Three from WA win Nuffield scholarships

Jo FulwoodCountryman
Lara Ladyman, of Katanning, has been awarded a CBH-supported Nuffield Australian Scholarship to explore the "Future of Food" from the lab to the paddock to the plate.
Camera IconLara Ladyman, of Katanning, has been awarded a CBH-supported Nuffield Australian Scholarship to explore the "Future of Food" from the lab to the paddock to the plate. Credit: Countryman

Katanning farmer and former Countryman editor Lara Ladyman is one of three West Australians awarded a coveted Nuffield Scholarship.

Announced at the National Nuffield Conference last week in Adelaide, Ms Ladyman joins cucumber and tomato producer Bao Duy Nguyen, of Walkaway, and grain grower Katrina Sasse, from Morawa.

The three scholars will study their chosen topics and travel extensively around the world throughout next year.

Ms Ladyman will investigate the “future of food”, from the lab to the paddock to the plate, which she says is about the technologies or drivers of change that will shape how, and what, we will be farming and eating in the future.

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Sponsored by the CBH Group, she will investigate the dramatic changes that are expected to occur throughout the food production chain over the next two decades, and what that will mean for farmers in an increasingly digital world.

“Already there are sensors, satellites, robots and other devices which will increasingly amass data from every farm operation — each plant and animal and likewise across the supply chain,” she said.

“We need to think about the questions and opportunities around ownership of the data.

“It is also vital Australia’s rural-based businesses can access mobile communication and internet capabilities which enable them to capitalise on the possibilities this data creates.

“If we know what lies ahead, we can be at the forefront of change and not be left by the wayside of future technologies, consumer trends or government mandates.”

Supported by Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited, Mr Nguyen will investigate the field of protective cropping in horticulture in low-tech greenhouses.

He will weigh up options for a cost-effective transition to hydroponics in older, low-tech greenhouses or if it is better to invest in high-tech greenhouses.

“I want to find instruments that will help farmers transition into growing successful alternative crops in their low-tech greenhouses,” he said.

“This will keep cucumber prices competitive as well as diversifying into other crops to lower the risk of the cucumber industry price drop.

“I want to find practical and efficient ways for farmers to apply a scientific approach to growing their crops.

“This will allow for quicker learning curves in growing different crops, and help diversify their crops and making their businesses more efficient and sustainable.”

Morawa grain grower Katrina Sasse, who has been supported by GRDC, will research “the way forward for daughters” and investigate strategies to encourage young women, particularly farmers’ daughters, to play an integral role in the continuity of family farm businesses.

Ms Sasse’s research will highlight issues such as female alienation from farm succession, disinheritance and entrenched patriarchal challenges in agriculture.

“Patriarchal inheritance of Australian farms is a factor contributing to population decline, the failure of small community clubs and groups, as well as a rising trend in single, male farmers,” she said.

“Too often, daughters of farmers are simply encouraged to find alternative careers.”

Ms Sasse plans to demonstrate best practices and tactics in succession planning employed around the world where daughters are included as successors, and to show how women bring new ideas, creativity and leadership styles to the agricultural sector.

“Farmers need to educate their daughters from a young age about the range of possibilities in farming and to consider their strengths when undertaking succession planning,” she said.

WA Nuffield chairman Cameron Tubby said he was pleased there was so much variety within the research topics of the WA scholars.

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