FOUR Western Australians have been awarded prestigious Nuffield Australia farming scholarships for 2021.
The winners were announced last week and include Friedrich Bolten, Kununurra, Camille Camp, Derby, Kathryn Fleay, Mingenew and Robert Bell, The Plains.
Nuffield's Western Australian committee chairman and 2015 scholar Reece Curwen said the new scholars would research innovative global concepts, techniques and systems that would create positive change in their own businesses, communities and the broader agriculture sector.
Representing a diverse range of agricultural industries and key topic areas, scholars will undertake a global study program using a $30,000 bursary, researching their chosen topic across 14 weeks.
Mr Curwen said it was exciting to see WA represented so strongly in the 2021 cohort.
"These scholars reflect the next generation of talent in WA farming, with their relevant and timely research topics seeking to address a variety of challenges facing our State's agricultural sector," Mr Curwen said.
"Seeking to secure a productive, resilient and sustainable future, our 2021 scholars will research a range of topics, from how to execute time sensitive operations on heavy wet soils, to how subsurface drainage could be utilised to increase environmental nutrient retention.
"This group will also take a greater look at the modern role of the consumer, investigating the impact of COVID-19 and consumer expectations on the northern Australia live export trade, and the role consumer education and promotion of career pathways will play in the growth and sustainability of the sector.
"With the generous support of their investors, these four scholars will be given a platform to lead a wave of change and embark on a life-changing opportunity to take their ideas to the next level."
Ms Camp receives her Nuffield Scholarship supported by The Yulgilbar Foundation, which is a family-run Private Ancillary Fund and with a focus on rural, regional and remote Australia and more specifically, on education, environment and capacity building.
Through her research, Ms Camp will investigate the affects of the pandemic and consumer expectations on the future of the northern Australia live export trade.
Ms Camp is head stockwoman at her family owned and operated cattle enterprise, Kalyeeda station, which runs a herd of 10,000 Droughtmaster and Brahman cattle across 122,000 hectares.
She is particularly focused on management strategies that can be implemented across the beef production supply chain to maintain market demand and access amidst challenging conditions.
"As the northern Australia beef industry is almost entirely dependent on the live export trade and the overseas markets it supplies, research into the future stability of the industry and corresponding management strategies is critical," Ms Camp said.
"In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic placing pressure on the future viability of trade to key live export markets, there is an ever-increasing demand from consumers that the beef industry demonstrates environmental sustainability and improved animal welfare standards."
Ms Camp will also investigate the potential impact of COVID-19 on animal welfare due to reduced monitoring and the implications on social licence.
"Through my Nuffield scholarship, I hope to link to Meat & Livestock Australia's Strategic Plan and focus on key priority areas such as growing and diversifying markets, consumer and community support and supply chain efficiency and integrity," Ms Camp said.
She will also study global imported livestock markets across South East Asian countries and also live export dependent regions in northern Australia.
Mr Bell has been supported by AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program and will investigate how subsurface drainage could be utilised to increase environmental nutrient retention and create more efficient farming practices, while sustainably capturing excess water for irrigation.
He is the general manager of the family-owned small seed production and intensive beef cattle grazing operation, M & AJ Bell.
The only commercial grass seed producer and the largest small seed supplier in WA, they also run a beef operation trading between 1500 and 2000 cattle per year.
On farm, Mr Bell has started his own research trial comprising an eight-hectare trial site with three different trial drain treatments and six surface water bores and witnessed a tenfold reduction in phosphates leaching into the Geograph Catchment.
"Water is arguably the world's most precious resource," Mr Bell said.
"As such, continuous innovation and implementation of environmentally responsible practices is critical for the agricultural sector maintaining its social license to operate.
"The climatology in the south west corner of WA is rare and presents a great opportunity to fuel an emerging small seeds industry without water waste.
"Through my Nuffield scholarship, I plan to explore this further and research environmentally conscious, innovative, circular economy principles to water management that could be utilised in WA."
Mr Bell will investigate existing research, water storage infrastructure and subsurface draining sites across Australia, New Zealand and the United States during his scholarship.
Ms Fleay, supported by CSBP Fertilisers, will explore how educating consumers and promoting career options in agriculture is fundamental to the growth and sustainability of Australia's agricultural sectors.
She is the chief executive officer of the Mingenew-Irwin Group, a farmer-driven grower group that promotes and develop sustainable agricultural systems by extending locally relevant research and development information on key agricultural topics.
Working to improve farm sustainability, Ms Fleay is passionate about ensuring all Australians have a strong understanding of food production, the supply chain and factors affecting production, to bridge the gap between consumers and the agricultural sector.
"During my time in Mingenew, I have been involved in co-ordinating agricultural school programs at the local primary school and although most students come from farms themselves, I saw first-hand how limited their basic knowledge of agricultural production was," Ms Fleay said.
"If we're to address future workforce challenges and create innovative solutions to problems within the industry, it's critical that as a sector we're educating consumers and promoting career pathways in agriculture from an early age.
"Agriculture is an ever-evolving industry with production methods, technology and markets constantly changing.
"If we're to ensure future sustainability and prosperity within the sector, we must focus on educating its future workforce and consumers."
Ms Fleay will explore how new technologies are being incorporated into agricultural university courses across the United Kingdom and the US and also the factors driving agricultural production in the European Union.
Mr Bolten, supported by Cotton Australia and ANZ Bank, will investigate solutions to executing time sensitive operations on heavy wet soils during monsoon weather conditions.
He owns and operates an irrigated mixed grain and cotton farming enterprise, across 975 hectares.
"On farm, we can experience excessive delays and missed opportunities to plant crops as we wait for dry periods, which we use to form irrigation furrows only to have to re-irrigate after the wet season," Mr Bolten said.
"As a sector we face unpredictable and extreme climate patterns, so it's critical that we learn to farm smarter in these conditions whether that be through the utilisation of cover crops or different machinery."
Mr Bolton plans to explore the options and opportunities for utilising environmental and mechanical tools and techniques to reliably and sustainably execute timely operations on-farm.
"Seeking to enhance future productivity and sustainability amidst challenging climatic conditions, my research will also focus on creating more trafficable and protected soils," he said.
"This knowledge would open up a host of benefits for the cotton industry, from ensuring year-on-year production and maintaining continuous access to marketing pathways, to establishing a continuous cropping enterprise."
Mr Bolten will study global production systems and mechanical and technological solutions across Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the United States, India, Holland, Brazil, and Central America during his scholarship.