WA scholars locked into research phase

30 Sep, 2017 04:00 AM
Wubin grower Boyd Carter will use his 2018 Nuffield Scholarship to explore the robot revolution and how farmers can best prepare for increased autonomous technology on-farm.
Wubin grower Boyd Carter will use his 2018 Nuffield Scholarship to explore the robot revolution and how farmers can best prepare for increased autonomous technology on-farm.

FIVE Western Australians are set to embark on major research programs across the globe, after being awarded 2018 Nuffield Farming Scholarships in Darwin, Northern Territory, last week.

Across the nation 24 award winners have been recognised for their passion, commitment and leadership in the agriculture sector.

Each award winner will use a $30,000 bursary to fund a 16-week program, undertaking international research on their chosen study areas across the cotton, grains, horticulture and livestock industries.

Nuffield chief executive officer Jodie Dean said the scholarships had helped build the capacity of young leaders within Australia’s food and fibre industries for more than 67 years, and would help drive innovation in agriculture.

“These scholars represent a modern and multi-faceted sector, and one that celebrates diversity within our industries, our businesses and our backgrounds,” Ms Dean said.

Together with the backing of investors, she said they would undertake significant research, meet with key leaders and key decision makers and see first-hand the advances being made within their respective industries in countries from around the world.

Boyd Carter runs a 12,000 hectare mixed cropping and sheep enterprise in Wubin, and last year graduated from the GrainGrowers Australian Grain Farm Leaders program.

He has chosen to focus his research on the robotic revolution and what growers can do to prepare for increased autonomous technology on-farm.

“I’ve always been interested in technology and I could see that it was coming along very quickly and a lot of farmers aren’t ready,” Mr Carter said.

“The project is about what farmers can do now to prepare for the robotic revolution and also what type of automation or robotics that they should go for - whether its swarm robotics or driverless, or to just use the infrastructure they’ve got now with attachments.

“I’ll look at what type of education farmers are going to need to lift themselves up to a level to be able to take on this technology.

“I also want to look at the social aspect of how the robot revolution will affect the community.”

Mr Carter has been sponsored by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and will spend the next few weeks determining his study plan.

He hopes to visit Canada, North America, Japan, Germany and the Netherlands to see a broad range of technologies used in other industries to see if they can be applied to agriculture.

Latham farmer Dylan Hirsch, who is also sponsored by the GRDC, will focus his research on financial risk management systems in variable climates.

Mr Hirsch runs a 6000 hectare broadacre cropping program where he has been using multi-peril crop insurance (MPCI) for the past five years.

He said he was excited about his upcoming studies, and confident there was plenty of “scope for improvement” when it came to risk management tools within the agricultural industry.

“Basically what I’d like to be able to do is come back with a comparison of different financial risk management tools - things that people use in other industries and overseas - that we could use to manage our seasonal variability,” Mr Hirsch said.

“If you can use some of these tools to improve your business practices then I think they are going to be extremely valuable.”

Mr Hirsch plans to visit North America, Canada, India and Europe to research both government subsidised and private insurance products, as well as South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales to examine how farmers use MPCI in their enterprises.

“I want to look at similar businesses around the world - not just in agriculture - using different insurance, particularly businesses which are impacted by weather events.”

Kimberley Agricultural Investment (KAI) farm manager Luke McKay has been sponsored by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and will explore the opportunity for the cotton industry in the Ord River region.

The Kununurra farmer will focus on tropical cotton-growing systems such as double cropping, rotation crops, irrigation methods, staff requirements, machinery requirements, and resource and environmental management.

Also named as Nuffield Scholars are Bunbury’s Dudley Mitchell who will study current trends in canopy management of avocado orchards, and West Kendenup farmer Andrew Slade who will investigate potential productivity gains for livestock production systems.

WA Nuffield Committee chairman and 2009 scholar Cameron Tubby said the diversity of topics and calibre of the scholars was reflective of the innovation driving the State’s agricultural production.

“Our scholars will investigate topics that have potential to transform elements of their respective industries and this announcement most certainly showcases the breadth and depth of knowledge, enthusiasm and appetite to capitalise upon opportunity within Western Australia’s agricultural sector,” Mr Tubby said.

“These scholarships, which are funded by a range of investors also committed to the future of the industry, will provide scholars with resources to mix with like-minded farmers across the world and to bring home technology and new-thinking that will benefit agricultural prosperity.

“We’re delighted to have five of the 24 scholars from Western Australia and look forward to following their journey and findings over the course of their research.”

Stephanie Sinclair

Stephanie Sinclair

Stephanie Sinclair is a journalist at Farm Weekly.


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