Speaker Profiles


Session 1: Who will benefit from digital agriculture?
The Hon Jaala Pulford MP, Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development, State Member for Western Victoria

Jaala Pulford was elected to the Victorian Parliament as Member for Western Victoria in November 2006. She is currently the Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Regional Development.

As Minister she is engaged in building the agriculture sector's resilience and driving growth in jobs and exports.

Jaala Pulford also serves as Deputy Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council. Before entering Parliament, she was a union official with the National Union of Workers. She holds a Masters of Public Policy from Deakin University. 

Richard Heath, General Manager Research, Australian Farm Institute

Richard Heath is General Manager Research at the Australian Farm Institute, responsible for coordinating the Institute's research into a broad range of agricultural policy issues. Richard is Director of Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars, and travelled on a Nuffield Scholarship researching precision application of fertiliser.

Previous to AFI, Richard was Associate Professor of Agronomy and Farm Management for the University of Sydney, responsible for managing their North West Farms group. He served for six years on the Northern Panel of the Grains Research and Development Corporation advising on research priorities for the Australian grains industry.

Richard also owned a consulting business advising on the application of new technology in Australian agriculture. He grew up on a family farm on the Liverpool Plains and was part of the family business for 20 years following university, where he was responsible for the farm's cropping operations.

Charles Baron, Co-Founder, VP of Product and Marketing, Farmers Business Network

Charles Baron is VP of Product and Marketing and Co-Founder of FBN, guiding the development of the breakthrough FBN network. Previously, Charles was a program manager at Google where he started and led product, investment and research initiatives in advanced energy technologies. Charles' passion for farming developed after working on a corn harvest on his brother-in-law's farm in Arapahoe, Nebraska, prior to joining Google.

Charles earned a BA from Dartmouth and an MBA from Harvard with coursework at MIT. 

Richard Norton, Managing Director, Meat & Livestock Australia

Richard Norton joined Meat & Livestock Australia as Managing Director in June 2014. The fifth generation of a beef and sheep farming family from Monaro NSW, Richard began his working life as a rouseabout and jackaroo. He has spent more than 20 years serving livestock producers as a stock agent and auctioneer across NSW, where he still farms beef.

His drive to see Australian agribusiness thrive has led him to hold various executive positions, including Head of Live Export and International Trade and then Managing Director of Landmark Operations Australia, a subsidiary of Agrium Inc based in North America. In addition to roles in agribusiness, Richard has held executive positions in retail, manufacturing, logistics and warehousing with Woolworths, Coca Cola, Wesfarmers and Toll Holdings.

Richard has a MBA from Monash University, and has held various Board positions including Agrium Asia Pacific, the Australian Wheat Board, RD1 New Zealand, Landmark Harcourts and Australian Wool Handlers. He was also Chairman of Integrated Traceability Solutions (Global) and AuctionsPlus. Richard is also a director of MLA Donor Company Limited, National Livestock Identification System Limited, Red Meat Traceability Systems Pty Ltd and AUS-MEAT Limited.

Session 2: Digital technology through the supply chain (and its impact on farm)

Hannah Marriott, 2014 Nuffield Australia Farming Scholar

Hannah Marriot is the Farm Manager at a sheep and beef property in Victoria. Hannah was the 2014 Nuffield Australia Farming Scholar, looking at how to optimise commercial sheep productivity in line with end product specifications (using EID).

Hannah is the Central Victorian Regional Chair for the Southern Australia Meat Research Council (SAMRC).

Harvey Gaynor, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Auscott Limited

Harvey Gaynor is Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Auscott Limited. Harvey joined Auscott as an agronomist in 1988 and has worked for the company at Warren, Bakersfield (Ca) and Moree.

Harvey holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Hons), is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program. He has served on many industry and community committees and boards, including time as a Director of Cotton Australia, Vice Chair of Cotton Seed Distributors Limited, Chair of State Water Gwydir Customer Service Committee and Vice Chair of Gwydir Valley Irrigators' Association Inc.

Harvey is currently a Director of Cargill Processing Limited and a member of The Council of St Ignatius College Riverview Inc.

Professor James Rowe, Chief Executive Officer, Sheep CRC Ltd

Professor James Rowe is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Sheep Industry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) based in Armidale. Before taking on this role he was the Professor of Animal Science at the University of New England for eight years. Professor Rowe has over 30 year's research experience working for commercial companies, international development programs, government agencies and universities.

Sheep CRC research achievements include: development of precision sheep production technologies; accelerating the introduction of genomics in sheep breeding; systems for sheep meat grading; the measurement and calibration of next-to-skin comfort for wool knitwear; and web-based apps to help the sheep industry 'harvest the benefits of digital agriculture'.

Session 3: The role of digital technologies in governance and compliance systems

Dr Sjaak Wolfert, Senior Scientist Information Management and ICT in Agri-Food, Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands

Dr. Sjaak Wolfert studied Plant Science in Wageningen and finished his PhD 'Sustainable agriculture: how to make it work?' in 2002. Currently, he is working as Senior Scientist at Wageningen University and Research in the field of Information Management and ICT in Agri-Food. He coordinates international projects such as the EU-project Internet of Food and Farm (IoF2020). He is affiliated with the Information Technology Group of Wageningen University and was president of the European Federation of ICT in Agriculture (EFITA). Sjaak is a visionary, challenged by complex problems that require a science-based approach where organisational and technical aspects need to be combined. 

Dan Galligan, Chief Executive Officer, Canegrowers

Dan Galligan commenced as Canegrowers CEO in June 2015. Since then, Dan has been involved in critical industry issues on sugar marketing, production costs, trade and market access and the environmental sustainability of the industry and its connections to the Great Barrier Reef.

Dan led the Queensland Farmers' Federation since 2009, joining the Federation after a decade-long stint driving policy and grower services with Cotton Australia in Queensland. During this time, Dan worked in advocacy roles in Queensland and NSW, as well as holding grower services and management positions. He was heavily involved in numerous policy negotiations with government around issues such as land and water management and land access frameworks, vegetation management, natural disaster response, industry management of reef water quality protection and electricity prices and policy.

Dan was instrumental in the cotton industry's voluntary BMP program which is now looked upon as one of the leading agricultural BMP systems in Australia.

Originally from a mixed farming enterprise near Pittsworth on the Darling Downs, Dan has spent a career across a broad ambit of roles in the agricultural sector. He has a formal background in applied science, rural systems management, and before taking on industry focused positions, he worked in extension and research roles in the public sector.

Associate Professor Leanne Wiseman, Griffith Law School, Griffith University

Leanne Wiseman is Associate Director of the Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture (ACIPA) and an Associate Professor in Law at Griffith University. Prior to joining Griffith University, Leanne worked in private practice and government as a solicitor. Leanne's primary research interests and publications lie in the fields of intellectual property and contract law.

Leanne has served as an executive member of the Intellectual Property Society of Australia and New Zealand (IPSANZ) for a number of years and currently remains a member of the Intellectual Property Committee of the Law Council of Australia.

Leanne is currently researching into the intersection between the law and agricultural data and examining issues such as informed consent and access and benefit sharing of agricultural data and, more generally, the legal issues arising from the collection, curation, aggregation and dissemination of on-farm data.                 

Session 4: The impacts of digital technologies on the rural workforce

Ella Shannon, Director, AgDraft

Ella Shannon is a young entrepreneur whose passion has always been in agriculture. Her early career was spent in working within corporate agricultural portfolios for Macquarie Bank and Twynam as a business management consultant. Ella founded her first company 18 months ago, AgDraft, after winning the 2015 Westpac Agricultural Innovation award. AgDraft is a platform that helps farmers connect with casual labour options quickly and with ease. Ella's goal is to create a transparent and efficient hiring system based on farmers reviews and recommendations.

Ella is interested in progressive change and leveraging new technologies within the agricultural industry to increase productivity, facilitate cross collaboration and attract new entrants to our industry.

Dr Kim Houghton, General Manager Research and Policy, Regional Australia Institute

Dr Kim Houghton is General Manager Policy and Research with the Regional Australia Institute (RAI). Kim plays a leading role in the RAI's work on innovation and entrepreneurship, and on regional and local economic development strategies. Kim has 20 years' experience working on business and economic development in towns, cities and regions across Australia and overseas.

Kim has considerable experience in the private sector as well as in the public sector and academia. Before joining the RAI Kim ran a consulting company (Strategic Economic Solutions) as well as holding positions with the Hornery Institute (Community Development Manager) and Elton Consulting (Associate Director). Kim is currently Adjunct Associate Professor with the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra.  

Professor Tristan Perez, Professor - Autonomous Systems, Decisions and Control, Institute for Future Environments, QUT, Brisbane

Tristan Perez is passionate about doing research and developing solutions that generate knowledge, technology and practices to make our world more sustainable, secure and resilient. Tristan thrives working across the boundaries of the traditional disciplines by combining knowledge from mathematics, statistics, science and engineering, for this is where he believes most of the opportunities for innovation lay. Tristan is a Professor of Autonomous Systems and Robotics at QUT. He leads the IntelliSensing Enabling Platform at QUT's Institute for Future Environments, and he is the Research Program Leader in AgriFood Informatics at Food Agility CRC.

Tristan's main research interests and expertise are in the areas of data analytics and behaviour optimisation for dynamical systems, decision making under uncertainty, and robotics. He has applied his knowledge and solved problems for industry partners in agriculture, automation, renewable energy, econometrics, mining, aerospace and marine. Tristan leads QUT's actives in agricultural cybernetics, where he and his team are developing new agricultural robots as well as on-line data analytics and optimisation strategies to assist farmers make better management decisions. He also works in applications of mathematical system theory in collaboration with the Australian Department of Defence.

Tristan received his Electronics Engineering degree (six year program) at UNR in Argentina in 1999, and his PhD in the area of Optimal Control of Stochastic Systems at The University of Newcastle in Australia in 2003.

Fiona Simson, President, 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 sits on the Board of NRMA (NSW), the Australian Made Campaign Ltd, AgStewardship Australia and the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund.

Fiona was appointed as a Director of the National Farmers' Federation on 3 November 2011, Vice President on 19 November 2014 and elected President on 24 November 2016.

Dinner Speaker

Lisa Prassack, Agri Food Innovation Expert and Data Strategy Consultant, Prassack Advisors, USA                   

Lisa Prassack is on a mission to help leading agriculture companies and entrepreneurs collaborate to deliver the "digital farm of the future". With over 20 years in emerging technology, Lisa appreciates, and shares with listeners, that digital farming is rapidly evolving the data landscape and confounding the data scientists with limited farm knowledge. This is due to the complexity of farm data that can (equipment, crop, land prep) and cannot (weather, pests, commodity prices) be controlled. Digital agriculture is evolving, and will be for every farm. Lisa works with entrepreneurs, CEOs, boards of directors, investors and leading technology and agriculture companies to drive strategic solutions and business models that work across the global food supply chain. Lisa has held leadership roles with venture start-ups; private equity holdings and corporations including Booz & Co, DoubleClick, GE, HP, Lexmark and Trimble.

Lisa received her B.S. in Computer Science from Penn State and attended the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. A highly popular speaker on innovation and technology, Lisa has presented at conferences and events around the globe. Learn more about Lisa and her team at www.prassackadvisors.com


Session 5: Traceability and provenance – Will digital technologies help to sell agricultural produce with confidence and will farmers see the benefit?

Phil Delaney, Research Program Manager (Built Environment), CRC for Spatial Information

Phil Delaney is the Program Manager for the Australian Livestock Spatial Innovation Program at the CRC for Spatial Information. Phil works quite broadly across CRC research programs to manage existing and upcoming CRC projects, develop new business and research opportunities, and drive the uptake of CRC initiatives in the broader end user community.

Phil recently led the team developing the 2026 Spatial Industry Transformation Agenda. Phil draws on over 10 years' experience across industry, research and government. Phil has a background in GIS and imagery analysis working across a broad range of application industries, including urban planning, environmental engineering, inundation and flooding, transportation, land use change mapping, renewable energy and natural resource management. Phil was the recipient of the 2014 Young Professional of the Year award at the Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards. 

Dr Mike Briers AO, Chief Executive Officer, Food Agility, University of Technology, Sydney

Mike was named in the Knowledge Nation 100 as Australia's chief evangelist for big data and the internet of things (IoT) and appointed Australia's first Industry Professor of IoT at UTS. He is currently the CEO of the Knowledge Economy Institute, an IoT innovation hub, and leads the FoodAgility.com consortium to empower Australia's food industry to grow its comparative advantage through digital transformation.

Mike is a Co-Founder and Director of the Internet of Things Alliance Australia and Hypercat Australia.

Mike's pioneering efforts in fintech and e-research led to the global success of SIRCA and the founding of big data company RoZetta, e-research service provider Intersect, and co-founding of Capital Markets CRC and AgTech business, The Yield.

Chris Sounness, Chief Executive Officer, BCG

Chris Sounness is CEO of BCG. He has spent twenty years at the development and extension end of getting innovation and research on the farm. Chris grew up on a family farm in Western Australia. Since 1992 he has worked in the Wimmera Mallee of Victoria. Firstly, in Private Breeding Canola research and then a long stint in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources working with farmers and their advisors to increase uptake of agricultural research particularly through building farmers' knowledge and skills in agronomy and seasonal climate risk.

The underpinning of Chris's communication is always tying back to the principal that the family farm is business, and to be successful needs to ensure that in-season decision-making is about cash flow management, land purchasing is about capital management but underpinning all of this is the realisation that the family component of the family farm is time management and ensuring expectations are shared. In the next few years precision agriculture, the data it creates and the utilisation in decision making both on the farm and all along the supply chain is going to lead to many exciting changes. What they are and how disruptive they will be is in our hands.

Mike Buckby, Tasmanian Manager, The Cape Grim Water Company

Mike Buckby is the Rainfarmer for Cape Grim Water Company located at Montagu in the north west of Tasmania.

Cape Grim is Tasmania's original bottled rainwater company now in its 20th year supplying premium hotels and restaurants throughout Australia.

Mike also owns and manages a family farm with his wife Robyn and their family, specialising in dairy heifer agistment, cropping and private forestry.

Mike is also Chair of Agritas, Tasmania's new agricultural trade college located in Smithton offering nationally recognised skills training up to Diploma of Agribusiness Management.

Session 6: The connection between digital agriculture and agricultural finance

Bob McKay, Founder and Executive Chairman, AgriDigital

Bob McKay is a well-known grain industry leader and the founder of both Australia's leading independent broker, Agfarm (sold to Ruralco Limited), and first online grain broking and clearing house, Clear Grain (sold to the New Zealand Stock Exchange).

As a sixth generation farmer who continues to farm grain and oilseeds in Warren, NSW, Bob has first-hand knowledge of the needs of growers and unique challenges and opportunities in the agriculture industry. At AgriDigital, Bob leads the finance and investor activities and plays a key role in AgriDigital's product design and development.                   

Samuel Marwood, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Cultivate Farms

Sam Marwood resigned from his stable, 12-year long Victorian government job in environmental policy in 2015 to start two environment-focused social enterprises.

Cultivate Farms and Edge Pledge, are now building momentum to make significant change for agriculture in regional Australia, and for wildlife on the brink of extinction respectively. The drive behind both of these businesses is his desire to connect people back to the land.

Edge Pledge raises money to help get wildlife off the brink of extinction. It is a fun and interactive web app that helps you pick challenges for yourself and your friends using their world first challenge generator and voting process.

Cultivate Farms matches young farming families with investors to own and operate a farm together. Sam grew up on a dairy farm, and understands the frustration of so many young people who want to farm, but can't afford to own a multi-million dollar farm.

Craig Heraghty, National Agribusiness Leader, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sydney, Australia

With over 17 years at PwC, Craig Heraghty is the leader of PwC Australia's Agribusiness industry group.

Raised in the regional New South Wales town of Parkes, in the middle of eastern Australia's grain belt, Craig has a passion and strong family connection to rural Australia and agriculture.

As the national agribusiness leader, Craig assists clients and client teams across all the businesses within the firm, with over 400 agribusiness specialists across Australia. Globally, Craig regularly connects and works with agribusiness leaders in other PwC offices across the world.

PwC's clients range from family owned and operated farming businesses, to the largest commodity traders and retailers in the world, state and federal governments and agencies, through to the United Nations. 

Michael Whitehead, Head of Agribusiness Insights, ANZ Client Insights and Solutions, ANZ Banking Group Ltd

In his current role, Michael focuses on mapping industry based trends and analysing the impact of these sectoral changes and dynamics on stakeholders across the agribusiness sector.

Previously, Michael was the Product Specialist for Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management in New York, as well as Executive Director of Rabobank's Food and Agribusiness Advisory team in North America, providing industry research and corporate strategy. Michael has also worked with the United Nations and the International Red Cross in Switzerland, as well as in regional economic development in Australia and China.

Michael has been featured widely in the global media outlets, including CNBC, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. Michael has a background in agricultural production and consulting, particularly in Australia and China. Michael has a BA from La Trobe University, and MBA from the Melbourne Business School and the Rotterdam School of Management, and has also completed the Harvard Business School Advanced Agribusiness Course.

Session 7: Is the agriculture sector 'investment ready' for digital products and services?

Jock Graham, 2015 Nuffield Australia Farming Scholar

Jock Graham is a fourth generation farmer from Coolac, NSW, and operates a mixed family farm operation of angus cattle, merino sheep, mixed crops and a sand quarrying operation over 3,600 hectares. Jock is passionate about the use of technology in agriculture, which instigated his involvement in the development of farming apps for mobile devices.

In 2015, Jock was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to research new technology solutions available to provide high-speed internet and better communications to rural and regional users. Through this research, Jock has been able to trial new technology solutions for fast broadband in his local area and has setup a new business based on this called Wi-sky.

Connectivity for rural areas is a topic which Jock has been passionate about for many years and he believes that most farming families and businesses can improve the way they utilise communication technology. 

Sam Gill, Digital Strategy and Business Development Manager, Meat & Livestock Australia

Sam Gill is the Digital Strategy and Business Development Manager for Meat & Livestock Australia's Integrity Systems Company. This role involves the delivery of the industry Digital Value Chain Strategy, developing strategic partnerships such as the National Livestock Genetics Consortium, and facilitating the development of an industry data system for data sharing and analytics across beef and sheep value chains.

Sam is passionate about effectively using technology in agriculture, and has worked in commercial, delivery and research management roles focused on measurement, analytics and genetics. Sam was one of the final graduates from UNSW's Wool and Pastoral Science course, and has a Masters in Animal Breeding and Management from the University of Sydney. Sam is based in the MLA office in Armidale, NSW.

Michael Dean, Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer, AgFunder, USA

Michael Dean is Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer at AgFunder, a San Francisco based online investment platform for global agriculture and food technology.

Michael has over 20 years of legal, business management and project development experience. He leads the AgFunder investment team and oversees deal identification, origination and execution on the AgFunder platform.

A qualified lawyer, Michael previously advised many of Australia's largest investment corporations on the acquisition and development aspects of their property, agribusiness, resources, renewable energy, construction and associated investment activities. Michael has substantial experience of large-scale projects incorporating complex development and structuring issues. Michael is a regular speaker on food and agriculture technology investing at various global conferences, and sits on the advisory boards of the World Agri-Tech Investment Summit and the Ag Innovation Showcase. He is a board member of the SproutX Agtech Accelerator and holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Sydney.

Ron Meeusen, Managing Director, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, USA

Ron Meeusen is a Ph. D. plant physiologist who spent 25 years in corporate R&D in the crop protection and seeds industry, leading research programs from some of the first genetically engineered corn hybrids to marker-assisted breeding and novel healthy oils. In 2008, Ron left Dow AgroSciences where he had been leading agbiotechnology and formed one of the first private venture capital funds focused solely on food and agriculture - Cultivian Sandbox Ventures.

Session 8: Closing panel – The global context

Dr Sjaak Wolfert, Senior Scientist Information Management and ICT in Agri-Food, Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands                   

Michael Dean, Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer, AgFunder, USA
Lisa Prassack, Agri Food Innovation Expert and Data Strategy Consultant, Prassack Advisors, USA
Ron Meeusen, Managing Director, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, USA