Dr Francisco Ascui, Tim Beshara, Gabrielle Chan, Annette Cowie, Wendy Craik, Fiona Dempster, Richard Eckard, Lorraine GordonRichard Heath, Tess Herbert, John Hewson, Mick KeoghAnwen Lovett, Tony Mahar, Alex McBratney, Jennifer Medway, Bob Nixon, Leonie O'Driscoll, Manu Saunders, Murray Scholz, Natalie Sommerville, Andrew Spencer, Peter Thompson, Stuart Whitten, Jock Whittle, Natalie Williams, John Woods, Brad and Tracy Wooldridge

SESSION 1: History and future of ecosystems services

Richard Heath Facilitator

Executive Director, Australian Farm Institute

Before being appointed Executive Director of the AFI in May 2018, Richard was General Manager Research for the independent policy research organisation, whose objective is to enhance the economic and social wellbeing of farmers and the agricultural sector. Prior to this, he was Associate Professor of Agronomy and Farm Management at the University of Sydney and was involved in a large family cropping business in North West NSW. Richard is a director of the Grains Research and Development Corporation and sits on the Advisory Committee for CSIRO Food and Agriculture. He is a Nuffield scholar and was a director of Nuffield Australia.

Mick Keogh

Deputy Chair, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission


Mick was appointed as Commissioner of the ACCC in February 2016, and then as Deputy Chair of the ACCC in 2018. Mick’s diverse history with the agriculture sector has included employment as a farm manager, a university researcher, an agribusiness consultant and a policy advisor. Mick’s role at the ACCC includes involvement in a range of committees and oversight of the small business, franchising and agriculture units of the ACCC. Mick was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to agriculture in 2015 and was the founding Executive Director of the AFI.

Lorraine Gordon

Regenerative Agriculture Alliance


Lorraine is the founder of the RAA, based out of Southern Cross University. As Director of Strategic Projects at SCU and Associate Director of the University’s Centre for Organic Research, Lorraine acts as a conduit between industry and research, delivering sustainable and regenerative agriculture solutions nationally. As Director of the Farming Together Program, she has assisted more than 28,500 farmers, fishers and foresters to progress collaborative projects to benefit their industries. Lorraine was awarded the 2018 Australian Rural Community Leader of the Year and is a beef cattle trader at Ebor in the New England Tablelands of NSW, turning off up to 1000 steers per annum. 

Dr John Hewson

Chair, Business Council for Sustainable Development

Former politician John Hewson is an economic and financial expert with experience in academia, business, government, media and the financial system. He has worked as an economist for the Australian Treasury, the Reserve Bank, the International Monetary Fund and as an advisor to two successive Federal Treasurers and the Prime Minister. In February 2014, he joined the Australian National University as Professor and Chair of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, and in late 2018 he became Chair of the Business Council for Sustainable Development.

SESSION 2: R&D – What support is needed to progress implementation?

Andrew SpencerFacilitator

AFI Chair

Andrew is a highly experienced senior executive and company director. He has recently finished up a 14-year stretch as the Chief Executive Officer of Australian Pork Limited in August of 2019 and holds a number of directorships including Australian Farm Institute (Chair), Co-operative Research Centre for High Integrity Australian Pork and PorkScan Pty Ltd. Andrew’s career as a senior executive of diverse agriculture and agribusiness organisations spans more than 30 years in four countries.



John Woods

Chairman GRDC


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 community advisory bodies such as the National Rural Advisory Council, National Agricultural Monitoring System and Agricultural Finance Forum. John also has experience 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.

Richard Eckard

Director, Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre


Richard is Professor and Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne. His research focuses on carbon farming and options for agriculture systems to respond to a changing climate. Richard is a science advisor to the Australian, New Zealand and UK governments, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the European Union, on climate change adaptation, mitigation and policy development in agriculture. He is also a network leader in Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses.

Jock Whittle

Head of Livestock - Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) & CEO Paraway Pastoral Company Limited (Paraway)


Jock is responsible for the development and execution of the strategy for Macquarie Pastoral Fund (MPF) and its sole operating entity Paraway. Paraway has grown from a ‘start-up’ style corporate farming operation to become one of Australia’s largest diversified livestock producers with a portfolio of 27 aggregations which span approximately 4.5m hectares, with a value of almost $1.4b. Jock has overseen the development and execution of Paraway’s growth strategy, transitioning the business to increase the scale and efficiency of its operations whilst ensuring a consistent and reliable supply of livestock to end markets and exploring opportunities for vertical integration.


SESSION 3: Delivery – Opportunities for the practical application

Wendy Craik Facilitator

AFI Board

Wendy is recognised as one of Australia’s leading independent public policy advisors. Currently Chair of the Climate Change Authority, Wendy has been Commissioner of the Productivity Commission, CEO of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, President of the National Competition Council, Chair of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Executive Director of National Farmers’ Federation and Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Wendy also has wide-ranging board experience including Chair of the National Steering Committee for the Ten Year Eradication Program for Red Imported Fire Ants and Board Member of the Reserve Bank of Australia. She is also currently on the Board of the Australian Farm Institute.

Dr Manu Saunders

Ecologist, University of New England


Manu is an ecologist at the University of New England and an internationally-recognised science communicator. She has a B Arts in English and Journalism and a B Environmental Science in Ecology, both from the University of Queensland. She earned her PhD in Ecology at Charles Sturt University, researching wild pollinator communities in almond plantations of north-western Victoria. Her current research focuses on the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes.

Tim Beshara

Federal Policy Director, The Wilderness Society


Tim’s role with The Wilderness Society is to engage with parliament and industry around biodiversity law reform. Tim has a background in environmental restoration and invasive species management through work with Greening Australia; was Executive Officer for Landcare NSW; an adviser to a NSW Liberal Environment Minister on native vegetation reform; and worked most recently as a senior advisor to an Australian Greens Senator on issues as diverse as endangered species protection, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Banking Royal Commission. Tim has extensive experience of how environmental policy is made including the role of ministers, political parties, ENGO groups, parliament and the press gallery. 

Dr Stuart Whitten

Principal Economist, CSIRO Land and Water


Stuart is CSIRO L&W’s Principal Research Economist. Stuart is an internationally recognised expert in the design of environmental markets across Australia including biodiversity offsets and reverse auctions for environmental stewardship, nutrients and other services. His recent research explores the links between natural capital and grazing productivity in northern beef and southern sheep production systems. He is a member of the GBR Independent Expert Panel and an OECD Co-operative Research Programme Fellowship recipient.

Dr Francisco Ascui


Soil CRC & Adjunct Associate Professor, UTAS

Francisco is an internationally recognised expert in environmental accounting and finance, with over 20 years’ experience across business, government and academia. He is currently affiliated with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tasmania (UTAS), the University of Edinburgh Business School and the University of Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. In recent years he has pioneered a new approach to evaluating natural capital credit risk in agricultural lending, and he is currently contributing to the work of the Soil CRC in this area.

SESSION 4 – Policy planning workshop

Anwen Lovett – Facilitator

Download Planning Workshop Process

Anwen is a consultant who works primarily in agricultural innovation. She currently manages the Climate Research Strategy for Primary Industries which is a partnership of the rural Research and Development Corporations; State, NT and Federal government agencies responsible for agriculture and CSIRO. She has been a senior executive in two rural Research and Development Corporations and CEO of an industry skills and training council. Anwen has 20 years experience at the interface between productivity and sustainable natural resource management and helped launch Australia’s Solar Institute.


Prof. Alex McBratney

Director, Sydney Institute of Agriculture

Alex is a world-renowned soil scientist. He is Director of the Sydney Institute of Agriculture and Professor of Digital Agriculture and Soil Science. Alex holds BSc, PhD and DSc degrees in soil science from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and the DScAgr degree from the University of Sydney for research in precision agriculture. He has made major contributions to soil science and agriculture through the development of the concepts of Pedometrics, Digital Soil Mapping, Precision & Digital Agriculture, and Soil Security.


Tony Mahar

Chief Executive Officer, NFF

Tony first joined the NFF as General Manager, Economics and Trade in July 2012. In December 2014 Tony was appointed as Deputy Chief Executive Officer and since March 2016 has held the position of Chief Executive Officer. He has lead high profile national industry campaigns on issues such as the review of national competition policy, fuel tax credits and backpacker tax. Prior to joining the NFF, Tony worked with global food and grocery companies on economic and sustainability issues at the Australian Food and Grocery Council. He worked for several years with the Federal Department of Agriculture in International Trade and Horticulture Industry Policy.


Bob Nixon

Chair, Grains Industry Association of WA

Bob is a fourth generation grain grower farmer in partnership with his family in the north eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia. He has a strong interest in soil health, crop agronomy and the future of our small wheatbelt communities. Bob completed a Nuffield Scholarship in 2014 investigating Mitigating risk in a dry and variable climate and is the current chair of the Grains Industry Association of Western Australia.


Dr Fiona Dempster

Economist, University of Western Australia

Fiona is an applied economist with UWA and with her family operates a 5200-hectare crop and livestock operation in Mingenew, Western Australia. Her expertise is in designing decision tools for environment and agricultural management, valuing ecosystem services and identifying the adoption drivers of management practices in agricultural landscapes. Fiona joined the GRDC Western Panel in August 2017. Fiona is an active member of Mingenew Irwin Group, the Australasian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society and many other voluntary groups in her community.


Tess Herbert

From a suburban life to farmer, lot feeder and beef industry leader, Tess says her own unexpected agricultural career is a helpful lesson to others about making the most of life’s uncharted pathways. From junior public servant to school teacher in the NSW Lachlan Valley, Tess now heads up two of Australia’s most successful private feedlots with her husband Andrew. She is also the Chair of the steering group that drives implementation of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, past President of the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association, and sits on the Central Tablelands Local Land Services Board.


Jennifer Medway

Senior Manager - Business Development (Natural Rural Issues), AgriFutures Australia

Jen is a fifth generation farmer from Gunning, NSW where she helps run a successful commercial merino sheep enterprise. As Senior Manager of Business Development at AgriFutures Australia, Jen is responsible for delivering AgriFutures’ National Challenges and Opportunities Arena, which invests $8m annually in strategic research, innovation and collaborative partnerships. Jen works closely with key stakeholders, including other Rural Research and Development Corporations, the National Farmers’ Federation and Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.


Leonie O'Driscoll

Managing Director, Evofarm Pty Ltd

Leonie is the Managing Director of Evofarm Pty and Co-Founder of StockDirect Pty Ltd. Leonie grew up on her families mixed farm in Lameroo South Australia and is an Ag Science and Finance graduate. With a genuine love of practical farming and a passion for finance, Leonie has forged a career largely in commodities and the supply chain, focused on efficiently marketing and moving primary products from farm gate to processor, trader or end user.



Murray Scholz

Managing Partner, Scholz Farming Company

Murray farms with his wife Emma at Culcairn in southern NSW. They grow winter grains and oilseeds, beef cattle and prime lambs. His family began no-till farming in the late 1970s and their system has evolved to zero-till and full stubble retention. Murray is always looking for ways and techniques that improve his business. Murray is a Nuffield scholar, founding chairman of one of his local Landcare groups and sits on a number of boards and advisory panels.


Natalie Sommerville

Grain and Livestock Producer, Spalding SA

Natalie lives near Spalding in South Australia’s Mid North, is a farmer, grazier, business owner and manager, mother and proud Torres Strait Islander. Natalie managers their farming business Windjara Ag with her husband Dane and two children and together have been farming for 15 years including managing up to 4,000 head of sheep and their boradacre dryland cropping and export hay businesses. Driven by her passion of sustainable agriculture and the environment, Natalie’s focus is on influencing positive change in rural Australia and seeing greater innovation, inclusion of gender and age, and respect for diverse backgrounds. She is passionate about sharing her farming, cultural and social knowledge and experiences to improve outcomes for both current and future generations.

Peter Thompson

Partner, Soil2Soul Pty Ltd

Peter is passionate about agriculture and its valuable contribution to modern society. He believes in operating as a team in conjunction with his urban counterparts for the long term financial and environmental sustainability of Australia. is committed to seeing a fair and equitable integration of energy and agricultural production that first and foremost protects the land and water for future generations.



Natalie Williams

Director and Co-founder, Australian Sustainable Food Company

Ecosystem credits and sequestration of carbon have been passions of Natalie’s since they first came to prominence in the 1990s. She studied soil carbon sequestration internationally via a Nuffield Scholarship in 2012 and is now walking the talk with undertaking biodiversity and carbon farming projects in NSW and Queensland. Natalie says: "Financial and farm success in the eco-credit realm is complex and disruptive. How to value and account for natural capital needs to catch up with the implementation of eco-credit programs. The horizons created by credits and how they are marketed and valued is an exciting time for agriculture."


After Hours Forum

Gabrielle Chan MC

Journalist and author

Gabrielle has been a journalist for more than 30 years. She has been a political journalist and politics live blogger at Guardian Australia since 2013. Prior to that she worked at The Australian, ABC radio, The Daily Telegraph, in local newspapers and politics. Gabrielle has written and edited history books, biographies and even a recipe book. Gabrielle moved from the Canberra press gallery to marry a sheep and wheat farmer in 1996. In 2017, she swapped interviews with politicians with interviews with ordinary people on her main street to discover why they think politics has moved so far from their lives. The result is Rusted Off: Why country Australia is fed up.

Dr Annette Cowie

Principal Research Scientist – Climate, NSW DPI and co-author IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land


Annette has a background in soil science and plant nutrition, with particular interest in sustainable resource management. She is Principal Research Scientist – Climate in the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Adjunct Professor in the School of Environmental and Rural Science at the University of New England. Annette was a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recent Special Report on Climate Change and Land, and is a lead author of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. She is co-leader of the International Energy Agency Bioenergy research network ‘Climate and sustainability effects of bioenergy within the broader bioeconomy’, and a member of the Science Policy Interface of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. She has recently completed a six-year term as the Land Degradation advisor on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility. Annette’s current research focuses on sustainability indicators and climate impact assessment in agriculture and forestry, including life cycle assessment of bioenergy and biochar systems.

Brad and Tracy Wooldridge

Australian Farmer of the Year Awards finalists


Brad and Tracy run a mixed farming operation at Arthur River, about 200 km south of Perth in Western Australia, where they manage 1900-head of sheep and crop barley, lupins, canola and oats. After being introduced to the concept of measuring pasture growth and production by satellite imagery and modelling in the early 2000s, Brad and Tracy radically changed their farming system. Using satellite imagery, they started using historical data to analyse pastures performance and at the same time, abandoned set stocking and moved to dairy-style rotational grazing. They also used the technology to identify another property on the south coast to enhance feed security and reduce risk exposure to their farming system.