Dr Steph says the path of research is not an easy one to walk but it is paved with passion.

Art4Agriculture has partnered with the dynamic Steph Coombes to contribute content to her phenomenal resource Ausagventures for all things YouthInAg and those thinking about venturing into the exciting world of a career in Agriculture.

Each month along with 10 agricultural youth groups and organisations we will be writing a blog exclusively for Ausagventures. You can find their profiles below and scroll down to read their blogs and to see what #ausagventures they have been getting up to around the country and how you can join in here.

In our first three blog we are going to feature our three Young Farming Champions who are currently daring to conduct very different and innovative research as part of their PhD thesis.

‘Whoever said a career in agriculture was all mud and flies obviously had no idea what they were talking about’ 

Steph Fowler and fellow Young Farming Champions

Our guest blogger today is Steph Fowler in the middle with fellow young farming champions

First up we have Dr Steph ( in waiting) Fowler who is currently sitting in one the troughs in the roller coaster ride that is the journey to a PhD and a scientific legacy in the world of agriculture R&D 


Dr Steph with her beloved carcasses

The path of research is not an easy one to walk but it is paved with passion.

My current research project is looking at objectively measuring meat quality. I am working towards being able to identify which lamb carcases will eat well and those that won’t. I am using a laser technology called the Raman spectroscopic hand held probe because it’s rapid, quantitative and non-destructive. Developing this technology for use commercially is a huge benefit to industry because you can measure the actual piece of meat that people are going to eat without destroying it and lamb producers can be paid for the quality of meat they are producing not just the weight.

Cowra meat team_David Hopkins_Matt Kerr_Tracy Lamb_Heinar Schmidt_Stephanie Fowler3

The fantastic team at DPI at Cowra (Matt Kerr, Tracy Lamb, David (my supervisor) and Heinar (the probe’s inventor).

Over the last month I have been working on trials that take the prototype probe into lamb processing plants to figure out whether we can use it to determine how tender the meat will be early on in processing. While the work is exciting and new because there’s only two of these probes in the world (one here with me for a few months and another in Germany at the institute in Bayreuth where they are made), the work can be frustrating and deflating because every so often we come across a challenge we can’t see how to solve when we need to so we can continue working. Sometimes it’s something small like an electricity supply adapter that shorts out and then causes a bigger issue or an electric plug that’s lost a wire and sometimes it’s something a bit bigger like the equipment we need not liking the cold chillers. Because I work in smaller rural towns often these problems end in me driving somewhere to get a part or find someone who can help me. Makes for some long days when you start at 5am to be ready for the first carcases to come down to pack up, drive 2 hours, find the people or the part, and get in the car and drive back to be ready to start at 5am the next day. Add onto that some tough working conditions and you have yourself a somewhat difficult working week.


Me in the lab

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ken Jr. Keyes said “to be upset over what you don’t have is to waste what do you do have”. With a little love, help, and support from those I work with at the plant, at DPI, at uni and in my own team, the industry as a whole, and the towns and communities I work in as well as my friends and fellow PhD-ers near and far I have been able to salvage my trial and continue. Sometimes it’s been the technical help, sometimes it’s having the part in stock or knowing who does, sometimes it’s helping me make a decision or cooking a home cooked meal or offering me a bed but mostly it’s just being there, and listening and trying to understand.

Research is a rollercoaster ride the ups and downs can come minutes apart and sometimes 20 seconds can change everything. Because each project is unique it can be isolating. We each face issues and challenges that are also unique and that can feel isolating. Relationships with friends, family and significant others don’t always get off the PhD rollercoaster in the same condition that they got on either and that can feel isolating too. Combine that with the stresses of just getting ourselves through the ups and downs and that’s why I value and truly appreciate the phenomenal backing I have received over the last 2 years. I wouldn’t be still standing without it and without being reminded that it is always there.

The backing of the industry and the communities I work in, the people I work with and those who believe in me and my work inspire my passion. They keep me striving at what I do to help move the industry forward. For that I am truly grateful.


Me and my Italian friends Gianluca and Marco. Gianluca has become one of my biggest cheerleaders ever both professionally and personally.

But no mistaking there have been plenty of highlights in my journey including last year being  awarded a travel grant to attend the graduate program at the 59th International Conference of Meat Science and Technology in Turkey, where I presented two papers; I  was selected as a Crawford Scholar, and elected to the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Youth Group. I also have lifelong memories from my opportunity as a Young Farming Champion  to share my journey in agriculture with four NSW schools as part of their journey to win the 2013 Archibull Prize.  Recently I my manuscript was selected for the Journal of Meat Science

For those who love the science here are all the details you need to read my paper

Predicting tenderness of fresh ovine semimembranosus using Raman spectroscopy
Stephanie M. Fowler, Heinar Schmidt, Remy van de Ven, Peter Wynn,
David L. Hopkins
PII: S0309-1740(14)00064-3
DOI: doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2014.02.018
Reference: MESC 6378
To appear in: Meat Science
URL Link http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174014000643

You can read Steph’s blog she wrote for her YFC application process here

Follow Steph on twitter @steph_bourke

How does one become a butterfly

Look out world here come the YFC


Bronwyn Roberts

Beef YFC Bronwyn Roberts named QLD Red Meat Industry Emerging Leader

It’s been a big month for our Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions (YFC) who have started going into schools in three states as part of the 2013 Archibull Prize

Three of the team also have some very exciting news to share with you

Just 24 hours ago the best in the business of the Queensland red meat industry where recognised at the State’s premier industry gala awards in Brisbane last night.

The Queensland Red Meat Awards, hosted by peak advocacy group AgForce, celebrate the innovators in the industry, showcasing all aspects from paddock to plate.

The awards highlight excellence from the producer level right through to recognising the retailers and restaurants across the State the serve the best red meat on offer.

How excited were the Art4Agriculture team when Beef YFC Bronwyn Roberts was named Red Meat Industry Emerging Leader

AgForce general president Ian Burnett said the 2013 winners were testament to the industry’s progressive and innovative outlook, providing a benchmark to which all producers and retailers could strive for.

“The professionalism and innovation in this year’s award winners are instrumental in raising the profile of Queensland beef and sheep meat in Australia,” Mr Burnett said.

“The awards recognise every vital aspect of the supply and retail chain, ultimately resulting in a much higher quality product for our end consumer.”

Red Meat Industry Emerging Leader – Sponsored by Rabobank: Bronwyn Roberts

Working side-by-side with her parents as a fifth generation beef farmer, Ms Roberts is passionate about implementing best practices to produce economically, environmentally and socially sustainable beef. She also works as the Grazing Land Management Officer with the Fitzroy Basin Association. Rotational grazing is utilized to promote healthy land, clean waterways, pasture growth, and biodiversity. Ms Roberts also uses modern technology such as iPhone apps to record stock movements, production and veterinary treatments. Beyond the farm gate, Ms Roberts embraces social media to help spread the word about agriculture through Facebook, Twitter, blogging and Instagram. She also actively contributes to policy and education resources by acting as a MLA Target 100 Beef Young Farming Champion. In this capacity, she has represented MLA at events such as the Sydney Festival and the recent Regional Flavours festival in Southbank. She’s written numerous articles which have been featured in various magazines, been a keynote speaker at events such as the prestigious Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership Program and Australian Beef Industry Foundation awards dinner. Miss Roberts is also an active Art4Agriculture advocate being featured in YouTube videos empowering students and teachers to explore the beef industry.

Just one month earlier Wool YFC Jo Newton was part of a team of 11 young entrepreneurs from the University of New England (UNE) who took out the prestigious Enactus Australia Championships on Friday 5 July. Enactus is a global organisation, which brings student, academic and business leaders together to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.

UNE Enactus Champions

Jo Newton (centre left)  with the University of New England (UNE) team who took out the prestigious Enactus Australia Championships on Friday 5 July

Each team in the Enactus competition must develop, manage and report on outreach initiatives that address areas of human need. Teams must approach these projects as sustainable business enterprises, working to maximise returns to targeted beneficiaries.

Jo headed up the team that showcased the Farming Futures project which links the many companies crying out for quality graduates from agricultural courses to the talent they’re after.

“Demand for graduates outstrips supply in the sector by a factor of four to one, yet 30 per cent of recent graduates aren’t employed. Through an agricultural career’s fair and an industry dinner, we’ve showcased the many professions on offer in agriculture and helped match graduates with leading employers,

I feel very privileged to be a part of that group of students striving to make real positive changes in our community. As a team we are tackling real issues in our community, that translate into national issues. To have the opportunity to take these issues to an international stage will be fantastic in generating further awareness for our projects. I have to pinch myself when I think of the fact that in 2 months I will be part of a team representing Australia, competing against 37 other countries in Mexico. I never dreamed agriculture could take me so far” said Jo


Jo and the UNE team will now proceed to the World Cup to be held in Cancan, Mexico – 29 September to 2 October 2013.

And this great news from ‘Dr Steph’ Fowler who is off to Turkey to present two papers at the International Conference of Meat Science and Technology (Icons).

Steph Fowler

This is what Steph had to say about the opportunity

As there is so few meat scientists amongst us it is really an exciting (and yet totally scary) prospect to be selected to present two papers at the International Conference of Meat Science and Technology (Icons). Looking at the program of those I am presenting alongside gives me a bizarre feeling because  it’s the same as reading my reference library, there are names I have been continually referencing since I really began in Meat Science nearly four years ago. It hasn’t really sunk in that they are my colleagues and I am in the same league as them now because I still see myself as the little undergrad student I was when I started, using and refuting their ideas as evidence of my own thoughts and data throughout most of my major assignments.

It’s mind boggling and even more so the fact I have been given a travel grant to help me attend the conference means I have been recognised as someone who is seen to be contributing to the meat science field and who would benefit from attending the conference and grad program. It’s a huge jump from writing assignments that go to a professor, get marked and come back to you to contributing to a whole field of knowledge. Of course getting two papers into the conference is just the start, there is so much to do between now and when I go…full papers to write to be published, conference posters to organise, presentations to put together and practice, samples to set to take to Monash when I get back, data to organise to take to our collaborators in Germany after the conference plus organising my own holiday for when I am released in Europe that I  have barely stopped to think about the full significance of my first papers being accepted. For me the real achievement will come when I am on a plane bound for Izmir Turkey and until then I will keep talking about it trying to convince myself that it’s actually real and happening.

Congratulations to Bron, Jo and Steph and all our Young Farming Champions – you were all born superstars

Face to Camera

This week all our Young Eco Champions and some of our Young Farming Champions came to the farm for another workshop


The superstar attendees

Once again we hired the stunning Glenn Murcutt  house on the farm and when the 43 degree heat hit we were certainly able to test out how well he had designed the ventilation. We were pretty impressed Glenn

Murcutt House Jamberoo

Wow you don’t see houses like this on your average dairy farm

Murcutt House

Victoria Taylor kicked off the weekend with a session for the team on writing scholarship applications and CV’s and job interview techniques. Our YEC’s and YFC all want to be in positions of influence sooner rather than later and we are determined to help them get there.

YEC_YFC W'shop Pres Jan 13

Heather for example has her eye on Tony Burke’s job and she is off to DAFF to help fast track this. Whilst I don’t think Tony Burke has anything to worry about just yet but a few years down the track I would be surprised if Heather makes her move


Heather (right) being interviewed by Tara

One of the highlights of the weekend was a number of sessions on working in front of the camera

– Camera techniques, skills and spills

– presenter techniques

– interviewee techniques

– unprepared speeches / responses

– writing your own script

– stuff you know – prepared speeches without sounding prepared

We were lucky enough to have our professional videographer Lance on hand to work with NIDA trained director Annie too provide practical applications in front of the camera


Lance checks the lighting

As you know one of the highlights of the Archibull Prize is visiting the schools and meeting the teachers and students. Over the past couple of years we have identified a number of superstar students and we invited two of them to the workshop to interview each of the YFC’s and YEC’s on camera.



Getting up close and personal with the baby calves

Just to you show the talent of the students and one of our team. Tara hams it up with a South Carolina drawl in this interview with Heather who amazingly managed not to crack up. Check it out and remember Tara is only 16 and what’s to be a burns specialist. I don’t know I can see her just maybe taking over from Carrie Bickmore one day

Such talent I so enjoyed my three days with these wonderful young people