With the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) board biennial election only weeks away, two WA candidates are in the running to join AWI's board of directors, and for the opportunity to share their vision and local knowledge at a national level.
Five candidates are vying for board positions in this year's election, which will take place at the AWI annual general meeting.
Neil Jackson, Kojonup, is a third generation wool grower who owns Sunny Valley Farms with his wife Sandy and son Sam.
Sunny Valley Farms run 22-25,000 head of sheep, which is complemented by a broadacre cropping program.
At a commercial scale, producing about 600 bales of wool per year, the Jacksons have a lot of skin in the game.
Mr Jackson said he wanted to advocate for and lift up the voices of grassroots producers.
"I've got the time and the passion to put a bit back in," Mr Jackson said.
"I just want to make sure there are tangible benefits to growers from the resources that AWI does have.
"I'm purely just an advocate for the average grower,"
From several industry concerns, Mr Jackson would particularly like to see investments into furthering technology, as a means of dealing with shearer shortages.
Mr Jackson said he's been involved with sheep for more than 30 years, and in that time there's been strong technological development within the industry but ultimately, harvesting the wool hasn't advanced too far over the past couple of hundred years.
"We're certainly still very reliant on shearers," he said.
"But if there's a possibility of looking at new technologies, then I think all avenues need to be looked at.
"There's been some technological advances in the way we handle sheep on farm, labour saving devices, but effectively there's still a lot of grunt in sheep farming, so that probably hasn't changed as much as I would have liked either.
"There's been a lot of advances on the physical side of it but I still think there's a way to go.
"The younger generation who are in cropping are not wrecking their bodies, I've always loved the physical aspect (of sheep farming) but it's not for everyone."
The labour shortage problem is a culmination of many things, but Mr Jackson also said the mining industry was better at attracting younger workers who were chasing the big pay packets.
He is also interested in how technology could be used to attract young people to the industry.
Advances within broadacre cropping have already proved popular with young workers.
"Part of my push for technology is to be able to attract youth," Mr Jackson said.
"We run a broadacre cropping program and the younger generation of farmers are quite excited by it.
"We've got to sort of compete with that technology.
"They absorb technology like there's no tomorrow, I think they will be motivated by it and that's what we need.
"We've got to try and lower the average age of growers," he said.
Mr Jackson is also passionate about wool marketing, upholding the industry by 'championing the brand'.
He believes the future of wool will be founded in its biodegradable and renewable properties, and said there was a lot of potential within casualwear and activewear.
Mr Jackson hopes the fibre will become more popular globally, with people of all ages.
He said investments into research and development needed to occur within the wool growing industry, but also into making the valuable fibres more practical and usable - and easier to care for.
"We've got to get those big markets in the United States, Europe and China that have big disposable and middle incomes that are looking for good, slow fashion," Mr Jackson said.
"Nothing should be overlooked, we have to push every avenue."
Mr Jackson has served on industry boards from 2003 until about 2017.
Between 2005-2006, Mr Jackson was the president of Merino WA, and was the chairman of the World Merino Conference.
He's also been a part of the Ovine Johne's Disease Management Committee of WA, the WoolQ Consultative Committee and the Industry Management Committee for the application of the Biosecurity in Agriculture Management Act.
Steve McGuire is a fifth-generation wool grower from Kojonup who has also been heavily involved with the wool industry, sitting on several committees and boards over the past eight years, most notably on the WAFarmers Livestock council.
Previously on the board of directors for WoolProducers, Mr McGuire said he is well acquainted with how the wool industry operates on a national level.
Earlier this year, Mr McGuire stepped down from his role with WoolProducers after six years.
His time on the WoolProducers board furthered his knowledge of the wool supply chain in testing, broking, transport and processing.
"I still want to contribute to the industry," Mr McGuire siad.
"I'd like to see the organisation (AWI) at its best.
"The timing is right for me."
Mr McGuire said he was eager to see productivity improve, which would allow the wool industry to ride out market fluctuations.
"I think we need to get more productive, and we need to do that quickly," he said.
In Mr McGuire's eyes, it comes down to making the dollars add up for farmers, when wool is competing against meat and crops for hectares.
"It is a good diversification for farmers, and it helps them manage their risk which is very important," he said.
"But it needs to be able to hold its own."
One of Mr McGuire's interests was in the potential of biological harvesting, as well as dealing with pests and parasites, and improving genetics.
He hopes that by improving these areas, wool growing can become less labour intensive and more cost effective.
"There are genes out there in our population of sheep that can probably get us to where we want to go, we've just got to identify them," Mr McGuire said.
These endeavours need to come down to research and development, and making this information available to farmers.
"It's about giving farmers the information," he said, referencing several field days, forums and workshops happening around the State.
Mr McGuire said over the years of his industry involvement, his favourite part of it was the people he met along the way.
"There's some fantastic people out there who are just trying to do their best for the industry," he said.
"It's a diverse industry.
"You've got to have a passion for wool, but it is hard, you might think there's other things you could do.
"But when you're standing in the shearing shed and the wool is coming across the table and you've got a bright white, soft, beautiful fibre that has so many fantastic qualities, it's hard to walk away from that."
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