Mingenew and Goomalling growers and Carnarvon pastoralist win prestigious 2023 Nuffield Scholarships

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
WA's 2023 Nuffield Scholars Daniel Dempster, Rebecca Kelly and Alys McKeough.
Camera IconWA's 2023 Nuffield Scholars Daniel Dempster, Rebecca Kelly and Alys McKeough. Credit: Supplied

Three of the brightest minds in WA’s powerhouse agricultural industry have been awarded a prestigious scholarship for their innovative ideas to improve the $11 billion sector.

Mingenew’s Rebecca Kelly, Carnavon’s Alys McKeough and Goomalling’s Daniel Dempster were named 2023 Nuffield Scholars at its annual awards night and conference in NSW on Monday.

The trio were among 19 emerging leaders selected across Australia and will jet set around the country and the world over the next 18 months to study ideas and techniques used elsewhere to drive innovation on home soil.

Nuffield Australia chief executive and 2013 Scholar Jodie Redcliffe said the scholarships enabled producers to learn about farming systems and innovations that could be “game-changers” for Australian agriculture.

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“Nuffield Australia opens the world up for people in agriculture who are brave enough to be out of their comfort zone,” she said.

“A global perspective enables them to learn, be competitive and grow.”

The awards night made history by awarding the scholarship to more women than men for the first time since Nuffield was formed 75 years ago.

WA’s three recipients of the scholarship — which comes with a $30,000 bursary for travel and research — will tackle a range of issues impacting WA’s cropping and livestock sectors.

Mingenew farmer Bec Kelly during seeding.
Camera IconMingenew farmer Bec Kelly during seeding. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

Mingenew farmer Ms Kelly — supported by CBH Group — will travel to the US, Canada and Germany to cultivate global networks and knowledge to help her develop resources to support farmers in seismic and energy negotiations, predominantly with resource companies.

It comes after the young grain grower helped her family and others in the Mid West grain growing community to successfully negotiate a deal for some of their best cropping land.

“Companies within the mining or energy sector often have significant resources and expertise to guide their negotiations, which is often not matched nor available to farmers and small business owners,” Ms Kelly said.

“The lack of resources I found on how to handle negotiations has left me with a desire to research the intersection between agriculture, mining and energy companies to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for farmers.”

Alys McKeough on her cattle station in Upper Gascoyne Shire.
Camera IconAlys McKeough on her cattle station in Upper Gascoyne Shire. Credit: Alys McKeough/Supplied

In the Gascoyne, Carnarvon’s Ms McKeough — who runs Carey Downs Station with her husband Harry — will explore emerging technology to improve property-wide connectivity.

The pastoralist — who is also a registered nurse and Upper Gascoyne Shire councillor — is hoping to use her research to boost efficiency and productivity in the pastoral industry, along with improving rangeland condition, supported by Meat & Livestock Australia.

In the Wheatbelt, Goomalling’s Mr Dempster — supported by Grains Research and Development Corporation — will explore the economic implications of adopting farming practices focused on total soil cover, minimal soil disturbance, high plant species diversity and livestock incorporation.

Goomalling farmer Daniel Dempster and WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
Camera IconGoomalling farmer Daniel Dempster and WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

The grain grower has a long history exploring soil research, with he and his brother Robert in 2014 holding a three-year project to map soil constraints across their farm using radiometric and electromagnetic surveying to a depth of 1.5m.

CBH chief external relations officer David Paton said the partnership with Nuffield Australia enabled the co-operative to support WA grain growers to expand their knowledge and networks and bring their expertise back to regional communities.

Ms Redcliffe said they were “so excited” by this year’s cohort, which included recipients from every State and Territory across a wide range of industries.

“All our scholars are tackling topics that are important to the sustainability of the industry they love — whether that’s by optimising productivity, meeting market requirements, enhancing biosecurity, reducing chemical inputs, adapting to climate change or improving animal welfare,” she said.

Nuffield WA chairman Andrew Slade said the scholarships were “an amazing opportunity” and they looked forward to the “fresh perspectives and new ideas” the recipients would bring back to the industry.

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