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Communications expert and agronomist each win grains industry awards

(left to right) GRDC Southern Panel chair and Victorian grain grower Andrew Russell; AgCommunicators director and recipient of the 2024 GRDC Seed of Light award for the southern region Belinda Cay; GRDC managing director Nigel Hart.
Photo: Sophie Clayton

South Australian agricultural communicator and facilitator Belinda Cay and South Australian agronomist Jana Dixon have each won a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) award.

Presented at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Adelaide this week, Ms Cay was awarded the GRDC Seed of Light and Ms Dixon the GRDC Emerging Leader award.

The GRDC Seed of Light recognises the outstanding contribution, dedication and commitment of individuals to communicating research outcomes to people working in the grains industry.

“Ms Cay is an outstanding advocate for the grains industry, making research and development accessible and relatable to growers through her expert communications – ensuring that growers are engaged and can reap the benefits,” says GRDC Southern Panel chair and Victorian grain grower Mr Andrew Russell on presenting the award.

“Ms Cay’s body of work is outstanding and wide-ranging. From marketing and communication campaigns; exhibition design; and creating student and teacher programs; to delivering workshops in capacity building and training, and running professional development programs, technical workshops, conferences and meetings – she’s done so much for the grains industry and reached so many people.

“GRDC is grateful for her contribution, and we are delighted to award her the GRDC Seed of Light award for the southern region in 2024.”

Ms Cay is the director of Ag Communicators, which also supports GRDC through its communications services. She has worked on a number of GRDC investments directly including GRDC’s National Grower Network, the Australian Fungicide Resistance Extensions Network (AFREN) and several soil acidity projects.

In accepting the award, Ms Cay thanked her team at AgCommunicators and her business partner and friend Deanna Lush, as well as her husband and family.

“This award is a recognition of the team at AgCommunicators,” says Ms Cay.

“We have started a business that supports the agricultural industry to tell its story, promote its research, engage students and teachers, and to help the community understand how great we are at producing sustainable food.

“Communicating science and research on behalf of the grains industry is a privilege – the work done to improve crop yield and productivity is outstanding and benefits the whole value chain.

“We’re lucky to have such excellent scientists in Australia who need their work communicated and I'm always happy to help.”

"Thank you sincerely to the GRDC for the award, and the opportunity to work with you over the past years. It has been a truly great experience."

Also presented with an award at the Adelaide Grains Research Update was Pinion Advisory agribusiness consultant Jana Dixon. Ms Dixon was given the 2024 Emerging Leader award for the southern region.

Image of Jana Dixon and Ruth Sommerville presenting the Emerging Leaders award.

Jana Dixon, agribusiness consultant with Pinion Advisory and recipient of the 2024 GRDC Emerging Leader award for the southern region (left) and GRDC Southern Panel member and South Australian grain grower Ruth Sommerville (right). Photo: Sophie Clayton

The Emerging Leader award recognises the commitment of a professional with less than 10 years’ experience working in the grains industry who has contributed to the future of the industry and is emerging as a leader in their field of endeavour.

Ms Dixon was presented the award by GRDC Southern Panel member and South Australian agro-ecologist and grower Ruth Sommerville.

As a graduate consultant Ms Dixon investigated sustainable weed control practices and helped deliver the GRDC Weedsmart initiative which led her to play a key role in organising the National WeedSmart Conference in South Australia in 2020.

“Jana has emerged as a shining light among the highly regarded agronomic advisers servicing South Australian grain growers, demonstrating professionalism and enthusiasm in everything she does,” says Ms Sommerville.

“GRDC has been very happy to have welcomed Ms Dixon as a presenter at GRDC Farm Business Updates and as a guest on the GRDC podcast, both of which have demonstrated her skill and commitment to communicating to growers.

“Ms Dixon’s work in the benchmarking and on-farm management succession services she delivers are of great importance to the grains industry. Growers have a lot to gain from understanding these topics and Ms Dixon is playing an important role to assist them.”

Ms Dixon primarily delivers technical advice to broadacre cropping clients in the Mid-North and Lower North regions of South Australia.

Ms Dixon acknowledged all the leaders who came before her and who had helped her develop her career. This included her colleagues at Pinion Advisory who she credits with sharing valuable life and technical skills. And Ms Cay who inspired her into a career in agriculture after meeting her at a science forum while in Year 12.

“I’m lucky to be working as an agronomy consultant and I love what I do,” says Ms Dixon.

Listen to Ms Dixon on the GRDC Podcast episode 10 years of WeedSmart and the Big 6 (19 Jul 2023) and read about her insights into integrated weed management in the  GroundCover article Smart thinking needed to mop up annual ryegrass blowouts (13 Apr 2023).

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