interest about sustainable agriculture in WA to the head of agriculture at UWA and that was looked over by the director of the university's Institute of Agriculture, Kadambot Siddique.

"It was the first year the University of Tokyo had a MoU with UWA, so it was the first Australian university to be selected.

"They selected me to represent Australia and UWA in Japan."

Mr Hunter spoke in front of 33 university students from across the world as well as Japanese agricultural students and representatives at the conference at an international students summit (ISS).

In 2001, Tokyo NODAI organised the first ISS on food, agriculture and environment in the new century to provide students from its global partner universities with an opportunity to gather and exchange views and ideas on global food, agricultural and environmental issues and discuss their roles in sustainable development.

ISS has since been held annually at Tokyo NODAI.

"I was lucky enough to be selected to represent UWA and be the first Australian student to attend the conference," Mr Hunter said.

"The theme for this summit was 'students promoting environmental justice in the globalisation of intensive agricultural systems', which was adopted at the 15th ISS.

UWA deputy vice-chancellor of community and engagement Kent Anderson opened the conference and provided an insight into WA agriculture.

"The conference allowed me to network with like-minded agricultural science students from all around the world and discuss issues affecting the industry on a global level," Mr Hunter said.

"It also gave me an insight to the role that Japanese agriculture plays within the global sector.

"Thank you very much to UWA for giving me to opportunity and, in particular Louise Barton for assisting and travelling with me to Japan."

Mr Hunter presented on unlocking the potential of the north west of WA and economic and social implications for regional communities including Aboriginal people, foreign investment and relationships with Japan.

"Listening to other people on how they do agriculture was a good experience, as it was very vast," he said.

"Of course there was the underlying issues that we all could marry together, however their knowledge on how to change those issues was interesting.

"While America is very similar to WA, with broadacre agriculture they discussed the use of technology and diversifying their farms into native areas, and used WA as an example of farming and how to implement better farming practices."

After the conference participants embarked on food production and on-farm tours.

"The second week we learnt how Japan's industry works and went into their rural regions," he said.

"We visited a rice and Matsutake mushroom growing region, where farming is very traditional and manually intensive compared to Australia.

"You would think with Japan being so technologically advanced that would be implemented into the sector, but everything is still done by hand.

"If you are a farmer and in the profession of agriculture, you are viewed in high regard.

"To own land in Japan is very prestigious, as it is hard to own freehold land in such a small country.

"The way they market their products is also different, as everything is sold through a co-operative - which we discovered has its pros and cons."



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