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WA grains extension and innovation recognised with GRDC awards

(Left to Right) GRDC Emerging Leader Award winner Robert Harrison, GRDC Western Panel Chair Darrin Lee, Seed of Light Award winner Ross Kingwell and GRDC Chair John Woods.
Photo: GRDC

Two Western Australian grains industry innovators have been recognised for their contributions to the extension of research outcomes, receiving awards at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update – Perth today (February 26).

Professor Ross Kingwell, lead economist at the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC), was awarded the prestigious GRDC Seed of Light award, and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) research scientist Robert Harrison received the GRDC Emerging Leader award.

GRDC western panel chair Darrin Lee says the annual awards celebrated the grains sector’s most committed researchers and innovators.

“The GRDC Seed of Light award recognises excellence in facilitating the adoption of research outcomes, practices or technologies among growers and advisers through effective communication or extension,” Mr Lee says.

“It is a highly acclaimed award, signifying that the recipient is respected by growers and their peers as a trusted grains industry communicator.

“The Emerging Leader award recognises the commitment of a professional with less than 10 years’ experience in the grains industry, who is emerging as an industry leader in their field of endeavour.”

GRDC Seed of Light award – Professor Ross Kingwell

Image of DPIRD research scientist Robert Harrison.Professor Ross Kingwell from AEGIC was awarded the 2024 GRDC Seed of Light award at the Grains Research Updates. Photo: Ross Kingwell

Professor Ross Kingwell is one of Australia’s most highly respected agricultural economists. In addition to leading AEGIC’s economics and business analysis team, Professor Kingwell teaches in the School of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and is chief economic adviser at DPIRD.

Professor Kingwell says it was an honour to be the first agricultural economist in Australia to receive the Seed of Light award.

“Over my decades of interactions with farmers, I’ve seen them embrace many new technologies and techniques and most are now reaping their commercial benefits,” Prof Kingwell says.

“Awards like this are only made possible by the profitability and largess of farmers, and the commitment of organisations like GRDC.

“WA is very well served by having skilled farmers, committed scientists and savvy advisers – that’s a powerful combination of skills that continues to grow the wealth of farmers and the state economy.”

In presenting the Seed of Light award, Mr Lee says that Prof Kingwell had an incredible ability to distil complex economic data into farm-ready, relatable insights for grain growers.

“Professor Kingwell has admirable rapport with researchers, grain growers and industry colleagues alike. Whether he is communicating about global market trends, the application of artificial intelligence in grain transport, or changes in farmland values, Prof Kingwell consistently extends economic insights in a way that is relatable and enjoyable,” Mr Lee says.

“His work on GRDC projects and initiatives over many decades has made an outstanding contribution to Western Australia’s grains industry. It is fitting that we recognise Prof Kingwell today with a Seed of Light award.”

GRDC Emerging Leader award – Robert Harrison

Image of DPIRD research scientist Robert Harrison.DPIRD research scientist Robert Harrison received the 2024 GRDC Emerging Leader award. Photo: Robert Harrison

Robert Harrison is a research scientist at DPIRD and Murdoch University, specialising in the areas of legume and pasture agronomy.

Mr Harrison joined Murdoch University’s Legume and Rhizobium Sciences (LRS) team in 2016. Since then, he has managed field and glasshouse experiments for national projects and co-authored multiple international research papers for CSIRO, DPIRD and Murdoch University.

He was a project lead on the GRDC dryland pasture systems investment from 2019 to 2021 and is currently a lead investigator in the Harvested Annual Legume Options (HALO) project, a Western Australian Agricultural Research Collaboration project with GRDC investment.

Mr Harrison says it was an honour to receive the award from GRDC.

“As researchers we are all trying to make a difference for farmers in WA, and I’m just blown away to be collecting an award like this along the way,” Mr Harrison says.

“Working with the farmers is the most rewarding part of what I do. I’m positive I learn more from them than they do from me.

“Seeing where your research goes, not just in a lab or a glasshouse, but going out into different parts of the state, performing your research on-farm and ultimately seeing it adopted as well, that’s the most fulfilling part.”

Mr Harrison says that long term, he hoped his work would contribute to a closer linkage between sustainability and profitability.

“At the moment, profit is still the biggest driver of change. If we can envelop sustainability in that equation, we can not only increase profits, but help farmers obtain that sustainability to keep consumers happy.”

Mr Lee says that as a relative newcomer to the grains industry, Mr Harrison had demonstrated impressive professional growth and had built strong relationships with growers and researchers.

“Mr Harrison is a natural communicator who has made a significant contribution to legume and pasture research extension since joining the industry in 2016,” Mr Lee says.

‘His passion for agriculture and significant connections within the WA ag community, stemming from his upbringing in Wongan Hills, has seen him excel in communicating research outcomes.

“With research scientists like Mr Harrison – who is among a large cohort of talented young researchers at organisations like DPIRD, CSIRO and at WA universities – the grains industry is in a great position to tackle the farming challenges of today and tomorrow.”

The GRDC Grains Research Update – Perth concludes tomorrow (February 27) with the regional Updates series beginning in Yuna on Wednesday March 6.

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