Meet Ryan McParland who has discovered PEOPLE are the biggest challenge for changemakers

Earlier this week our wonderful journalist profiled our newest Young Farming Champion, Ryan McParland. That post has provide to be one of our most popular ever


Today Ryan shares his personal story ……………

Troy, Shaun, DIanne and Ryan McParland 

I grew up on a small dairy farm near Jamberoo, which turned into a commercial beef cattle enterprise as my parents left the dairy sector due to economic pressures of deregulation and urban encroachment in the early 2000s.

My entire family has been involved in the agricultural show movement for many generations and I had exposure to showing cattle and helping at our local Albion Park show from a very young age. My parents were also heavily involved in the local Rural Youth /Junior Farmers clubs, which ceased operation around 2006. In 2007, to keep me connected to the show movement, they bought me a trio of Rhode Island Reds, which led me to joining the Dapto Poultry Club. With the support of many mentors I have learnt about breeding and showing poultry and progressed through the young judges’ competitions. I am now president of the club.

“Four generations of our family have showed, so you can definitely say it is in my blood,”

I also shared the family passion for showing farm produce, which led to judging appointments. In 2016 I won the NSW Poultry Judging Championship and the NSW Fruit and Vegetable Judging Competition in the space of three days. I have a love of learning and judging and sharing this knowledge with others.

In 2013 I started a cadetship as a mechanical engineer with BlueScope Steel, studying at University of Wollongong. In that first year of employment I realised how important my agricultural and show background, as well as volunteer exposure, were to my engineering work ethic and success.

Conversely my work with the steelworks assists the show movement and the connection between agriculture and industry and with BlueScope’s support and sponsorship I kicked off the Illawarra Young Farmers Challenge in 2014, which has now run in some capacity for nine years.

In 2017, through my work, I took a 12-month study exchange to the University of Colorado, an experience rewarding for my studies and my own development – before I left I probably was considered still a young country boy, with not many road skills. Things have certainly changed!

While in America I attended State Fairs, Poultry and Cattle Shows and learnt about 4H and Young Farmer Programs. This inspired me, on my return home in 2018, to start a youth group of similar minded people who had an interest in agriculture and, in particular showing, and to see if we could resurrect a youth in ag group and keep the show movement alive.

We started the Albion Park Show Youth Group, which quickly expanded to include people from all over the south coast and in 2020 formed “The Ag Group – South Coast & Tablelands” covers show societies bounded by Milton to the south, Moss Vale to the west and Camden to the north.

Oh, boy – what a time to start a new movement – a combination of COVID and extreme weather events resulted in most shows being cancelled for three years.

But our journey has taken us from strength to strength with a lot of challenges and a lot of doubters and I have realised the biggest challenge can be managing people. I have been able to identify the challenges of engaging and motivating youth volunteers for the agricultural show movement and with this knowledge I have confidence we can bolster volunteer numbers in all agricultural shows.

My leadership journey has taught me I too need to role model best practice

I recently chaired a meeting where I had to stop myself from blocking an idea from a new member. I regained my thoughts and was able to channel their energy and direct their idea into something that they can own and still meet the club’s requirements. We have to remind ourselves someone fresh on a committee is not going to know the history of the club/society, pre-context, what has been tried before, etc., BUT they can offer a fresh perspective, enthusiasm and energy. As a snr or experienced person in a committee, you have to take it on yourself  to guide, to use open ended questions, explain the past, and self-reflect to make sure the reason you may disagree is in the club best interest not your own.


My motivation for continuing this work is to promote positive perceptions of the rural sector and of rural volunteering and to learn to work with and influence others for the benefit of all.

Meet Morgan Bell our first international Young Farming Champion supporting farmers to have economically and environmentally sound business models

Exciting news. Action4Agriculture has our first international Young Farming Champion. Today we share with you Morgan Bell’s story. Morgan works for Corteva Agriscience in their New Zealand team where she is their Western North Island Territory Manager.


I grew up with little knowledge about the agricultural industry. I grew up in town with my mum working as a travel agent and my dad as a builder. My first introduction into agriculture wasn’t until year 9 at high school, where I started going hunting with a friend. The farm where we hunted on, we would have to help work on during the day. This is when I really fell in love with farming and started to learn more about the industry.

I decided to join our Teen Ag club at school and changed art to gateway where I would get to spend every Monday out working on a farm learning new skills. Our class was really small with only 5 students in it. Mondays were the day I looked forward to the most, I couldn’t get enough of spending time outside and around the animals. I attended an all girls school and by the time I got to year 11 there weren’t enough students interested in taking agriculture to keep the class going, so I did it extramurally.

Every weekend and school holidays I began working on a dairy farm as work experience. I decided to go to Massey University to complete my Bachelor in Agriculture Science. My time at university was easily the best years of my life so far. Getting to meet so many amazing and driven individuals and hear their stories of why they are wanting to go into agriculture and the challenges that they face. Every day we got to learn new things and be given so many opportunities.


University semester breaks I worked on dairy farms, sheep and beef farms and a deer farm. I wanted to experience as many different farming systems as I could. Following university, I started my current role with Corteva Agriscience as a territory sales manager for Western North Island of New Zealand. Three years in and I have learnt so much and had the opportunity to work with so many amazing and inspiration people. Every day there are new opportunities and challenges to keep me on my toes.


One thing I would love to change is for young people to have access to see all the amazing opportunities out there in the primary industries. Especially coming from an urban background, it would be great to be able to showcase the variety of pathways and jobs in our industry. I think it’s important for people to realize they don’t have to be born into agriculture to help make a difference in the future.

Sustainable agriculture and farming are important to New Zealand. I find it very rewarding to be able to support farmers to understand the regulations for chemicals, fertilisers, and product requirements used in agriculture. New Zealanders are very proud to have a world wide reputation for being committed to a economically and environmentally sound business model that allows farmers to work closer with nature.

Interesting fact

Here is a picture of Morgan with some ginormous thistles

Did you know – Weeds aren’t all bad news – they can tell you a lot about your soil too.

For example

Capeweed and Stinging Nettles are signs of nutrient-rich, cultivated soil. If the growth is stunted or leaves are yellow, it would show the soil is lacking in nitrogen.

Thistles, chickweed and purslane also indicate fertility. Source 

#YouthinAg #YouthVoices #CreatingaBetterWorldTogether

Meet Sam O’Rafferty who is using his skills and knowledge to support our farmers to use water wisely

We recently launched the Riverina Local Land Services scholarships to find the latest round of Young Farming Champions. As part of the application process we invite the finalists to share their story. Today we a delighted to introduce you to Sam O’Rafferty who along with Katharine Charles and Kate Webster have been awarded Riverina Local Land Services Scholarship to participate in the two year Cultivate Growing Young Leaders program

Sam has also been awarded the prestigious Murray-Darling Basin Authority River of Life scholarship

This is Sam’s story ….

I grew up on a small mixed farm in the heart of the Riverina on the southern side of Temora. My two brothers and I would spend our weekends working on the farm with Dad, sowing grazing oats, picking up sticks and rocks, building fences and planting trees. From a very young age I was immersed in agriculture and exposed to the highs and lows that the lifestyle has to offer.

I grew up with the Millennium Drought and at its height we carted water for 18 months from town to the farm to replenish the tanks that supplied the house. The value of water was imprinted on me and has stuck with me through the course of my life.

After finishing school in Temora, I started my tertiary education at Charles Sturt University in Wagga. This was a fantastic opportunity to develop an understanding of the science behind agriculture and meet like-minded people entering the industry.

Water continued to play a large role in my life when I worked as an irrigation overseer during my university holidays. During the summer we experienced extreme heat and above average temperatures for the whole season. This dramatically increased the water demand on the crop and tightened the frequency of irrigations. This was an extremely valuable experience as I saw first-hand how challenging it can be to manage seasonality in an irrigated cropping system and how quickly a season can turn against you.

Irrigating during my summer university holidays. Despite what the beautiful sunset mighty depict, we faced many challenges supplying water to the crop in the hottest summer ever recorded in the district.

For the past two years I have been working as an irrigation agronomist in the Murrumbidgee valley where the boom-and-bust nature of agricultural is further amplified. When water is allocated we have the capacity to produce extremely profitable crops; during dry times we have a forced fallow period. Now, the drought had broken and water allocation reached 100% mid-way through the last season. This allowed growers to increase their production and produce some of the highest yielding winter crops on record in the area.

Irrigated Durum crop at Coleambally, in the 2021 harvest many growers achieved yields in excess of 10T/ha but faces extreme challenges in managing harvest logistics due to labour shortages.

During my short career I have seen how important water security and water use efficiency are to irrigation farmers and I see the biggest challenge for my generation is to manage an increasingly variable climate while increasing efficiencies and production to feed a growing global population. My aim is to continually improve water use efficiency and productivity on farm and help producers adapt to the variability in the climate. This will come through a variety of improvements to on farm water delivery systems, plant genetics and improved soil management practices.

Alongside the challenges of climate change, we are currently experiencing some of the worst labour shortages the industry has ever seen, with demand for workers exceeding boots on the ground.

It has been particularly challenging over the past two seasons where we have had two of the best winter cropping seasons, but we haven’t been able to capitalise on the season due to labour short falls.

                                        Cotton Crop ready to be picked.

I am passionate about solving this issue.

Being a Young Farming Champion will build my ability to grow my networks and talk to people everywhere I go to promote the agricultural industry to attract skilled and unskilled labour to fill these gaps in the industry. Agriculture is an extremely rewarding industry to be a part of and I look forward to communicating this message far and wide to attract the best and brightest people; people who will help solve the big challenges in front of us.

#YouthinAg #YouthVoices #CreatingaBetterWorldTogether

Meet Katharine Charles who is stepping up to solve the world’s wicked problems

We recently launched the Riverina Local Land Services scholarships to find latest round of Young Farming Champions. As part of the application process we invite the finalists to share their story. Today we a delighted to introduce you to Katharine Charles who sees working in agriculture as an opportunity to work with others to solve the world’s wicked problems.

I want to prove to the world that you don’t need to have a farming background to make a mark in the agricultural industry; just a strong passion and a hunger to leave this world a better place than you found it. Katharine Charles


This is Katharine’s story …….

When I was introduced to the school farm on my first day of high school, I had no idea how much it was going to change my life. Growing up on the Central Coast, my exposure to the agricultural industry had been very limited, and I barely even knew what the word ‘agriculture’ meant. But as I was given a tour of the school, I stopped to watch the older students parading cattle around the school farm. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I remember thinking, “I really want to be a part of that”. That moment marked the beginning of my deep dive into the agricultural world.

“Showing cattle at the Sydney Royal Easter Show”

From my first agriculture lesson in Year 7, to my last day of schooling in Year 12, I dedicated every spare moment to the school farm. All my school lunch breaks, holidays and weekends were spent either feeding animals, working with the cattle, or doing other farm tasks. The highlight of my school years was attending agricultural shows with the school cattle team. I enjoyed preparing the cattle for showing, competing in judging and parading events, and mentoring the younger students.

 “Showing cattle with the school cattle team at Gosford Show, 2013”

Since leaving high school, I have pursued every opportunity to increase my knowledge and practical experience in the agricultural industry. I spent my gap year working and travelling, in which I volunteered on a dairy farm in Ireland. I then moved to Wagga Wagga to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University (CSU). My willingness to learn pushed me to apply for a student internship position, and I spent my spare time assisting CSU lecturers with their research projects.

During university, I was exposed to what are called ‘wicked issues’. These are complex challenges in which there is little or no agreement on the definition, cause, or solution to a problem. Some examples include climate change, land degradation, loss of biodiversity and feeding our rapidly growing population. As a young person coming into the agricultural industry, these challenges felt insurmountable at first; but I have now realised that the learning journey I have been on means I am perfectly placed to work with others to play a role in addressing these issues, and I am excited to make some real, positive change.

I believe that the new generation of young leaders in the agricultural industry will play an integral role in promoting a more sustainable, robust, and resilient agricultural industry. I want to help empower and encourage other young people in agriculture to share their voice and take action to create a better world. With small, sustained steps even the most complex of agricultural issues can be addressed.

I want to utilise my strong passion for agriculture to drive change and to encourage more young people into the industry. I want to prove to the world that you don’t need to have a farming background to make a mark in the agricultural industry; just a strong passion and a hunger to leave this world a better place than you found it.



Meet Kate Webster who is inspiring the next generation with paddock to plate stories

We recently launched the Riverina Local Land Services scholarships to find the latest round of Young Farming Champions. As part of the application process we invite the finalists to share their story. Today we a delighted to introduce you to Kate Webster who is also writing stories for next gen

                                                                            Kathleen Webster

Sometimes our passions and careers take a direction we never expected. Growing up on a small property outside of Orange NSW, I always had a passion for animals. As a child I would take any opportunity I could to help on the farm and it was during this time that I made the decision I wanted a career with livestock, emphasis on the “live”.

But I never imagined ending up where I have, beyond the farm gate, in the meat processing world.

In 2016 I headed off to university, I was eager for knowledge and gave everything a shot that university threw at me. In my second year of university, I decided to join the Charles Sturt University’s Meat Judging Team. Why? Because it sounded like fun! And little did I know that this carefree decision would change the course of not only the rest of my degree, but my life. The ICMJ competition opened my eyes to a completely different side of Agriculture. I rapidly discovered that production doesn’t end at the farm gate and that there are so many additional processes involved in getting the product from paddock to plate. It was at this time I fell in love with everything meat!

Kate and her meat judging team in 2017

The next few years passed by in a whirlwind as life often does, I went from competing in the CSU meat judging team, to coaching it and then onto coaching the Paskistani national team. I was selected to complete my certificate III and IV in meat safety inspection which led to my first industry job, on the knives in a beef export plant as a meat inspector. I chose any electives I could that were meat related and then I travelled to Texas Tech University for an internship in their meat science department where I completed my honours. But then it stopped! Everything stopped, I handed in my honours dissertation and a week later the nation went into lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was on the knives still working my typical 9 to 5, or more correctly my 6 to 3, and in a rut.

I knew I wanted more in my career but given the state of the nation, drastic career changes weren’t really an option, especially as an inexperienced new grad. So, I realised I had to make an opportunity for myself, and it was at this time I began to write my first children’s book, titled “What is Meat?”.

 Kate and her first children’s book “What is Meat”

I have always had a passion for working with children and in particular children’s education. When I first moved to Wagga Wagga I joined the local show society, in my second year on the committee I proposed the addition of a children’s agricultural education section to the Wagga Wagga show. The section was a success, we developed a farmyard out of ply board where kids could collect plastic eggs, dig for potatoes, and milk a fake cow. We ran cardboard box tractor races and had an extensive, interactive farm tool and equipment display. But it was here that I discovered the disconnect between children and where their food comes from. I started to do some research and the more I looked into it the scarier it got; children genuinely had no idea where their was food coming from! This triggered the initial idea behind my soon to be book series of four, which will follow the production of meat, milk, eggs, and wool from producer to consumer and all the steps in between.

 Kate in her current job, with MINTRAC, at a student career expo

Three years on and my first book is now a reality, I am working with teachers to create activity packs for use in the classroom and my second book is on the way. I also made the career shift I was searching for, into the National Meat Industry Training and Advisory Council. My job now encapsulates two of the things I love most meat production and education with people of all ages.

It is up to us as the new generation to paint agriculture in a positive light and spark the interest we have all found on our own paths into the wider community and in particular drive the generations coming up behind us to seek out their own passions in agriculture.

#YouthinAg #YouthVoices #CreatingaBetterWorldTogether

Meet Danielle Fordham who is proud to be creating a better world through her career in agriculture

It gives up great pleasure to introduce you to our second Hunter Local Land Services Scholarship winner Danielle Fordham. We invited Danielle to share her story with our readers.

We first met Danielle in 2011 when she was part of the team that won The Archibull Prize in 2011.(see footnote). Here she is with the Caroline Chisholm College team at Sydney Royal Easter Show in 2012 telling the stories of agriculture to visitors to the Food Farm 

McLeod’s Daughters, trips to the Sydney Royal Easter Show, High School Agriculture classrooms and  programs and a weeklong country exchange is all it took to give this girl passion for the country. Growing up in Western Sydney was a challenge as I felt more at home covered in mud, surrounded by animals, and watching the sunset over the endless dusty plains; this was the life I dreamed of.

After high school, I wasn’t keen on university, instead, I aimed to go to Ag College, but I had to take a working gap year to afford it, so I did a business traineeship in Parramatta. I knew this skill set would be invaluable in any profession. In 2016, my dream came true, I went to Tocal Agricultural College, located in the Hunter. My two years at the College were life-changing. The extraordinary experience further rooted my passion for agriculture and enabled me to thrive mentally and academically. I got to experience working in sheep, cattle, horse, poultry, cropping, and dairying, as well as learning all the essential tools to the trade.

Giving shearing a go at Tocal

This incredible experience nurtured my self-confidence, and as a result, I achieved the rare accolade of ‘Double Dux’ in the College’s two Ag courses. This paved the foundation for future university studies, but with so many options in Ag to study, I couldn’t choose. So, I spent the following three years working in the agribusiness industry, catering for a range of agribusiness services all over NSW.

This experience connected me to a vast network of industry experts. It provided me with the scope of how things work, and how things are alarmingly not working. It moved a part of me, and I felt my true calling. At Tocal, I was passionate in all agricultural areas, but it wasn’t until my experience in the agribusiness world I realised the need for industry environmental revolution.


There is a significant lack of environmental knowledge and respect. It was common to see reliance on outdated practices, chemical abuse, and exploitation of natural resources. I knew I had to learn more, to broaden my perspective, and jump in to be part of the solution. So, in 2021 I started a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management at the University of Newcastle.

In the Earth Science lab analysing the geological processes

On my first day I felt the instant disconnect when I told people I have an Ag background, I received a lot of questionable looks which emphasised the significant misconceptions people have about agriculture. The environmental world is in turmoil with global issues of climate change, global warming, ocean acidification, food and resource insecurity, habitat destruction, and contamination. These issues threaten all our livelihoods and existence; and this make creating a future we all want to be part of a shared responsibility.  Agriculture is a key industry in combating and controlling these issues with opportunities in technological innovation, sustainable and regenerative practices, environment restoration, carbon capture, rehabilitation integration. The opportunities for agriculture to be part of the solution are endless. To foster these technologies and solutions it is vital to strengthen the connection and relationship between agriculture and science. Having this strong relationship between the two enhances the resilience and vitality of our communities and gives us the invaluable tools to overcome these challenges together. I plan to bridge the gap and promote sustainable agriculture by facilitating awareness, training, and working with practical solutions.

Conversation with a local farmer about invasive weeds and control


 I have felt my calling, we hold our future in our hands, and I am ready to grab it by the horns and steer us into a better world for all.



Danielle was part of the Caroline Chisholm College team that won The Archibull Prize in 2011 with the extraordinary Moobix –

Caroline Chisholm College – The Red Meat industry

Caroline Chisholm College

“Moobix Cube” was designed and created by five different classes (around 100 students) from Caroline Chisholm College. Using the easily recognisable form of a “rubik’s cube” as the base, they create an effective way to showcase the many differing facets of the red meat industry. Whilst a traditional rubik’s cube rotates, this one is composed of a series of smaller cubes on either side of the main cube, which can be pulled out, turned around to a new side and then slotted back into position. Once all of the smaller cubes have been turned around to a new side and replaced, a new picture is then formed.

A total of eleven components of the beef industry as well as “how we can feed Sydney for a day” are represented on this interactive cube. Each section of the cube tells a different side of the beef and food story – from the genetics and selective breeding of cattle and sheep, to byproducts including their medical uses, to the environment (touching on both water security and ideal conditions), to facts and figures, as well as the differing personal experiences that the school has had with the red meat. All combined onto the one cow.



Meet Lachlan White who came in the back to door to a career in agriculture

It gives up great pleasure to introduce you to our first Hunter Local Land Services Scholarship winner Lachlan White. We invited Lachlan to share his story with our readers


When being asked to describe my journey, I was excited as it provides an opportunity to prove that to be a farmer you don’t have to be born into it. Growing up in town with a Mum as a primary school teacher and Dad as an Electrician, I never thought I would become a farmer. As I went through my schooling, a passion grew within me as I was mesmerized by the science behind growing food and fibres by managing plant and animal systems.

I jumped at any opportunity to learn practical skills on farm during my schooling by undertaking work experience on as many farms as possible. I spent my holidays on beef, cotton, sheep and dairy farms trying to find my true passion within the industry.

When I finished school, I had a gap year. I worked full time on a beef breeding farm which ignited a true passion for cattle husbandry and pasture production.

After my Gap year I left to go and study a science and agriculture degree at The University of Sydney. The sudden onslaught of COVID provided me an opportunity to go back to working on farms whilst still studying. This opportunity saw a sudden change from beef farming into Dairy farming, milking 680 cows twice a day whilst studying in between milkings.

I have now taken the next step in my career, I have ventured into managing a beef property. I am grateful for the diversity within different farming industries but have also learnt many transferable skills along the way which has helped me out immensely.

As I reflect on the opportunities I have been provided, one thing that really stands out for me is the willingness for all the farmers whom I have learnt from to pass on their knowledge.


I am sharing my story to show farming is a career that welcomes people from all walks of life, not just kids whose parents were farmers.

And Lachlan has already shown us how committed he is in this recent workshop with Cynthia Mahoney


#CareerswithPurpose #YouthinAg #CreatingaBetterWorldTogether

2021 Young Farming Champions – Introducing Olivia Borden

Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) is excited to be working with new partners this year and we welcome the Northern Territory Farmers Association to the fold. NT Farmers sent the call out for local early-career professionals with a passion to lead and advocate for NT agriculture. Here we’d like to introduce you to Olivia Borden who NT Farmers have selected to participate in the 2021 Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program.

If you can picture a female incarnation of John Williamson’s Mallee Boy crossed with Crocodile Dundee then you may have a notion of the adventurous soul that is Olivia Borden. One can just imagine her barefoot and racing through paddocks on her family’s farm on the Wimmera/ Mallee Border in north-western Victoria. Her family are fifth generation farmers with an intensive piggery, crops of wheat and barley and a contracting business.

“I started working on the farm as soon as I was old enough to lift a bucket, and I went up north to Queensland with my father contract harvesting. It was there I fell in love with large northern properties.” Olivia says

Olivia attended a 12-student primary school before transferring to Donald for the rest of her schooling.

“On the school bus I used to read the country newspapers and I’d flick straight to the job section, reading the station hand advertisements over and over again.”

Post high school she studied at Longerenong Agricultural College.

“The day after I turned 21 I fed the pigs for the last time, packed my ute and headed north. I rang a phone number off the back of a shearing singlet I’d been given and got a job just south of Ivanhoe the very next day. I threw fleeces, crutched sheep, lamb marked and occasionally, when we were down a shearer, got on a stand.  I loved the back country – I still think they are the best sunrises I’ve ever seen – but I was hungry for the real north.”

So to the north she went and landed her first job on the live-cattle export cattle-yards in the Territory.

“I vomited every day chasing cattle through the hot mud, in torrential rain and intense humidity loading road train after road train. Working in 45 degree shearing sheds was nothing compared to the heat and intensity of the export yards.”

From the export yards she moved onto stations,

“Where I found what I had been looking for; living out of a swag and off a fire for months at a time, aboriginal stock crews, buffalo, scrub bulls, helicopters, motorbikes and horses, rocky escarpments and flood fencing and untamed country.”

It wasn’t until Olivia spent wet seasons working in Katherine that she was exposed to the horticultural industry and realised the opportunity to make real agricultural change through agronomy.

“I didn’t think I would be capable of being an agronomist but my bosses believed in me enough to convince me to try. Then they threw me in the car and introduced me to the world of tropical pastures, watermelon and mango growers but it was the developing the northern cotton industry that won my heart over. I found every day incredibly challenging and stimulating I signed on as a trainee agronomist. I haven’t looked back.”

Olivia’s love of the diversity of Australian food and fibre production has seen her experience many of agriculture’s facets, an experience she sees as both a blessing and a curse and she has turned to PYiA to address this.

“It’s taken me a long time to settle into a career and being out bush for a lot of years has set me back in terms of professional development. I am looking to the YFC program to cultivate skills and attributes that will help me go from being an average employee at the risk of getting lost in the business world, to being a humbly confident, supportive agronomist and business woman, who can advocate for NT agriculture, build strong community rapport and encourage other young people to join agriculture and be part of the fast pace of its future development.”

Welcome to the Young Farming Champions family Olivia

#YouthinAg #agronomist #AGSTEMCareers



Wild catch fishing – meet the people who catch the prawns for your plate

One of key learnings from the Young Farming Champions cross agriculture sector network is whilst farmers from different industry sectors are experts in their field, they often know very little about other sectors and are hungry to learn. So you can imagine how excited the team is to have Bryan Van Wyk join us from Austral Fisheries so we can learn about carbon neutral wild catching fishing

Bryan Van Wyk’s office – does it get better than this 

Banana Prawn season is underway and we invited Bryan to share with us what the 2021 season is looking like.

the inside story …….

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The banana prawn season is one of the most wild and exciting commercial fishing seasons the world has to offer. Due to the rapid life cycle and boom-bust nature of prawns, it is one of the few fisheries in Australia that can’t be managed with quotas. This means skippers are able to go and catch as many prawns as they can in the short period which makes for a highly competitive, strategic and actioned packed fishing season. For the past 4-5 months the fishery has been closed to allow a newly spawned generation of banana prawns to have the chance to settle into the rivers, grow and recruit back into the fishing grounds after the wet season rainfall. Prior to the start of the fishing season on April 1st, the fishing grounds are re-populated and large mud boils (banana prawn masses which disturb the sediment on the sea floor to create mud plumes) can be seen from space. When the season commences, airplanes are used to direct vessels to banana prawn mud boils where crews can catch, pack and snap freeze between 5,000 and 10,000kgs of prawns per day (when things are going well).  Once a skipper fills their vessels freezer, the crew are required to unload the catch via a mothership or a nearby port.

The largest and most consistent banana catches are found during the first month of the season. Karumba is a small, remote fishing town situated in the Gulf of Carpentaria and is an attractive unloading point for vessels due to the close proximity to fishing grounds and the availability of fuel, supplies, repairs and product transport logistics. For the past 5 banana prawn seasons I have orchestrated and managed an unload operation in the heart of Karumba while attending to the vast day-to-day operational duties of managing 11 prawn trawlers.  Each year is a challenging and fulfilling journey and this year was no different.

In preparation to this season I put together a workforce of 20 people in Cairns (which was a real challenge with a noticeable shortage in available seasonal workers). After inductions and paperwork were finalised, we made our way to Karumba, set up camp and began training in preparation for our first round of customers. Always being prepared is at the heart of everything I do and worker health and safety is a priority at Austral Fisheries. As a group we practice setting up the unloading gear, stacking boxes and highlight potential safety hazards in our environment along the way.

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This year’s season started off with a bang with most vessels in the fishery filling up in the first week of the season. On the second day of the season there were over 30 banana prawn marks spotted with our plane near Karumba and in the first 10 days we unloaded a total of 380MT which was on par with some of our bigger seasons. This was one of the most exhausting 10 days I have experienced in Karumba. It’s hard to predict how long catches like this would last in a volatile fishery like this but if there is one thing I’ve learnt in this industry it’s that you have to prepare for the worst (or best depending which way you look at it) so I made the call to increase packaging productions, bring in reinforcements and more supplies to keep up with the catches. Sure enough, after making these decisions, catches began to drop rapidly and boats started moving out of the Karumba region. It’s not unusual for catches to suddenly drop like this, but predicting when this occurs is impossible. With a full team of staff, unloaders and engineers, and freezer trucks on standby, we made the call to end the operation for another year.

Goodbyes are never easy, but bringing a workforce together with completely different views and beliefs, watching them work as a team in a challenging environment and then seeing lifelong friendships developed by the end is one of the most rewarding parts of this journey.

Although starting off strong, we are now 3 weeks into this banana prawn season and early predictions are showing an average catch season outcome. There is still potentially more than 7 weeks of fishing to go and things may change as more prawns are found. These prawns will all be sold into the domestic market (supermarkets, restaurants and wholesalers) for Australian’s to enjoy throughout the year.

Check out these amazing banana prawn recipes 

Thanks Bryan, Australians love their prawns and knowing what is involved in catching them and delivering them to our tables gives us more respect for our fishers


Corteva announces agricultural scholarship winners

We are very excited to share with you that Corteva Agriscience has announced Emily May and Veronika Vicic as their scholarship winners to participate in the two-year Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program.

Veronika will join the program in the initial year where she will develop skills to advocate for agriculture while being mentored by a Young Farming Champion.

“ As part of the Young Farming Champions network I will have the opportunity to share my story to a wide audience, have greater impact and enable change. To do this I require confidence and skills to communicate, and the program will give me that. I want to be able to give back to the community by sharing the knowledge and experiences I have had with a younger audience and to encourage and excite the next generation about how food is produced, and the technological and environmental advancements agriculture has made.” Veronika said

Emily has already completed her initial year with the program and is aiming to widen her agricultural horizons and take on a mentoring role for the next generation.

“I am looking forward to increasing my network of like-minded agriculturists and to share the good news stories of agriculture to showcase the opportunities the sector can provide. This program will help me craft these stories and, in doing so, help champion our young people, particularly young women, who will be part of the changing face of Australian agriculture.” Emily said

Read more about Emily here 


In addition to the scholarship winners, Corteva will put two of their own– Connie Mort and Steph Tabone – through the program.

“Corteva is excited to have two of our talented staff members as a part of this impressive program. The training and networking opportunities available will greatly enhance their skills and personal development, setting their professional careers up for the future. As a business we are looking to young agricultural professionals across all industries to help us tailor our solutions to address the challenges that growers, consumers and communities are facing now and how we can ensure progress for generations to come.  The PYiA Cultivate Growing Young Leaders program aligns extremely well with our goals and aspirations.” Dan Dixon, ANZ Marketing Director for Corteva Agriscience said.