A passion for innovation and data-driven farming has earned grain grower Brad Egan the title of 2022 Australian Young Farmer of the Year. Mr Egan claimed the prestigious gong this week at the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, where he also won the Award for Excellence in Innovation. With his parents, Mr Egan operates a broadacre cropping enterprise at Scaddan, about 60km north-east of Esperance. He said his passion for precision agriculture led him to introduce a range of data analysis tools and science into the farm’s management toolkit. “Since returning to the farm, I’ve had a large part in implementing innovative farm management practices into the business,” Mr Egan said. “I manage the AGDATA (farm management software) on farm, which helps to better characterise soils, understand production constraints, and gain valuable insight into the farm’s financial position. “Understanding how data and digitised farm records can support the business is definitely beneficial, and is helping us across every area of the farm — from identifying farm performance, analysing the results of on-farm trials, through to implementing a diverse cropping rotation.” The awards, first held in 2015, are organised by Kondinin Group and ABC Rural with support from various sponsors. Recipients were due to receive their awards at a ceremony at Canberra’s Parliament House on September 8. Kondinin Group general manager of research Ben White said Mr Egan’s analytical skills and agronomy work indicated a “very bright” future ahead. “Brad has clearly shown how you can introduce data-driven programs and decision-making tools to support a productive farm,” he said. “His enthusiasm to share that knowledge with his peers also makes him a stand-out award winner.” Mr Egan has spoken at various field days, farm visits and industry events, and is vice-chair of the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association’s Youth in Ag sub-committee. His family are also supporting local businesses, including supplying raw grain to Esperance-based Lucky Bay Brewing. Ben Gursansky, head of rural and regional affairs at Telstra, which sponsors the Excellence in Innovation Award, said Mr Egan’s approach to farming was “inspiring”. “Brad is forging a path for himself which takes advantage of the innovations and technology available, while working in synergy with the knowledge and hands-on practices passed down to him from his family,” Dr Gursansky said. “His willingness to get involved, support other growers and share what he has learnt, and adopt new development in data-driven farming, is admirable. Manjimup farmer Jake Ryan — who was a Young Farmer of the Year finalist — won the Award for Excellence in Diversification. Mr Ryan manages an intensive program on his family farm, including the production of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale, sheep and cows, and chickens for pasture-raised eggs. “I am passionate about regenerative agriculture and have adopted many innovative strategies to help the farm develop into a more sustainable operation,” Mr Ryan said. Mr Ryan has been credited as an early adopter of strip tillage in WA, and of diverse pasture species mixes, developing effective perennial and annual mixes from his trials. “I have hosted a cover crop and strip tillage trial through Horticulture Innovation Australia, helping to share the benefits we are seeing from our strip tillage,” he said. “I use it and cover cropping in the vegetable production to improve nutrient cycling and soil structure.” In pasture rotations, Mr Ryan uses a diverse mix of six to eight pastures for both annuals and perennials. All legumes are inoculated at seeding and paddocks rotationally grazed, with Mr Ryan only taking 50 per cent of the biomass in any one graze. His nutritional plan for the farm includes trace elements tested in small plots for a response, and biological stimulants such as humic and fulvic acid, kelp and fish hydrolysate. Mr Egan and Mr Ryan are among nine West Australians to have been recognised at the awards, including Dampier Peninsula pearl farmer James Brown, who was named 2020-21 Australian Farmer of the Year.