Plenty of food for thought

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Esperance farmer Belinda Lay.
Camera IconEsperance farmer Belinda Lay. Credit: Danielle Halford Photography

Esperance farmer Belinda Lay has returned from the first Australian Meat Business Women networking event feeling inspired after meeting authentic and passionate people from around the nation.

The one-day conference was coordinated by UK women’s advocacy networking group Meat Business Women, in partnership with the Australian Meat Industry Council, after the pair signed a partnership in January.

It was the first time the conference had been held in Australia, with the Melbourne event bringing more than 200 women together from across the Australian meat supply chain.

Mrs Lay farms with her husband Deon, and Deon’s son Joshua.

She said she attended the event to network with like-minded people.

“I was one of a handful of farmers, with good representation from sectors including processing, wholesale, retailers and small-goods manufacturers, to help future-proof the meat industry,” she said.

“Industry collaboration will bring the best people to the table.”

During the conference, guests listened to female processors, wholesalers, retailers and smallgoods manufacturers, industry figures and motivational speakers.

There was a focus on attracting more women into the $22 billion Australian meat sector, which supports 150,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Mrs Lay said the conference presented a rare opportunity to interact with women working across the supply chain.

A recent recipient of a $10,000 bursary from her win in the WA AgriFutures Rural Women’s award, Mrs Lay was recognised for her sheep-monitoring project.

As well as the AgriFutures bursary, she was awarded a Sheep Producers Australia scholarship to attend the April 3 conference.

“In February, I imported 100 sheep collars that GPS track and monitor temperature of sheep in real time using my mobile phone,” she said.

“Following the award, I came across an expression of interest to attend the Melbourne event through my network, in which I was awarded a Sheep Producers Australia scholarship to attend.”

Mrs Lay said she looked at farming holistically and was proud of her ability to see things differently.

“I am curious about the benefits of technology and how it can be implemented in a way that reduces on-farm losses, while improving animal welfare standards,” she said.

“As the power of my network increases, I am eager to connect and communicate with other women in the supply chain to broaden my knowledge and perspective.”

Meat Business Women network is well established in the UK, and recently started in New Zealand and Australia.

Mrs Lay said a MBW website was created while a scheduled gathering of women will take place in Brisbane on October 9.

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