2016 Winners

2016 National and New South Wales Winner - Sophie Hansen

Sophie Hansen moved to Orange ten years ago where she lives and manages a holistic deer farm with her husband Tim and their two children. She studied print journalism at the University of Canberra then followed a career in feature writing for food and lifestyle magazines both in Australia and Italy.

With over 15 years’ experience in journalism and food writing, Sophie’s work focusses principally on primary industries and producers. She has authored and photographed a book of recipes and stories and for the past four years has written and photographed for her popular blog of the same name; Local is Lovely. In addition to this, she runs food photography and styling workshops and a series of events on her farm including farm kitchen lunches, tours and cooking demonstrations.

As someone whose primary income depends on agriculture Sophie understands how the success of any business hinges on a positive marketing and media profile. Empowering people to use social media platforms successfully opens up new opportunities and provides long term benefits to farming businesses and rural communities.

Sophie’s award ambition is to provide communities the skills they need to take advantage of social media channels to tell their stories, connect with peers and new customers and invite the world into their kitchens and onto their farms. She wants to share her experiences and skills in using social media to promote agribusiness and encourage more rural women to become active and collaborative members of online and actual food communities.

Sophie will use her $10,000 to develop an innovative online learning course called ‘My Open Kitchen’. My open kitchen is designed to assist anyone involved in primary industries to use social media channels to build ‘social capital’ which in turn will deliver transparency, engagement, trust and ultimately financial returns for primary producers.

Sophie believes that the flow-on benefits to primary industries are broad and range from improved sustainability of regional agribusinesses to increase vibrancy of smaller rural communities and build stronger consumer awareness and engagement in primary industries across the country.

Sophie Hansen 2016 RWA National Winner Report

This report reflects the author’s view. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AgriFutures Australia, nor can AgriFutures Australia verify the accuracy of the information contained in the report.

2016 Northern Territory Winner - Martina Matzner

Martina’s ability to see the opportunities that working in horticulture could provide and the need for a female perspective in a male oriented environment has resulted in a career in mango farming spanning 20 years. She began working at Acacia Hills Mango Farm as an Integrated Pest Management Consultant in 1996 and has since worked to become Farm Manager in charge of 50,000 trees and up to 130 staff.

Martina has been at the forefront of technological advances for the mango industry, working with the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries and the University of Central Queensland to implement innovations such as water telemetry with soil moisture probes and near infrared technology. Under her management, Acacia Hills has pioneered technology such as heat sums for crop forecasting and the introduction of mechanical hedging to the NT.

Martina’s passion for agriculture has resulted in her appointment as the Director of the NT Farmers’ Board, while her interest in the community has led to her involvement in the ‘NT Sentenced to a Job’ program aiding low security prisoners to return to society.


Martina’s project aims to make a career in food production a more attractive proposition for young people. She has seen first-hand how rewarding a life in the food production industry can be, and yet throughout her own career, she has identified a significant decline in young people choosing to work in agriculture/horticulture.

Martina will use the $10,000 to take her passion for the industry and share it with students to engage young people in the idea of a career food production and combat the perception that occupations within this field are not valued by society.

To do this, she will liaise with Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Schools in the Northern Territory to discuss mango production and organise visits to the Acacia Hills Mango Farm to view modern day horticultural practices. She also intends to work with the Charles Darwin Horticulture Faculty to develop a unit on Efficient Management of Water Resources in a modern Mango Farm with onsite visits by students to give them experience in industry.

Martina Matzner 2016 RWA National Winner Report

This report reflects the author’s view. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AgriFutures Australia, nor can AgriFutures Australia verify the accuracy of the information contained in the report.


2016 Queensland Winner - Emma Robinson

Emma Robinson has an immense passion for the beef industry, owning and operating three grazing properties in North and Central Queensland with her husband. Emma plays an active role in all aspects of their business and prides herself on being innovative in her practices and an advocate for family agriculture. While Emma has completed a Master of Science in Strategic Thinking and previously held extension and policy roles within the former Department of Primary Industries, it is in family farming that her true passion lies.

It is this passion which has seen Emma take up various advocacy roles to promote the industry and respond to agricultural challenges and opportunities. These roles have included Director of the Beef CRC for Genetic Technologies; Director of the AgForce Cattle Board and Chair of the AgForce Charters Towers Branch. Emma is also an active member of her local community, working with organisations including her local school of Distance Education the local branch of isolated children and parents.

In addition to this, Emma has undertaken a number of consulting and research projects and in 2015 completed a Winston Churchill Trust Fellowship into beef supply chain innovation.  The Fellowship, which included travel to the UK, USA and Canada, highlighted the value of producer co-operatives and their potential to help family producers achieve greater scale, and efficiency.

Emma’s vision is to champion producer co-operatives as an alternate business model, building on the research of her Fellowship. She believes that producer co-operatives can enable family beef enterprises to leverage opportunities of increased scale, efficiency and market influence necessary for long term prosperity. Emma aims to raise the profile of producer co-operatives by sharing information, building new knowledge and developing a critical mass of producers who are interested in co-operative business models. Emma will use the $10,000 bursary to consult and network with co-operative experts; develop a social media platform to profile producer co-operatives and share resources; and facilitate a producer forum to educate people on the benefits co-operation can have for family farming.

2016 South Australia Winner - Robbie Davis

As the CEO of Potatoes South Australia and a successful beef cattle producer, Meningie farmer and businesswoman Robbie Davis has a lot on her plate. Robbie has had a diverse career spanning continents, having previously lived and worked in agribusiness in southeast Asia. Through this experience she gained invaluable insights into global markets, before establishing her own agribusiness consultancy. Robbie is an active member of the Australian agricultural sector, having been involved in a number of industry committees and boards as both a Director and CEO.

Robbie is passionate about improving Australia’s reputation for premium agricultural produce within the international market. In particular, Robbie’s dream is to reduce the amount of food waste generated from the horticulture supply chain. Millions of dollars are lost each year through agricultural food waste from the supply chain in Australia, with horticulture contributing approximately half of the waste. Her position within the potato industry has illuminated this issue, and Robbie is now determined to do what she can to help reduce it.


Robbie will use her $10,000 bursary to investigate how the South Australian potato industry and wider horticulture sector can increase productivity through the reduction of food waste and loss in the supply chain. She intends to examine the technologies that are being used internationally to reduce losses that occur during food production, and determine which of these technologies could be introduced in Australia.

Robbie believes that identifying key areas from which food is lost and making a targeted effort to lessen waste from these areas is the simplest way to increase productivity from the horticulture sector.

Robbie Davis 2016 SA RWA Winner Report

This report reflects the author’s view. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AgriFutures Australia, nor can AgriFutures Australia verify the accuracy of the information contained in the report.

2016 Tasmania Winner - Rebecca Duffy

Rebecca was born and raised on a sheep and cattle property on King Island, Tasmania.  When she was in grade nine, her father planted a small block of vines on the farm, and like the vines, Rebecca’s interest in a career in wine making took root.

Rebecca pursued her passion to mainland Australia, where she worked in the wine industry for eight years, before returning to Tasmania in 2006 to run Holm Oak Vineyards. At the time of her arrival, the vineyard was six hectares in size, had no functional winery and a tiny cellar door. Over the past nine years, Rebecca’s management has seen her purchase and plant an extra eight hectares of vines and grow production from 1500 cases of wine per year to 12,000.  A winery has been built, a bottling line installed and the cellar door expanded.

Rebecca’s involvement in the wine industry is not confined to her own business. She is also a director of Wine Tasmania, the secretary of the Tamar Valley Wine Route group and through her support and guidance she acts as a mentor for newcomers hoping to establish a solid business within the industry.

It is Rebecca’s passion for promoting the industry as a whole that has inspired her project. Rebecca aims to do a national and international cellar door study tour with the aim of creating a new, exciting and dynamic experience for customers that offers more than just a tasting.

Rebecca intends to use her $10,000 to visit cellar doors and wineries in the Napa Valley in the USA and Cape Town in South Africa as these two regions are regarded as the most successful wine tourism regions in the world.  She will also consult with Australian wineries that have implemented innovative ideas at their cellar doors, to gauge an idea of what they have found to be successful or unsuccessful.

Upon her return, Rebecca intends to share her knowledge with other wineries in the region and recommend opportunities for other cellar doors in the Tamar Valley to create one of the best wine tourism routes in the world.  She will also present her findings from the study tour at a Wine Tasmania event in order to share her experiences with the entire Tasmanian wine industry.

Rebecca Duffy 2016 TAS RWA Winner Report

This report reflects the author’s view. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AgriFutures Australia, nor can AgriFutures Australia verify the accuracy of the information contained in the report.

2016 Victoria Winner - Dr Jessica Lye

Jessica is the national manager of scientific affairs at AUSVEG, an industry representative body for vegetable and potato growers. Prior to this, Jessica’s career focussed mainly on academia, having previously held positions as a teaching associate and researcher at Monash University. While she was born and bred in the city, Jessica’s management of the AUSVEG Vegetable and Biosecurity program has sparked a passion for agriculture which has taken her to rural areas all across the country.

Jessica’s work has made her acutely aware of the changing landscape of biosecurity, which became evident throughout 2014 and 2015 when there was a bombardment of pest incursions across the industry, highlighting the insufficient resources available to deal with them. Through her work Jessica has seen firsthand how communities and industries respond to biosecurity threats and she is keen to help provide the information needed to understand and prepare for threats, and provide practical ways to prevent pests, diseases and weeds entering farms in the first place.

Jessica has subsequently become increasingly involved in raising awareness of best practice for pest, weed and disease management throughout all levels of the agricultural sector.

An advocate for biosecurity and a passionate science communicator, she has visited numerous farms, spoken at many grower and stakeholder seminars and is continuously writing articles, releasing e-bulletins and participating in radio interviews to inform producers about biosecurity risks within the vegetable and potato industries.

Jessica’s proposed project focuses on enhancing biosecurity preparedness for the vegetable and potato industries. To this end, she will use her $10,000 on an overseas study tour to visit research institutions and growing operations to gain information on key high priority pests and emerging pest threats. The tour will focus on New Zealand, the United States and South America to gain knowledge about pest management, eradication strategies and biosecurity practices used in other countries. The learnings from the tour will be communicated back to industry.

Jessica believes that the core component of preparedness is through facilitating transfer of knowledge about exotic plant pests and overseas farm biosecurity practices to Australian growers, particularly non-English speaking growers. Through sharing the knowledge she gains from her tour, Jessica hopes to encourage biosecurity champions and networks throughout the vegetable and potato communities that exist throughout rural Australia.

Jessica Lye 2016 VIC RWA Winner Report

This report reflects the author’s view. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AgriFutures Australia, nor can AgriFutures Australia verify the accuracy of the information contained in the report.

2016 National Runner-up and Western Australia Winner - Kalyn Fletcher

Kalyn is from Kununurra, East Kimberley. She grew up on her family farm in the Ord Irrigation Area and upon completing a Bachelor in Agriculture Science and a Bachelor in Agribusiness, worked for AWB Ltd in Goondiwindi Queensland. She then returned to Kununurra with her husband and for the past 10 years has raised their three young boys and managed the family businesses RB Dessert Seed Co and The Hoochery Distillery.

Kalyn’s business RB Dessert Seed Co. is focused on wholesale seed production for crops such as hybrid sorghum, hybrid maize, herbs and vegetables. The company supplies seed to growers across the Ord Irrigation Area and the wider Kimberley Region. Kalyn’s other family venture, the Hoochery  Distillery, prides itself on its commitment to using local products where possible, and has produced international award winning rum and liqueurs. Kalyn’s management has seen both of these businesses grow and prosper.

Kalyn works closely with industry on new crop development, producing seed and conducting research trials for many emerging crop species. In addition to this, she has implemented a sorghum breeding program which focuses on the production of forage sorghum varieties suited to tropical conditions.

Kalyn’s passion for promoting the industry has resulted in her establishing an agricultural tours operation to promote the Ord Irrigation Area and industry to visitors to the region.

Kalyn’s experiences living and working in Northern Australia have given her first hand insight into the unique challenges and opportunities that arise from conducting agribusiness in tropical regions. Kalyn sees Northern Australia’s plentiful undeveloped land, available water, sunny blue skies and proximity to emerging markets as an amazing opportunity for tropical agriculture. As climatic conditions change and Australia looks to shift more of its agricultural production to areas with more abundant and secure water, Kalyn believes that tropical regions will play an ever increasing role in Australia’s agricultural success.

Kalyn’s proposed project is called “Tropical Agriculture – Learn, Promote, Support”. She will use her $10,000 to conduct a study tour of the Cerrado Region of Brazil to learn from a successful tropical agriculture industry. The knowledge and insights she gains from her tour will be shared with stakeholders in her region to help promote and support the growth and success of tropical agriculture within Australia.

Kalyn Fletcher 2016 WA RWA Winner Report

This report reflects the author’s view. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AgriFutures Australia, nor can AgriFutures Australia verify the accuracy of the information contained in the report.