24 November 2017
Two inspiring young agrifood innovators fortifying Australia’s food security were recognised for their contributions on 24 November, winning the inaugural ICM Agrifood Awards administered by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).
La Trobe University agronomist and crop physiologist Dr James Hunt and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) agricultural climatologist Dr Rebecca Darbyshire each received the $5000 ICM Agrifood Award at ATSE’s Oration Dinner held in Sydney on Friday.
The ICM Agrifood Award is a prestigious early career award open to all agrifood innovators, such as entrepreneurs, researchers and technologists.
Dr Darbyshire, 35, says the award puts a spotlight on the value of and innovation in Australia’s agricultural research.
“It shows that research in agriculture is challenging and rewarding for young people and that women are valued in the sector,” she says.
Dr Hunt, 39, says the agriculture and food sectors have both enormous challenges and opportunities ahead of them in the coming years.
“I feel excited to win an award that recognises the contribution of young professionals in the agriculture and food sector,” he says.
Dr Rebecca Darbyshire, whose research focused on fruit and nut trees, is leading Australia on climate change readiness.
“Through the knowledge gained in my research, farmers are ultimately able to make better decisions and investments to improve productivity and profitability,” Dr Darbyshire says.
One of her major contributions to Australia’s agriculture sector has been to introduce innovative ways to make complex scientific results more readable and accessible for on-the-ground application. Often, adaptation techniques aren’t applied because of poor understanding.
She has also boosted the knowledge on how fruit trees respond to a range of weather conditions, focusing on winter chill and extreme heat damage, as well as flowering cycles.
Dr James Hunt has dedicated his research to supporting grain growers across the Australian wheat belt to improve the productivity and profit of grain-based farms.
Photo credit: Lauren Celenza WANTFA
Since 2012, he has improved summer fallow management across southern and western grain regions of Australia; helped properly define optimal flowering and sowing dates in different Australian environments; and developed the “fast winter” wheat cultivar.
“It is extremely rewarding to work in a field of science where you can see your research having impact in farmer’s fields straight away,” Dr Hunt says.
“I’d strongly encourage anyone with an interest in biological sciences and natural systems to consider a career in the agriculture sector, there are some really great opportunities for young people.”
The winners must have achieved substantial recognition for their work in a field critical to continued improvement of the overall Australian food sector in the past five years, and be under 40 years of age. They must have:
“Neither agriculture nor food science have been particularly trendy branches of science, so I think it is essential that we try and attract as many of the best young researchers into the sector as possible, and raising the profile through an award like the ICM Agrifood award is a great way of doing that.”
“The agriculture and food sectors are really important for the Australian economy, society and international food security, and both have some enormous challenges and opportunities ahead of them in the coming years.”
“The research I’ve been a part of has involved many excellent scientists, farmers and advisors, and has largely been funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation. Over the past 5 years it has helped Australian wheat farmers to improve their yields and maintain profitability in the face of some pretty challenging climatic changes.”
“I am surprised and humbled to have won this award. I am excited for the opportunities winning this award will bring to help showcase agricultural research. This award puts a spotlight on the innovation in and value of Australian agricultural research.”
“A lot of my research has focussed on helping to better understand how crops are influenced by weather and climate. This helps to know how we can better manage climate variability and how to best adapt to climate change.”
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