Applications for Nuffield Scholarships now open

By Gabrielle Stannus

Members of the greenlife industry are encouraged to apply for the 2021 Nuffield Scholarships. These scholarships provide a chance of a lifetime opportunity that can benefit careers, industry and business, as well as advancing personal development.

For over seventy years, Nuffield Australia have awarded primary producers with a scholarship to travel overseas and study an agricultural topic of their choice. The objective of these scholarships is to increase practical farming knowledge and management skills and techniques generally. Successful applicants are given the opportunity to study farming practices in New Zealand, Europe, Asia and the Americas and other countries.

Current GIA Director and former NGIA President Karen Brock is a proud Nuffield Scholar from 2014 whose experience is summarised in this article . Karen’s research focused on reducing the assessment time of soft berry fruit by developing a technique for datamarking of genetic points in the plant. You can read more about her research here .

Digitalisation of agriculture
Andrew Slade, 2018 Nuffield Scholar, has a mixed broadacre enterprise in West Kendenup in Western Australia, running sheep and beef and cropping canola, wheat and barley.

Through his Nuffield Scholarship, Andrew travelled to the United States, England, Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand, visiting leading producers, growers and institutes along the way. Initially keen to explore precision management of his livestock, Andrew became interested in understanding other opportunities that digital agriculture could provide to his business. “There is a lot of hype around agtech and digital agriculture and the benefits that it is going to bring, e.g. productivity gains,” says Andrew, “However, the introduction of these new technologies really needs to be targeted as specific solutions.”

Andrew now firmly believes that digital agriculture may reward him and other primary producers for ensuring transparency of their supply chain, especially as the market becomes more environmentally concerned. However, he also learnt that this type of technology can benefit producers and growers in other ways. Information about preferences can flow from the customer back to the producer. What are consumers purchasing? What sort of production techniques are they willing to pay more for or not? This is rich data for any business seeking to reduce its costs and operate more efficiently.

How to ‘grow’ family businesses
Catherine Velisha is a 2020 Nuffield Scholar supported by Hort Innovation. Catherine took ownership of her family’s 153-hectare integrated horticulture business three years ago, comprising three properties at Tatura, Caldermeade and Werribee South. Across these farms, she grows, supplies and markets cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, spring onions, kale and a variety of herbs into both wholesale markets and supermarkets.

Catherine is using her scholarship to undertake research into how horticultural family businesses can build and harness the skills they need to be competitive in the marketplace. Rather than looking to larger businesses for inspiration, Catherine is turning her attention to similarly sized enterprises, believing that bigger is not always better.

“We are not all huge businesses, but we are good businesses. What ‘makes’ a business? What strengths does a smaller, more family driven model possess?” Catherine asks, “Traveling overseas, I want to see how other people have used their strengths to thrive and grow, instead of focussing on what they need to change.”

Personal growth and professional development
“Travelling with a group of people overseas, you also learn a lot about yourself. Some people come out quite changed,” says Andrew of the Nuffield experience.

Andrew remains in contact with fellow Nuffield Scholars from across the world: “They are a good source for me to bounce ideas off; to talk to about issues relating to my business.”

“We have that ability to open doors for people when they are going overseas, both in the individual portions of their study, and also in the group setting,” says Jodie Redcliffe, CEO of Nuffield Australia and 2013 Nuffield Scholar of the program.

“Our scholars very much become part of a quite active alumni,” Jodie adds, “They develop very strong and valuable relationships with other Nuffield Scholars.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, some changes have been made to Nuffield Australia’s program next year. “Our scholars will be able to travel, although we may have to give extensions if required” says Jodie. She says that the compulsory group travel will be deferred until June, with scholarship recipients travelling for four weeks instead of the usual six.

Who can apply?
The Nuffield Scholarships are now open to men and women, who are between 28-45 years of age engaged in farming, horticulture, fishing or associated industries; and intending to remain involved in food and fibre industries in Australia.

“Up until now, we have always focused on those applicants earning most of their income from primary production,” says Jodie, “However, we have recently broadened our criteria with the aim of attracting applicants from the supply chain and agronomy.”

With nurseries playing a pivotal role in production horticulture, and therefore the supply of fruit, vegetables and nuts in Australia, Jodie highly encourages applicants from the greenlife industry.

How to apply
There are more than twenty scholarships on offer in 2021, each valued at $30,000.

For more information on the type of scholarships available and how to apply, visit the Nuffield Australia website.

NB. Applications close on Friday 11 September 2020.

Further reading
Andrew Slade’s final report to Nuffield Australia: ‘Digital Agriculture: Farming in the Digital Age’: