The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) held an important discussion about the emerging issues for the Agriculture and Food sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professor Tim Reeves lead this hour-long webinar hosted by Professor Snow Barlow, Chair of ATSE’s Agriculture & Food Forum and Dr Joanne Daly, strategic advisor at the CSIRO and Commissioner at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.
The devastating effects of the pandemic on both human health and global economies have been widely publicised. What has been less publicised are the impacts on that most basic of human needs, food and nutritional security both now and in the future.
Our agri-food systems need to be urgently re-thought and re-modelled as supply chains for inputs, for labour and for produce have proven to be not fit for service in an era of global pandemics. We have not been isolated from this in Australia with the sight of empty supermarket shelves sparking panic.
In addition, the agri-food’s long-time dependence on a largely itinerant, lowly-paid, seasonal labour force is currently having major detrimental impacts on the harvest of major crops as the supply chain of international backpackers and regional workers has dried up due to travel and quarantine restrictions.
Has the era of the ‘global supermarket’ passed or does it just need re-tweaking? What can be done to make our agri-food systems more robust, more resilient and more adaptable?
Professor Reeves provided some examples of the challenges for our agri-food systems and suggested some ideas for the ways ahead.
Professor Tim Reeves FTSE
Professor of Agriculture, University of Melbourne
Tim Reeves has worked for over 50 years in agricultural research, development and extension, focussed on sustainable agriculture in Australia and overseas. He was a pioneer of no-till/conservation agriculture research and has chaired or participated in many scientific reviews, including for: FAO; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Government of India; MLA and Dairy Australia.
Tim Reeves is now Professor in Residence at the Dookie Campus of the University of Melbourne, where he has also been recognised as a Centenary of Agriculture Medallist. In December 2016 the University awarded him a Doctor of Agricultural Science honoris causa, the highest award that the University can make. His main areas of current focus are on global food security and the sustainable intensification of agriculture and farming systems.
Professor Snow Barlow FTSE
CSIRO Fellow, ACIAR Commissioner and Chair of the ATSE Agriculture Forum
Snow Barlow is Professor of Viticulture and Horticulture at the University of Melbourne. He has been intimately involved in climate change research and policy within agricultural and food sector for more than 30 years. As President of Science and Technology Australia, he was a member of the Prime Minister’s Science, engineering and innovation Council chairing the development of 2 influential PMSEIC reports. Subsequently he chaired the Expert Advisory Panel of the Department of Agriculture; Carbon Farming Futures RDE programs.
He is a ATSE Fellow and in 2009 he was awarded the ‘Australian Medal of Agricultural Science’. Snow currently chairs the ATSE Agriculture Forum and is a Commissioner of the NSW Independent Planning Commission.
Dr Joanne Daly FTSE
Joanne Daly is an Honorary Fellow for the CSIRO and a former Group Executive of Agribusiness and Chief of Division. Her activities focus on strategy for national research collections and in agricultural sciences, assisting with the developing science precinct in Canberra with the ANU in the area of transformational agriculture.
She had worked in CSIRO for over 30 years originally as a researcher in entomology. She chaired the ‘Expert Working Group on Security Australia’s Agricultural Future’ for the Australian Council of Learned Academies. She was an ACIAR Commissioner and has held a number of senior roles including Chair of the international body, GBIF, and was a member of the Biosecurity Advisory Council and the Australian e-Research Infrastructure Council. During her 2-year secondment to the Australian Public Service, she headed the Secretariat that assisted Government in setting the National Research Priorities in 2002.