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Conference Speakers

You can download the speakers presentations here.

Ken Vowles MLA
Minister for Primary Industry and Resources

Ken Vowles has represented the electorate of Johnston in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly since 2012.

Mr Vowles is a born and bred Indigenous Territorian, who has been a part of the local community he represents in the NT Parliament since attending Jingili Pre School and Primary School in the 1970’s. He is married to Danyelle, and they have three sons – Ayden, Zander and Noah. 

Ken’s passion for helping the community began while working with disadvantaged people in remote communities across the NT. He has gained experience in many different roles such as managing community education programs at the NT Department of Justice, where he developed and delivered programs in most major communities in the NT. Ken also was an Academic Lecturer for Sport, Recreation and Business at Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.

During the former Government he served in a range of shadow portfolios including Regional Economic Development, Resources, Mines and Energy, Primary Industry, Indigenous Policy, Fisheries, Transport, Asian Relations and Trade, and Central Australia.

In his formative years, Ken spent time playing and coaching cricket in Australia and overseas. This included a three year stint in Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Ken now serves in the newly elected Labor NT Government as the Minister for Primary Industry and Resources.

Senator the Hon. Matthew Canavan
Australia Senate
Minister for Northern Australia

Matthew grew up in Logan, just south of Brisbane. After achieving a First Class Honours Degree in Economics at the University of Queensland, Matthew worked at the Productivity Commission and rose to the level of Director.

Increasingly frustrated at the lack of coherent economic policy by the Rudd Government, Matthew went to work for Barnaby Joyce as his Chief-of-Staff ahead of the 2010 election. In that role, he helped develop policies to provide tax concessions for vital infrastructure and to encourage people to move to the regions, worked on a Senate inquiry that recommended stricter environmental controls on coal seam gas developments and developed a Coalition report on the potential to invest in new dams throughout Australia.

At the 2013 election, Matthew was elected to the Senate and took up his position as a Senator in the Nationals party room in July 2014. He is the first Senator to be based in Rockhampton for more than 20 years.

In February 2016, Matthew was appointed Minister for Northern Australia in the Coalition Government. Northern Australia is vital to the success of our nation as a whole, so the government’s agenda is about creating economic prosperity not just in our north but throughout Australia.

Prior to undertaking his Senate duties, Matthew worked for Stanbroke, the largest privately owned vertically integrated beef business in the world, providing him with an invaluable insight into agricultural affairs. 

Richard Hayes

Until a decade ago, fifth generation Alice Springs cattleman Richie Hayes had no experience growing grapes. This all had to change when his grape farm manager quit. Overnight Richie went from Herefords to HORTICULTURE. "I stuck my bum that far out in the wind I've got sunburnt up to my neck" - quotes Richie! 

The Hayes family took over Undoolya Station, one of the oldest pastoral leases in the Northern Territory, in 1906 and never left. In the early 1970s, pastoralists could apply for part of their station to be made freehold. The Hayes's grandfather picked a block in the middle of Undoolya Station, which had plenty of underground water.
That is the area of the property where Richie grows 150acs table grapes and other fruit and vegetables. “I am now about to do a whole lot more, as of next year I have already ordered another 60acres of vines to double up again and I have cleared another 2 other pivot sites so I can grow even more things”
“I know I can't feed the world, but I sure would like a crack at it” ... Richie Hayes. 

Hamish McIntyre
McIntyre Agriculture Pty Ltd

Hamish McIntyre runs a family owned, irrigated and dryland farming, cattle breeding and feedlot business over 38,000ha in the St George and Dirranbandi districts of SW Queensland. 
McIntyre Agriculture Pty Ltd grows 3,000ha of irrigated crops including BMP certified and BCI eligible cotton, mung beans, sunflowers, corn and occasionally watermelons.  17,000 ha of dryland country is planted to grain, pulse and forage crops and an Angus breeding herd grazes the 18,000ha of backgrounding country. The 3100hd Feedlot value adds cattle and commodities produced on farm.
Hamish trained as an agronomist at UQ Gatton campus and has a certificate in Cotton Production from UNE. He is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and more recently the Trailblazers Program. His Industry involvement includes Deputy Chair of Cotton Australia, Chair of the Transgenic & Insect Management Strategies (TIMS) committee, Cotton Australia Corporate governance committee, Member Crop Consultants Australia. 
Hamish has travelled with recent industry delegations to the US, China, India and Turkey meeting with cotton spinners and merchants, growers and company executives promoting the interests of Australian food and fibre producers.

Fiona Simson
National Farmers' Federation

Fiona Simson is a farmer from the Liverpool Plains in NSW where she, husband Ed and family run a mixed farming enterprise including broad acre farming and breeding commercial poll Hereford cattle.

With tertiary business education and skills, Fiona’s passion for local food production and the growth and sustainability of rural and regional Australia led to a career in local government as an elected Councillor in Liverpool Plains Shire Council and her appointment to the NSW Farmers Executive Council in 2008. In 2011, she became the first woman President of the Association retaining that position for a full four year term. 

Passionate about the power of a unified voice for agriculture, Fiona also believes in its role in a strong and vibrant future for regional Australia. 

Fiona was appointed as a Director of the National Farmers' Federation on 3 November 2011 and Vice President on 19 November 2014 - a position she currently holds.  Fiona also sits on the Board of NRMA (NSW), the Australian Made Campaign Ltd, AgStewardship Australia and the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund.

Robert Boshammer

A graduate of Queensland Agricultural College, Robert has been a farmer in the Ord Valley for over 20 years, growing a diversity of crops including melons and pumpkins, sweet corn, chickpea, hybrid seed, sugarcane and Chia. He has a development and equity position in a number of associated businesses including nurseries, forestry management services, produce marketing and irrigation & pastoral and business development. His passion is the empowerment of people in regional areas to facilitate world-class business development. 

Jim Trandos
Managing Director
Trandos Farms

Jim Trandos, is the Managing Director of Trandos Farms which was founded in 1939. He is a former National Vegetable Grower of the Year, a previous advisor to Land Mark Ltd and former board member of Ausveg. 
Trandos Farms has four locations and is the largest fresh market grower of sweet corn and beans in Western Australia. The company’s winter production is grown on Shelamar station 200km south of Broome. It supplies all major supermarket chains throughout Australia and currently exports throughout the world including the UAE. The company also trades under its trade mark ‘Western Australian Corn Growers’ brand. 

Matt Brann
ABC Rural
Country Hour presenter

Matt Brann is the presenter of the Northern Territory Country Hour on ABC Local Radio. He grew up on a cattle property in the Hunter Valley surrounded by Herefords, horses and a dog named Spud.

After a brief stint for ABC Rural in Tasmania, Matt moved to Kununurra, home to the Ord Irrigation Scheme, and spent the next five years as the Kimberley rural reporter. In 2009 he was named ABC’s Rural Reporter of the Year; and in 2011 won a WA Rural Media Association Award for his coverage of the suspension of the live cattle trade to Indonesia. He still isn’t a member of the ‘metre-barra’ club which is a serious concern.

Keep it Rural! 

Lorraine Corowa
Department of Primary Industry and Resources
Director Major Agribusiness Projects

Lorraine is proud to be a Northern Territory public servant with 30 years’ experience in development focused roles. She has lived and worked in Northern Australia her whole life and is dedicated to seeing agribusiness reach its potential, with benefits flowing to all Territorians.

The Major Agribusiness Projects team facilitates investment into agribusiness projects right across the Northern Territory. Lorraine’s team is currently focusing on the Katherine region to build an Agribusiness and Logistics Hub servicing the region’s pastoral and plant industries. Some of the team’s previous work involved facilitating AACo’s $93M investment in a new northern abattoir at Livingstone, doubling the size of Humpty Doo Barramundi’s farm on the Adelaide River and facilitating regional abattoir development with Aboriginal Groups. The team has a number of projects under way including work with a range of private sector interests planning greenfield agricultural developments and continuing soil and water studies for Ord Stage 3. As the NT Government’s interface for investors seeking to capitalise on the Territory’s unique land and water resources and strategic geographic location, Lorraine and her team have a good understanding of what investors want in the agribusiness space. 

Mark McGrath
The Chia Co. Crop Production Manager
NACRA General Manager

Raised on a dryland grain & cattle property in Southern Queensland.

  • Bachelor of Agricultural Science (majoring in Crops & Pastures) – University of Queensland 
  • Graduate Certificate in Agribusiness – University of Melbourne. 
  • International Agricultural Exchange Association program -  dryland wheat, canola, hay and cattle property in Canada.

Industry Background
  • Agronomist for Cotton Consultancy Services (Central Queensland) 
  • Agronomist, Senior Agronomist & Operations Manager – Pacific Seeds (Kununurra, WA) 
  • Operations Manager – Foundations Seeds (Kununurra, WA) 
  • Branch Manager - Elders Ltd (Innisfail & Tully, North Queensland) 
  • Supply Chain Manager - Canola Breeders (Melbourne) 
  • Crop Production Manager - The Chia Company (Melbourne)

John Woods
Appointed Chairman of the GRDC from 1 October 2016

John owns and operates an integrated cropping enterprise in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, where he also participates in summer crop R&D trials and innovative new techniques. He has a strong interest in economic policy that affects agriculture, reflected in the positions he has held in industry and on communty advisory bodies such as the National Rural Advisory Council, National Agricultural Monitoring System and Agricultural Finance Forum. 

John also has experiece in technology transfer and extension of R&D, which he demonstrated in his role as Chairman of Chemcert Training Queensland, and as a Chemcert Trainer to the grains and cotton industries. The extension and adoption of the best management practice was integral to his role as Queensland Manager Cotton Australia. 

Adam Kay
Cotton Australia

Adam Kay was appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer of Cotton Australia in January 2007. Cotton Australia is the peak grower body in Australia representing the interests of 1500 cotton producers in NSW and QLD. 

He started his career as District Agronomist for the NSW Agriculture Department in Warren 30 years ago and has spent his entire career working within the Australian cotton industry. Before Cotton Australia, Adam was General Manager of Cotton Seed Distributors, Wee Waa for 11 years, during which time he played a major role in commercialising and introducing biotechnology into the Australian cotton industry. Adam also served two terms as a Director of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, a cotton industry body that funds research and development projects across many industry sectors. Adam is well known to the Australian cotton industry with roles on a range of industry organisations and committees and has broad industry knowledge and specialist skills in grower relations, advocacy and business management. He was awarded the 2005 Australian Cotton Industry Service to Industry Award, is a Churchill Fellow, Graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, and a Graduate of the AICD Directors and Mastering the Boardroom Courses.

Michael Douglas
Charles Darwin University

Michael Douglas is a Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Western Australia and a University Professorial Fellow at Charles Darwin University. He is Hub Leader of the Northern Australian Environmental Resources Hub: a 6 year research initiative focussed on supporting the sustainable development in northern Australia, funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program. He also leads the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research consortium and has been doing research on northern Australia’s water resources and aquatic biodiversity for the past 25 years. 

The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP
Parliament of Australia 
Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; and for Rural Affairs.

The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP was first elected to the House of Representatives in March of 1996. Over his almost 20 years as the Member for Hunter Mr Fitzgibbon has held a number of shadow ministerial positions including Mining, Energy & Forestry, Defence, Assistant Treasurer, Banking & Financial Services, Small Business & Competition, and Tourism. In Government, Mr Fitzgibbon served as Minister for Defence and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. He also served as Chief Government Whip and chaired the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence & Trade. 

Mr Fitzgibbon is currently the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Rural Affairs and says his main passion is raising his portfolio’s profile in the parliamentary and public debate and ensuring Australia has a sound strategic plan to fully capitalise on growing global demand for our high quality product. Mr Fitzgibbon is also the founder of, and spokesperson for the Country Caucus, a group of Federal Labor MPs and Senators dedicated to promoting the interests of rural and regional Australia. Mr Fitzgibbon lives in Cessnock in the Hunter Valley with his wife Dianne. They have three adult children. 

Kirsty O'Brien
ABC News 

Kristy O’Brien has been involved in the production of factual television as a producer, journalist and presenter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and commercial television networks. She has worked across rural Queensland and the Northern Territory focusing much of her coverage on a love of agriculture and rural content. Her work is regularly broadcast on ABC News, ABC radio, ABC 24, Landline, Lateline and 7.30 NT. She is also the weekend 7pm News presenter. During the past 18 months, Kristy has deployed her journalistic background to branch into independent documentary making and was recognized at the Australian International Documentary Conference as Australia’s emerging young producer. As part of the award, she moved to London in 2014, to work for Jamie Oliver’s Fresh One Productions in order to enhance her production skills. She also recently won a position in Screen Producer Australia’s Ones to Watch program, as one of Australia’s up and coming young filmmakers. 

Sheriden Morris
Reef and Forest Research Centre (RRRC)
Managing Director

Sheriden Morris has had a strong connection to and focus on northern Australia her entire life: from growing up in Batchelor in the Northern Territory, through her studies in tropical agronomy, and her professional career working with sugar, banana, aquaculture and tourism industries and agencies such as CSIRO and GBRMPA. For the past ten years she has been the Managing Director of the Cairns-based non-profit Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC). She has always strongly believed in intelligent, sustainable development for northern Australia using the region’s tropical expertise – the knowledge of living, building and working most effectively in the tropics. 

Under the leadership, RRRC has succesully attracted more than $200 million in grants and investment to support research and development projects in northern Australia. This includes the Australian Government's Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility, the Tropical Ecosystems Hub of the National Environmental Research Program, the Tropical Water Quality Hub of the National Environmental Science Programme and the Crown of Thorns Starfish Targeted Control Program. 

Sheriden is deputy Chair of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef and has served on numerous government advisory committees for land and water management, including Queensland and Commonwealth committees for agriculture, coastal development, wetlands and indigenous opportunity. An extensive contributor to land and sea management policy, she has also spearheaded the development and implementation of an innovative aid development program on Australia’s northern borderlands with Papua New Guinea.

She lives on the family farm at Babinda, just south of Cairns.

Michael Beer
General Manager, Research & Innovation
AgriFutures Australia

Michael has an extensive background in agriculture across animal and plant industries, government and business sectors. He had led and managed innovation programs in the private and public sectors that have resulted in world’s best practice in beef eating quality, livestock identification and traceability.
Raised and educated in Wagga Wagga NSW, Michael had a deep appreciate of rural Australia. Sharing his experience and supporting primary industry development has been a lifelong endeavour which Michael hopes to continue for years to com

Gareth Jones
Manager of Agribusiness and Development
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Gareth Jones is the Manager for Agribusiness Development for the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.  Gareth’s career in primary industries in North Queensland spans 34 years.  He has been involved in research into parasites and diseases impacting the northern livestock industry, the histology and pathology of the Giant Clam, and pioneered the Burdekin Rangelands Reef Initiative, which took a holistic triple bottom line approach to sustainable agricultural development.   His diverse career within Queensland Government included roles in regional finance, corporate budgeting and systems development, performance management.  He managed both Integrated Planning and Business Development teams within Queensland’s Northern Region and coordinated the Queensland Government’s economic recovery response to Cyclone Yasi. His work with Indigenous communities in Cape York and in particular Lockhart River, led to a Highly Commended Premiers Award in the Partnership and Reconciliation category.  More recently Gareth has developed and led the Department’s GRADZ initiative.  In collaboration with the local shires, producers and investment interests, this initiative looks to maximise the opportunities for agricultural development in the Gulf Rivers catchments of North West Queensland.   Effective irrigation development made possible through the government’s release of unallocated water from the Flinders and Gilbert Rivers is a significant Northern Australia opportunity.  

John Llyod
Chief Executive Officer
Hort Innovation

John Lloyd is currently Chief Executive Officer of Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited. Hort Innovation is a not-for-profit, grower-owned company. It works in partnership with Australia’s horticulture industries to invest over $100 million annually in research, development and marketing programs that provide benefit to industry and the wider community.

John was appointed as CEO of Horticulture Australia Limited in 2009 and has continued as CEO of Hort Innovation since its establishment in 2014. Prior to this he held a number of senior roles within the agriculture industry including:

• Managing Director of Case New Holland ANZ
• General Manager Commercial at Incitec Pivot Ltd
• General Manager Merchandise at Wesfarmers Dalgety Ltd

John holds a Bachelor of Applied Science degree from the University of New South Wales and an MBA from Macquarie University.

Peter Corbett
Arlpwe Artists

Peter became Director of Alekarenge Horticulture Pty Ltd (AHPL) in 2011 and is also a director of Arlpwe Artists. 

His leadership in the Ali Curung community is strong and highly valued.

His contribution to the AHPL farming enterprise has been invaluable. Peter was responsible for organising the AHPL farm field trip for AHPL directors to South Australia, where inspections of farming, packing and the markets proved invaluable and is assisting in the AHPL choices for future farm projects.

He recently presented the AHPL farming story at the NT indigenous Economic Development Forum in Darwin.

Central Land Council have identified Peter’s contributions and leadership qualities as he has been elected to be one of the two Ali Curung Traditional Owner delegates. 

Culturally he is very strong and is an important member of the annual Ali Curung Traditional Dance Festival.

To further hone his skills he is currently studying at the Batchelor Institute in Alice Springs.

Graham Beasley
Arlpwe Artists

Graham became Director of Alekarenge Horticulture Pty Ltd (AHPL) in 2011 and is also a director of Arlpwe Artists. He is an active member of the board and is a Traditional Kaytetye/Alyawarr man and respected Ali Curung community elder. 

As a senior man, many organisations with interests in the Ali Curung community regularly call on Graham to join their committees, provide advice and attend important meetings. Graham’s opinion on all things Ali Curung is invaluable. 

Graham regularly represents AHPL and Arlpwe Artists at forums and conferences, he recently presented the AHPL farming story at the NT indigenous Economic Development Forum in Darwin.

He constantly works in and for the Ali Curung community across many areas from Arlpwe Artists, the farming project to community development.

He is also on the Dance Festival committee and is a role model and leader in the Ali Curung community.

Phil Warner

Born in 1952 and grew up on a farm on the Darling Downs. Since 1997 Phil’s mission has been to find and develop an agricultural product that could achieve regional value adding and sustainable consumer products for the future.

For 20 years Phil has been developing Hemp varieties viable for latitudes, 40˚to the tropics.  Phil’s team has amassed the world’s most diverse cannabis genetic seed bank - models for co-operative farming systems - new processing systems - markets for hemp food, fibre products and cannabinoid now used in the USA, and South America. 

Having been involved in the hemp business in Australia and China, Europe, and the Americas, Phil’s understanding hemps politics, legslation and technical capabilities is unique in the world. Phil has written for and co-authored many professional journals and publications on Hemp. His depth of knowledge of this industry makes him one of few hemp industry architects globally.

Professor Salah Sukkarieh
Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems

Professor Salah Sukkarieh is an international expert in the research, development and commercialisation of field robotic systems. He has led a number of robotics and intelligent systems R&D projects in logistics, commercial aviation, aerospace, education, environment monitoring, agriculture and mining, and has consulted to industry including Rio Tinto, BHP, Patrick Stevedores, Qantas, QLD Biosecurity, Meat and Livestock Australia, and the NSW DPI amongst others. He was awarded the NSW Science and Engineering Award for Excellence in Engineering and Information and Communications Technologies in 2014, and the 2017 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.

Salah is Associate Dean (Industry and Innovation) and Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the University of Sydney, and the Director of Research and Innovation at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. He has supervised over 20 research fellows, and graduated over 30 PhDs, 5 Masters and 60 honours students. He has received over $60m in government and industry funding, national and international.

Salah is a Fellow of Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), and is on the editorial board for the Journal of Field Robotics, Journal of Autonomous Robots, and Transactions of Aerospace Systems, and has over 500 academic and industry publications in robotics and intelligent systems.

Dr Paul Vogel

Dr Paul Vogel was appointed as the chairperson of the NT EPA on 14 November 2016.

Now a non-executive board director and strategic consultant, Dr Vogel was Chairman of Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority from 2007 – 2015.  Dr Vogel was also the inaugural Chief Executive and Chairman of the South Australian EPA from 2002 – 2007 and prior to that held senior executive positions in the WA Departments of the Premier and Cabinet and Environmental Protection.

Dr Vogel has a PhD in chemistry from the University of WA and has extensive knowledge and experience across a broad range of environmental issues and sustainability, in organisational and regulatory reform and in the delivery of strategic environmental and business outcomes.
Dr Vogel is also chairman of a national Cooperative Research Centre on Contamination and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE); a director of the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) Australian Research Impact Advisory Board, a director of Global Aquatica (Australia) and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.  He was appointed to the NT EPA from 1 January 2016.

Paul McLaughlin

Lives in the dessert. Grows watermelons. Eats steak. Married to Rachel. 4 kids

Paul grows watermelons at Ali Curung on Indigenous Traditional Owner land in a lease deal thru Centrefarm, a CLC business to allow farming on indigenous lands. This is a unique partnership, good for both parties, with strong support from the traditional owners of the land.

Paul is Vice President NT Farmers Association, the organisers of Food Futures conference.

Paul has a history of farming in Queensland, NSW and the NT. Paul is a strong advocate for more agricultural development in the Ali Curung area, conducting trials on a wide range of new crops including onions, mangoes, early grapes, irrigated fodder, peanuts.

Charissa Rixon 

Director of T.R.A.P. Services and PhD student at CQ University

Charissa grew up on a banana farm in North Queensland, before completing a Bachelor of Science degree at James Cook University majoring in microbiology and biochemistry in 1997.  She was employed by crop protection companies predominantly as a field scientist from 1998 to 2011, and worked in many tropical crops including mangoes, bananas, avocadoes, potatoes and sugarcane.

Post Cyclone Yasi in 2011, Charissa started T.R.A.P. Services, initially doing statistical data analysis, writing trial reports and consulting, and then later expanded into conducting private research trials, which is now the biggest part of the business.  In 2016, her husband Keith exited banana farming and joined the business, assisting with field trials.

T.R.A.P. Services works predominantly in bananas, sugarcane, cucurbits, and for the last 4 years aerobic rice, which includes growing it for the last 2 years.  Charissa in addition to the business is currently undertaking a PhD in “Characterisation of morphological, physiological and biochemical traits for heat tolerance in aerobic rice” through CQ University.

Dr Stephen Yeates,
Principal Research Scientist,
CSIRO, Townsville, Australia.

Dr Stephen Yeates has 36 years of experience as an agronomist and crop physiologist. His 26 years working in tropical Australia includes all jurisdictions. He currently leads several projects conducting research and extension into sustainable tropical faming systems, physiology and agronomy of cotton and grain crops. His collaborative work with cotton has developed sustainable cotton farming systems in tropical Australia and significantly improved cotton water use efficiency and yield in temperate Australia.  

Bruce Finney
Executive Director
Cotton Research & Development Corporation

Bruce Finney is the Executive Director of the Cotton Research & Development Corporation and has extensive experience in agricultural research and corporate agriculture in various corporate, management and agronomy roles in Australia and in an advisory role in Argentina.  

Having played an integral role in developing a vision for the future of the cotton industry he is now contributing to building a vision for the future of rural innovation.

He is a member of the Cotton Innovation Network, the Agriculture Senior Officials Research and Innovation Committee, the Council of Rural RDCs Executive Committee and a board member of The Gate (Global Ag-Tech Ecosystem). He is a past member of the Advisory Board QLD DAF program on Agricultural Robotics at QUT, chair of the Australian Cotton Growers Research Association, and director of the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC and the Irrigation Association of Australia. Bruce is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program and of the Company Directors Course of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Graham Harris
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Graham Harris has worked as an extension officer with the Dept of Agriculture and Fisheries (and its previous iterations) in the Queensland Government since 1981.  He has worked with landholders and rural communities across Queensland primarily involved with the raingrown and irrigated cropping sectors.

He was joint leader of The Farm Program within the former Cotton Catchment Communities CRC, responsible for the oversight of research within the Water Use Efficiency, Crops and Soils and Resilient Farming Systems sub-programs.  In 2005 he used his Swire Group Churchill Fellowship to study precision irrigation technologies in the USA and Israel.

He currently is a Team Leader in the DAFs Sustainable Farming Systems Unit based in Toowoomba, with staff working in irrigation, pulse agronomy, economics, on-farm research and the development of cropping systems in the northern Gulf Rivers catchments.

An original APEN member he is passionate about the role extension (both public and private) has in enabling landholders and rural communities to deal with and adapt to change.  He is currently the APEN Queensland Regional Co-ordinator and Vice-President.

Steven Hegarty

Stephen Hegarty is Vanderfield’s Agricultural Consultant and has worked at Vanderfield for over 6 years. He specialises in precision ag and data science across cotton, grain, sugar cane and horticultural production systems. 

Stephen has 10 years of field agronomy experience in grain and cotton farming systems of southern Queensland, including five years as an independent agricultural consultant. He was responsible for the field agronomy services of the largest acreage wheat production enterprise in Queensland. Stephen also has sales and management experience in agricultural supply chain businesses that supplied equipment, technology and consumable crop inputs to grain and cotton farms.  His experience includes managing the largest volume Glyphosate herbicide retail sale location in Queensland.

Stephen’s family is a fourth generation farming family and he is still involved in grain production enterprise on the Darling Downs in Queensland.

Greg Owens
NT Farmers

Greg started work as a teacher in Qld at a large school in Ipswich in 1981, moved west as the maths and science teacher at Julia Creek area school, then came to Darwin to teach Chemistry at Darwin High in 1984. In 1987 he became Science Faculty Senior at Taminmin High School and developed a great interest in the newly developed agriculture component where he stayed for 9 years. This included being Agriculture Senior teacher, Taminmin farm manager, VET agriculture trainer, Ag curriculum development roles and Ag moderator. 

During the 1990s Taminmin was also the meeting centre for developing horticulture industry and this lead to strong relationships with NTDPIF and the farmers. He left teaching to work as a Senior Horticulture Extension Officer in the NTDPIF Berrimah for 10 years, working with the developing mango, melon and Asian vegetable industries across the NT. 

Since then he has been back to science teaching a few times as Science Faculty Senior and acting Assistant Principal at Taminmin. Greg conducted industry research and development projects in agriculture and horticulture nutrition and irrigation. Greg joined NT Farmers in 2013 as an Industry Development Officer and now works for NT Farmers Association as the CEO. Greg has 30 years of experience in the NT and understands what it takes to be successful in the Top End.

Jo Townsend

Jo is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Territory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources which is a position she has held since December 2016.  As the Chief Executive Officer, Jo is responsible for ensuring the effective delivery of natural resource monitoring assessment and management of natural resource assets across the Northern Territory, including advice and management on flora and fauna, water resources,  bushfire mitigation, pests and weeds and the management of the Northern Territory’s pastoral estate.  The Department is also responsible for assessment, monitoring and compliance and support services on behalf of the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority. Under Jo’s leadership the Department is delivering a number of Government reform priorities across the areas of environmental protection, water resource management and implementation of the recommendations of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing.  Jo joined the Department in September 2015 as the Executive Director of Water Resources with responsibility for around 100 staff delivering drilling services, water assessment, policy and planning and geospatial services.

Jo has more than 22 years of experience in the Northern Territory public sector, including 14 years in executive leadership roles and has been responsible for leading and reforming a range of diverse portfolio areas as child protection, alcohol and other drugs and family and youth services.

Jo has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Graduate Diploma in Applied Psychology.

Charles Numandumah

Steve Austin 
Chief Executive Officer
Mowanjum Aboriginal Corporation

Steve Austin completed most of his education in the Northern Territory and trade certificate Steve comes from a business background in Transport and logistics, with trucks transporting interstate and intrastate 
Upon commencement employment at Mowanjum the community was hit with devastating news that the federal government was closing down CDEP in communities. As CDEP program was the main source of income for remote communities it meant we were at risk of becoming insolvent and as history shows that was the case with many communities. My role was focussed on surviving financially and part of this was starting business that could replace lost income. Mowanjum had a cattle station that had been unproductive for as long as any one can remember (30 Years) and the challenge was to bring it back into production with very limited funds available. The corporation backed itself by taking out a large overdraft with the bank and a small grant from Government. Once we started operating as a functional cattle station we attracted the interest of Department of Water (Water for Food) and in partnership started an irrigated fodder production trial on Mowanjum station. MAC was also able to attract an investor in Mowanjum Station a Mr Bruce Cheong from Pardoo Station and since then we have been able to do establish long term agistment agreements to guarantee financial stability of MAC.

David Cross
CEO – Ord River District Co-operative
Director – Northern Australia Crop Research Alliance

David has lived and worked in the Ord River Irrigation Area for the past 16 years after moving north from south-western Australia as a graduate agronomist in 2002. David has occupied his current role with the Ord River District Co-operative for the past 10 years where he oversees the provision of farming inputs, agronomic services, grain handling & marketing, R,D&E and grower advocacy.
David is also a founding Director of the Northern Australia Crop Research Alliance (NACRA), which was established in 2015 to undertake industry driven, outcome focussed R,D&E in northern Australia.

Chris Ham

Chris Ham is the Irrigated Agriculture and Diversification Development Officer for the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in the West Kimberley.
Prior to working for DPIRD in 2006, Chris also worked for the Northern Territory government in a similar role, commencing in 1995 at Douglas Daly Research Farm as a technical officer.
In recent years Chris managed the Regional Economic Development Water Opportunities (REDWO) project for the WA government. The project focussed on the potential for irrigation expansion in the East and West Kimberley and the information, support and resources that developers require to be successful.
Outside the Ord River Irrigation Area, the majority of irrigation developments are on pastoral land focussed on fodder production. Chris will provide a short presentation on the economic indicators and emerging management issues of irrigated fodder production systems in the West Kimberley.

DR Cameron McConchie

Research Leader
NT DPI&R Darwin Australia

Dr Cameron McConchie is one of northern Australia’s most experienced researchers of tropical fruit and nut crops. He is a specialist in applied plant reproductive biology, fruit and crop physiology. Cameron has built expert teams and facilitated industry partnerships to introduce paradigm shifts in crop management techniques that has enabled expansion of production into new growing regions to target specific high value markets. For the past 8 years he has led mango research in the Northern Territory and in projects across South East Asia to implement new technologies and improve production and profitability.

Dr Chris Chilcott, Research Leader, CSIRO Land and Water 

Chris has more than 25 years’ experience in the agricultural sector, research and development. He currently leads CSIRO's Land and Water business unit based in Darwin and leads and develops research into northern Australian Development. He is part of the team managing the North Australia Water Resource Assessment, an $18M assessment of water resources across three catchments. His career has spanned across ecology and animal industries, pastoral production and management, and policy. Prior to joining CSIRO he Chris led a policy group providing strategic leadership on industry development activity and policy related to animal industries within Queensland. 


Dr Ian Watson, Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO Agriculture and Food

Ian manages a group of scientists based in Townsville and Cairns who bring agricultural and other expertise to northern Australia and to the tropics more broadly. He is Officer in Charge of the Townsville site and is Director of the Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture, a formal collaborative arrangement between CSIRO and James Cook University. Previously, Ian was a Program Leader in CSIRO, at times managing about 80 ecologists, social scientists, economists, geographers and agricultural scientists across multiple sites in northern and southern Australia.In recent years Ian has been heavily involved in a number of projects aimed at determining the scale of the opportunity for irrigated agriculture in northern Australia. One such project was the Flinders and Gilbert Agricultural Resource Assessment (FGARA). He was also appointed, in its final stages, as Director of the African Food Security Initiative in west, central and east Africa.  Prior to joining CSIRO, Ian was with the Department of Agriculture Western Australia for more than 20 years working with the extensive grazing industry where he managed the Western Australian Rangeland Monitoring System (WARMS), assessed pastoral lease conditions and tried to better understand how climate variability and drought affected both the rangeland environment and those people managing the rangelands. Ian has served on the Northern Australian Beef Research Committee (NABRC) and on the NABRC Management Committee.


Dr Cuan Petheram, Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water 

Cuan has research experience in tropical hydrology, hydrological and environmental modelling in data sparse environments, and inter-disciplinary science especially in the development of northern Australia and specifically for irrigated agriculture. Currently Cuan is the project manager for the Northern Australian Water resource Assessment and the technical lead in the Climate and Water Storage activities. Cuan had previously been the Project Management for the Flinders and Gilbert Agricultural resource Assessment, and provided scientific advice to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on development policy for northern Australia


Dr Chris Stokes, Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water

Chris works mainly on sustainable management and development of tropical agriculture. His early research was on grazing land management in Africa, Texas and northern Australia. Over time his work has expanded into sugarcane and other irrigated agriculture. Within the for the Northern Australian Water resource Assessment, Chris has lead a research activity investigating the social and economic aspects of new irrigated schemes in the north, including what would be required for new developments to be financially viable.

Graeme Owen
VPS Land Assesment and Planning

Graeme Owen is owner of VPS Land Assessment and Planning, a Northern Territory based environmental and natural resource management consulting business.  VPS is passionate about the sustainable use of the NTs land resources and works with a range of clients from government, pastoral, horticulture, mining, developers and hydraulic designers.  Graeme spent 13 years with the NT Government as a land resource scientist involved in soil, vegetation and land use mapping including assessment of development applications.  Graeme has had a diverse career working as ranger at Kakadu, ambulance and mine site paramedic, catchment management coordinator in New South Wales and farm hand.

Mark Furner
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries

Mark Furner has dedicated his adult life to serving local communities.
A husband, father of three, and grandfather of two, Mark cut his teeth as a truck driver before standing up for the rights of his fellow workers as an organiser with the Transport Workers Union.
The son of a nurse and a Queensland police officer, Mark moved from Chermside to Pine Rivers in the 1970s and has been a strong community voice in the local area and has been heavily involved in fundraising and volunteering ever since.
In 2007, Mark was elected to the Australian Senate where he served until June 2014. During that time Mark sat on a number of parliamentary committees including Law Enforcement, Health & Aging, and Economics. Mark was also privileged to lead a delegation to Afghanistan as chair of the Defence Sub-Committee.
At the 2015 State election, Mark was elected to represent the people of Ferny Grove in the Queensland Parliament. In February 2017, he was promoted to the Cabinet as Minister for Local Government and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships.

Having retained his seat in the 2017 State election Mark has been appointed Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries.

Mr Lionel Wieck 
Supply and Logitics Manager
Peanut Company of Australia, Kingaroy Qld, Australia.

Lionel has worked in the peanut industry for 32 years as an accountant, farming services manager, harvesting coordinator and more recently heading up supply and logistics within the company. He played a major role in the company’s Katherine NT project being responsible for setting up harvesting and transport logistics back to Kingaroy. He is currently developing a number of potential peanut production developments in northern Australia, including throughout the NT, N Qld, and NW WA in order to significantly increase PCA’s supply base over the next few years. Lionel and his family also operate grain, peanut and cattle properties in Kingaroy area.

Tom Polkinghorne
Business Development Manager

Tom Polkinghorne is the Business Development Manager for the Tipperary Group of Stations (TGS). TGS is an aggregation of 3 stations in the Douglas Daly region of the Northern Territory which includes Tipperary Station, Douglas West Station and Litchfield Station. 
His role involves assisting TGS to achieve its key business objectives by attending to land tenure and resource licensing, performing detailed due diligence on possible new farm enterprises, ongoing business analysis and budgeting and managing key station projects.  
Tom has specialised agribusiness finance and accounting experience and comes from a family farming background.

Rob Cossart
Director Northern Region (Agriculture),
Department of Primary industries and Regional Development

Rob has a background in water resource assessment and management, and irrigation development.  He has been based in the Kimberley for the past 10 years working for the Department of Water including as Northern Operations Manager for the State Governments Water for Food program and more recently as Director Northern Region for the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.  Rob oversees the Department’s regional operations, irrigation and beef development portfolios across the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne regions including the Northern Beef Development program and the Carnarvon and Kununurra research stations.

Noel Wilson 
Manager Regional Leadership and Business Development 
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

Noel Wilson is the Manager for the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development based in Kununurra. Noel has a broad experience in agriculture in the Kimberley, having lived and worked in the Kimberley for over twenty years. His experience includes the pastoral industry, irrigated agriculture and biosecurity. Noel has been working with the agricultural industry, particularly in the east Kimberley, to assist with the further development of the industry.

Ralph Addis
Director General

Ralph brings a wealth of experience from the private, not-for-profit and government sectors. He has a natural affinity for regional WA having grown up on a farm at Cranbrook and spent much of his working life in Kununurra. Ralph was chairman of the Kimberley Development Commission for more than two years and has held a range of commercial, not-for-profit and local government board positions. He was formerly Director General at the Department of Regional Development and now leading the newly integrated Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. Ralph is a Chartered Accountant, holds a degree in Commerce, a Master of Agricultural Economics and is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Tom Holyman
General Manager, Global & Strategic Accounts
ANL Container Line Pty. Limited

Tom Holyman is a Tasmanian, raised in Launceston and educated in Launceston and Hobart.

His career has been based in container shipping and logistics, spanning international and Australian domestic shipping businesses, and working for both Australian-owned and foreign-owned businesses. 

He has lived and worked on three continents – Australia, Asia (Japan) and Europe (UK) – and most recently spent 8 years with ANL Container Line based in London with regional responsibility for Europe and the Middle East.

After starting work in the Bass Strait shipping and logistics business for William Holyman & Sons, he moved to ANL in 1987, spending most of his initial 8 years there in ANL’s Australia/North Asia businesses, including 3 years based in Tokyo as Regional Manager, Japan/Korea.

He then joined Mitsui OSK Lines’ (publicly-listed Japanese shipping company) Australian start-up shipping agency company in the mid-90’s, based in Sydney, as the National Sales & Marketing Manager. He then returned to Melbourne to join Brambles Marine in their Bass Strait multi-modal shipping and logistics business in 2000.

In 2002 he returned to ANL, initially in commercial management roles in the trans-Tasman trade, and then in ANL’s Tasmanian and domestic (cabotage) business. At the end of 2004 he moved to London to take up the role of ANL’s Regional Manager, Europe & Middle East.

Returning to ANL’s Head Office in Melbourne at the end of 2012, he joined the ANL executive management team as General Manager for Agencies & Sales, with primary responsibility for ANL’s ‘front office’ activities (sales focus) in Australasia. In August 2017, he took on a new role as General Manager, Global & Strategic Accounts, focussed on sales and customer experience for ANL’s most important customers across the globe.

Mark Coffey
Head- Office of Northern Australia

Mark has lived in the Northern Territory for over 30 years and is passionate about northern Australia development. Mark has contributed significantly to both public and community life and has led a number of initiatives to facilitate economic and social development in remote areas including the Alice Springs Transformation Plan and regional partnership agreements. In his role as NT State Manager in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, he was responsible for the Indigenous programme delivery and coordinated a number of large reform programmes. Prior to this, Mark was a 22 year veteran of the Northern Territory Police Force, working in regional and remote areas across the NT, achieving the rank of Commander.

As Head of the Office of Northern Australia in the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Mark he is responsible for overseeing delivery of the Australian Government’s ‘Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia’. Mark’s collaborative engagement is driving cross-jurisdictional development across the north through innovative and targeted approaches. Under Mark’s leadership, the Office of Northern Australia is securing sustainable benefits by attracting investment, enhancing economic outcomes and driving jobs and growth whilst balancing social impacts. This important work will ensure lasting benefits, not just for the north but also for all of Australia.