Australian Agricultural Innovation Systems at the Crossroads Conference: Hotel Realm, Canberra, 29 & 30 May 2013

The Australian Farm Institute convened a national conference bringing together farmers, agribusinesses, agricultural researchers, and public and private sector extension and advisory personnel to discuss this challenge, and develop an agreed common vision of an effective and efficient future Australian agricultural innovation system to improve the competitiveness and profitability of Australian agriculture.

The success of Australian agriculture in the past 100 years has largely been due to the combined efforts of Australian farmers, and public-sector agricultural researchers and extension agencies. For the last decade agricultural productivity growth rates have slowed, directly exposing the farming sector to adverse impacts and lessening the chance of embracing the rapid Asian economic growth. While there are a range of factors believed to be contributing to lower agricultural productivity growth, the state of Australian agricultural innovation systems including research and development and extension (RD&E) is a key area of focus.

Despite increased private sector engagement, there is growing concern that a lack of coordination and strategic direction, combined with a reduction in public-sector funding are key factors in slowing rates of productivity growth, and unless these issues are addressed the stagnation of productivity will persist.

Venue: Hotel Realm, 18 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

Download the Program here.

Conference speakers included:

Session 1.1: An overview of current Australian and International agricultural innovation systems.
9.00 - 10.30 am, Wednesday 29 May


  • Mick Keogh, Executive Director, Australian Farm Institute

  • Professor Rick Roush, Dean, School of Land and Environment, 
    The University of Melbourne  

  • Professor Caroline Saunders, Professor of Trade and Environmental Economics
    and Director, Lincoln University (NZ)

Session 1.2: The view from the ground: What do the 'customers' want or need?
  • James Clark, Chair, Grains Research and Development Corporation Northern Panel

  • Tyran Jones, Dairyfarmer and Director, Gardiner Foundation

  • Lucinda Corrigan, Partner and Director, Rennylea Pastoral Company


  Workshop 1: Objectives of a future Australian agricultural innovation system.

Session 1.3: A national R,D&E strategy. Is it desirable and/or achievable?


  • Rob Delane, Director General, Department of Agriculture and Food, WA

  • Ian Halliday, Managing Director, Dairy Australia

  • Matthew Koval, First Assistant Secretary, DAFF

    Workshop 2: Is a national RD&E strategy desirable: Main hurdles and opportunities .

    Conference dinner - The role of science in optimising innovation in Australian agriculture.

    • Professor Ian William Chubb, AC, Chief Scientist of Australia

    Session 2.1: Agricultural extension: is the system dying or is the new model evolving?


    • Nigel McGuckian, Senior Fellow,
      RM Consulting Group

    • Charlie Walker, Technical and
      Development Manager, Incitec Pivot

    • Austin McLennan, President,
      Australasia Pacific Extension Network INC

      Session 2.2: The future role of government if the Australian agricultural innovation system.
      • Dr John Keniry AM, Commissioner, NSW Natural Resources Commission

      • Duncan Fraser, President, National Farmers Federation

      • Professor Holger Meinke, Director of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, University of Tasmania

      • Dr Brian Fisher, Managing Director, BAEconomics

      Session 2.3: What is the role of Australian university agricultural faculties in the system, and how should that change?

      • Associate Professor Richard Eckard, Senior Executive, School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne

      • Dr Brian Keating, Director, CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship

      • Professor James Rowe, Chief Executive Officer, Sheep CRC

      Workshop 3: Key strategic issues for the future of the Australian agricultural innovation system.

      • 2.30 - 2.45pm – Mike Stephens, National President, Australian Institute of Agriculture (AIA) giving a brief introduction to the session with results from report, “Where should extension be in 2020’.

      Session 2.4: Concluding panel - A strategy for Australian agricultural RD&E 

      • James Clark, Chair, Grains Research and Development Corporation Northern Panel

      • Associate Professor Richard Eckard, Senior Executive, School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne

      • Andrew Metcalfe AO, Secretary, DAFF

      • Dr Ed Mcruder, Senior Director, Emerging Markets R&D at Elanco Animal Health

      • ·         Dr Jane Weatherley, R&D Communications and Adoption Manager, Meat & Livestock Australia

      For more information on speakers, please click here.