2022 Rural Women's Acceleration Grant recipients

Fran McLaughlin – Narrandera, NSW

Fran McLaughlin has had a diverse work history spanning 30 years across agriculture, accounting, business consulting and international logistics, working in three different states in both urban and rural locations. Fran is passionate about sustainable Australian agriculture and in these exciting and challenging times she has found herself drawn to return to the industry after 10 years in other industries, to be a part of the agtech evolution.

Her concept ‘Feed the Bush’ utilises science in the form of indoor, vertical farming systems to produce fresh and sustainable food for both human and livestock consumption in rural and remote areas, while minimising resources used.

The systems use up to 95% less water, no chemicals, no pesticides and renewable energy. Her project targets indigenous food security and access issues in remote areas, it will empower local communities to grow their own food, educate them in nutrition, healthy diets and wellbeing, as well as employing people including those with special needs.

Fran believes everyone is entitled to fresh produce no matter where they live, and hopes to change the mindset of the supply chain distribution network, reduce travel miles and supply quality, fresh produce in order to reach Net Zero 2030.

Samantha Sutherland – Mudgee, NSW

Samantha Sutherland is studying a Bachelor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University and works as a training assistant winemaker at Gilbert Family Wines in Mudgee, NSW.

She is currently working towards crafting her own wine and staying connected with the community of wine professionals in Australia.

Sam’s vision is to continue to research alternative wine storage vessels called amphora. Amphora are ancient winemaking vessels made from clay which contribute to making wines of high quality and interesting styles. Currently these vessels are challenging to access in Australia particularly for small producers. The vision intends to set up production of locally made amphora using materials such as clay that complement the viticulture of grapes.

Her vision seeks to unite other young innovators interested in these vessels and make a positive impact on the wine industry in rural and regional areas by creating jobs, meaningful collaborations and ultimately making these vessels more accessible.

Fiona Taylor – Canberra, ACT

Fiona Taylor works part-time as a Rural Financial Counsellor and is a mentor for the Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program.

Her idea, the ‘Rural New Generation Scheme’ will help many young farmers by breaking down the greatest barrier of all, raising equity to purchase their own property.

The scheme will operate on a tenant type farming situation, to ensure new entrants can build up valuable experience whilst establishing themselves and proving their ability to operate a viable farming business, eventuating to purchase the property with their own funding. Working successfully in other countries, Zimbabwe Tobacco Association-Tenant Farming Scheme, Scottish Tenant Farming Scheme and Tenant Farmers Association UK – Fiona hopes to support the future generations in Australia agriculture.

Fiona is passionate about agriculture and has been involved in many aspects, from owning her own property and working in the industry, so is familiar with the challenges faced by property owners.

Julie Sosso – Cooloola Cove, QLD

As a late-blooming Plant Science student, Julie Sosso is committed to lifelong learning.

After graduating Plant Science with Honours in 2019, she dreamed of creating a viable agri-enterprise of her own. Julie drew inspiration from Karen Brock, the 2020 TAS AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Winner, whose work in plant tissue culture inspired Julie to propagate a protected-cropping vanilla industry in Australia.

Her plan includes learning and mastering plant tissue culture to mass propagateVanilla planifolia in sufficient numbers to establish a viable vanillery, then to investigate the feasibility of enlisting Australian native solitary bees to pollinate the vanilla flowers, to replace the labour-intensive hand-pollination method.

Janet Price – Toogong, NSW

Janet Price grew up on a mixed-farming property with sheep, cattle and wheat, but after purchasing the property from her family she introduced spelt and extended the mud home using hemp.

Industrial Hemp has been cultivated in the Northern Hemisphere for thousands of years and Janet believes it could be the crop of the future for Australian farmers due to carbon uptake and reduced water and chemical use. Some present Australian made products are hempcrete, seed and oil but the industry is currently restricted by a lack of machinery development, hemp’s novelty status and the lack of value-added industries.

In developing a Business Plan, Janet hopes to encourage and demonstrate to local farmers the advantages of introducing hemp as a rotational crop, as well as attracting investors both public and private to work with farmers to value-add by establishing appropriate manufacturing facilities in their community.

Tegan Roberts – Bourke, NSW

Tegan Roberts was raised on a stud dairy farm in Northern NSW, where she developed her foundational knowledge of embryo transfer and genetic banking operations.

Tegan and her husband now run a cattle and goat breeding operation alongside their diesel mechanic businesses and are looking to expand their goat breeding enterprise to provide other graziers a quality line of specially bred goats.

Tegan’s idea is to provide local farmers the opportunity to have access to an embryo transfer and genetic banking facility based in Bourke, NSW. Currently the closest facility is more than 400kms away and farmers are often reluctant to even consider the option with the major costs involved. This facility will allow farmers to store the genetics of their stock, so they can be self-reliant and increase their productivity, profitability and sustainability after drought.

Patricia Eats – Gatton, QLD

Patricia Eats comes from a mixed enterprise farm on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia with cereal cropping, hay, floriculture, meat and wool sheep, beef and dairying enterprises.

After share-farming the family dairy for many years, Trish completed an Animal Science degree with Honours and raised her son in South Australia before moving to Queensland to take up PhD candidature.

Recognising academic misunderstanding of animal agriculture people, Trish’s PhD researches occupational wellbeing in subtropical dairy. A Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Health and Medicine Studies provided further evidence that current policy and practice is inadequate to protect health and wellbeing of best-fit workers and retain them long term.

Trish’s social enterprise will endeavour to develop, champion and socially elevate great animal agricultural workers, facilitating better capacity for their life-long wellbeing and joy through work.