The ecosystem of agricultural research

13.10.21

Australia’s rural industries operate in a complex and dynamic environment, often facing a common set of evolving challenges and opportunities. It is the diversity of roles across the sector, and the people filling these roles, that allow the Research Development Corporations (RDCs) to lead cross-sectoral research into rural issues of national and global significance.

The RDCs are made up of a variety of talented, diverse people, each with a unique set of skills they use to better the Australian agricultural Industry.

We often celebrate our research leads, scientists, university academics and directors, who are the ‘face’ of research projects throughout Australia. And so we should. These talented, brilliant minds are the leaders of agricultural change.

But we also need to recognise and celebrate the teams behind the research; those names not necessarily included on those final research reports, such as administration staff, communications teams, project coordinators and research managers.

We are shining a spotlight on those contributors who work collaboratively across the RDCs, assisting in the delivery of vital research for our agricultural industries.

Conquering the waste challenge

Anne-Maree Boland is the Principal of RMCG, a multi-disciplinary consultancy that specialises in the environment, agriculture and communities. She’s currently working across three of the AgriFutures Australia waste program projects and has a strong team behind her to manage some of the many unique challenges in the management of agricultural waste.

Over the years, RMCG has built a team of the best and brightest minds. These team members are contributing significantly to the waste program in a broad range of areas.

“Take for instance Steph McNulty, a Consultant at RMCG, who has produced an array of easy-to-understand visual materials that describe the waste hierarchy and circular economy. Or Dimi Kyriakou, a Communications Consultant, skilled in the art of communicating key messages of the waste projects, ensuring all individuals understand the project and what it means for them,” said Dr Boland.

“Then there is Sharnie Clifford and Isabel Axio, both Resource Recovery Consultants with extensive knowledge of waste policy and sustainable solutions for the agriculture industry. And Donna Lucas, Agricultural Consult and RMCG Associate who works with groups and individual businesses to put research into practice.

“These and a myriad of other intelligent employees are working tirelessly behind the scenes to find a solution to the pre-farm gate waste issue. It is so important we stop and recognise the important work our teams are delivering. Our work is often focussed on bringing clarity to complex issues, and without the remarkable women in these roles, this just wouldn’t happen.”

And a piece of advice Dr Boland would give the women in her team; “throughout your career it is critical to gather good mentors, keep an open mind, be curious and continue to learn from others.”

Ordinary women doing extraordinary things

The Rural Futures team at AgriFutures Australia is made up entirely of a group of enthusiastic women, from Project Coordinators to Senior Managers and everyone in between.

But this group isn’t made up of scientists or academics. They are a group of self-described ‘ordinary’ women doing extraordinary things. Each has a unique background, from 5th generation farmer to community engagement manager. But the one thing each of these women share is a passion for improving the agricultural industry.

Ulicia Raufers is the Manager, Innovation at AgriFutures Australia. Ulicia commenced as a program coordinator in 2020, keen to align her program management experience in the community sector and her passion for agriculture. Since commencing with AgriFutures Australia, Ulicia has worked with the team across a number of nationally significant issues including waste, carbon, technology adoption and rural safety and health.

“The issues that Australian Agriculture faces are varied and complex, and so are the teams working to understand and solve them. Working at AgriFutures Australia I’ve seen the breadth of challenges and opportunities facing the sector, and the benefits of a multidisciplinary response to better understand and solve them,” she said.

“When I speak to friends and family about the projects I have worked on they’re incredibly interested. So many people don’t realise there is this huge opportunity in working ‘behind the scenes’, making such a huge impact to the agricultural industry.”

“There are so many women across our RDCs contributing to the agricultural ecosystem. I’ve realised in my role that you don’t need to be an entrepreneur or a researcher to make a change. I feel incredibly lucky to be one of hundreds of team members working behind the scenes to deliver extraordinary change.”

Opportunities abundant beyond the paddock

Leigh Nelson is Manager, Pests at GRDC and is currently coordinating research into mice and pest management, driving the investment plan for the research currently fighting the mouse plague.

Leigh’s role at GRDC involves managing a suite of investments relating to minimising losses caused by pests in the grains industry. This entails identifying opportunities for GRDC investment, analysing the potential impacts of various solutions and working with the GRDC advisory panels to ensure proposed investments will deliver value to the Australia grains industry.

When asked if there is a piece of advice Leigh could give those wanting to be involved in agriculture, but who don’t necessarily have an agricultural background, she didn’t hesitate.

“Go for it! Agriculture has so many opportunities beyond being a farmer or working in a paddock. There are opportunities for those in marketing, financial services, research, food services, agribusiness, education and training and even policy,” she said.

There is a world of opportunity open to women in agriculture, bringing together a wealth of backgrounds and expertise. You too can be part of a huge change for the Australian Agricultural industry.