Nuffield 2008 Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC)

Innovative young farmers from around the world gathered in Melbourne in February 2008 to discuss the capacity of agriculture to meet the global demand for food over the next 10 to 20 years. Starting in Melbourne on Sunday February 24, the CSC included three days of visits to Victorian farming operations in the Mornington Peninsula, South Gippsland, central Victoria and the Goulburn Valley.

“Australia has some great initiatives within the Nuffield network, and as a farming destination we are doing a lot of innovative things; we had a lot to offer the visiting scholars,” Mr Jim Geltch (Nuffield Australia CEO) said. “We also secured major sponsorship for the conference from Bayer CropScience, a company that leads international agriculture in research and development.

The Contemporary Scholars Conference then joined the annual Nuffield Australia Autumn Tour and Innovative Farming Australia Conference, in Echuca on Friday February 29, which included returning Australian scholars providing an overview of their travels and research.

The conference gave participants an overview of global agriculture and trade issues, with presentations from successful agricultural business owners and managers.

The objective of the conference was to:

  • Develop and enhance international networks
  • Give participants an overview of global agricultural and trade issues
  • Take the participants out of their comfort zone
  • Present successful businesses and their owner/managers vision
  • Showcase Australian agriculture and industries

The theme of the week was:

Has agriculture the capacity to meet societies’ demand for food over the next 10-20 years?

This conundrum was posed at the outset on the Sunday morning during the introduction period. Also outlined were the many impediments to achieving that outcome, eg:

  • The oil crisis and its impact on agriculture, manifesting in sharply increased cost of inputs and an increased demand for agriculture to produce energy.
  • Climate change and the constraints placed on agriculture as a result of political pressure.
  • Availability of human capital to manage any upside in agriculture.
  • Therefore, it can be answered that agriculture will not have the capacity to meet food demands over the next 10-20 years. However, because of these significant constraints, the supreme irony is that huge opportunities will be created for individual primary producers because of these very impediments.

An attempt was made to address these issues and discuss how constraints are impacting on agriculture as well as how individual businesses are capitalising on opportunities. At the end of the week Phil O'Callaghan (O’Callaghan Rural Management) outlined issues that primary producers will need to address to capture the opportunities flowing to agriculture:

  • Setting business structures for the future?
  • How to improve your resource efficiency?
  • What are the KPIs for agriculture?

The following people also made presentations as part of the 2008 CSC:

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