AFI Team

Key Staff

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Richard Heath – Executive Director

Prior to joining the AFI, Richard was Associate Professor of Agronomy and Farm Management at the University of Sydney and before that was involved in a large family farming business in North West NSW. Richard is a director of the Grains Research and Development Corporation and sits on the Advisory Committee for CSIRO Agriculture and Food. He is a Nuffield scholar and was a director of Nuffield Australia.

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Katie McRobert – General Manager

Katie is an editorial, communications and project management specialist. Since commencing with the AFI she has co-authored several research reports, including Reinventing Australian agricultural statistics, Australian agriculture: an increasingly risky business and Change in the air: Defining the need for an Australian agricultural climate change strategy. Katie has previously worked as a global Content & Community Manager for Rabobank and as the National Editor for FarmOnline, and is undertaking an MBA at Griffith University specialising in Sustainable Business.

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Teresa Fox – Research and Communications

Teresa grew up on her family’s sugarcane property in North Queensland near the Whitsundays which is where her passion for agriculture began. She studied a Bachelor of Agribusiness majoring in Economics at the University of New England. Prior to joining AFI, Teresa undertook a brief internship with a grain training firm in Sydney, then entered a supply chain graduate program with BE Campbell a large pork manufacturing plant in Sydney, where she secured a permanent position as the Livestock Buyer.

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Kylie Smith – Events and Membership 

Kylie joined the Institute in 2014 and currently looks after Events and Membership for AFI. As well as organising events, Kylie’s previous roles include Graphic Designer and Studio Coordinator. Kylie is passionate about working in the not-for-profit sector.

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Sally Beech – Designer and Editor

Sally has worked at the Institute since 2008 and has over 20 years’ experience in editing, design and production. Sally’s previous roles include: Studio Coordinator at AGSM; Editorial Assistant at UTS; Designer/Illustrator at Science Press; and Scientific Illustrator at the Australian Museum. 

Board

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Andrew Spencer – Chair

  • Principal, Ancer Consulting Pty. Ltd.
  • Former Chief Executive Officer, Australian Pork Ltd
  • Former Director, Pork CRC Ltd
  • Director & Chair PorkScan Pty Ltd
  • 35-year career in agribusiness, both in Australia and internationally
  • Worked in Germany, South Africa and France, in the agricultural chemicals, biotechnology and seeds markets
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David Clarke – Director

  • Former Treasurer, NSW Farmers’ Association
  • Mr Clarke has worked in agriculture for over 30 years, the past 14 years managing partner of the family property ‘Mt Brace’ Rylstone district.
  • Now specialising in beef production, formerly fine merino wool – also mixed farming enterprises, canola & grains.
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Dr Wendy Craik – Director

  • Commissioner of the Productivity Commission (2009-2014)
  • Executive Director of the National Farmers’ Federation (1995-2000)
  • Chair of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (2010-2016)
  • Deputy Chancellor of the University of South Australia (2010-2018)
  • Chair of the Climate Change Authority
  • Advisory Board Member of The Centre for Strategy and Governance
  • Senior Associate at Aither. Director of Ennever Rainworth Pty Ltd
  • Chair of the NSW Marine Estate Management Authority (2013-2019)
  • Director of the Reserve Bank of Australia
  • Member of the Future Drought Fund Consultative Committee (from 2019)
  • National Drought and Flood Advisory Board.Member (2020)
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Alexandra Gartmann – Director

  • CEO Rural Bank and Group Executive Partnerships, Marketing and Corporate Affairs
  • Before joining Rural Bank, Alexandra was CEO of the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal
  • Previously CEO of the Birchip Cropping Group – a not-for-profit agricultural research organisation
  • Member of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership 
  • Trustee of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust
  • Previously, member of the Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria, the National Rural Advisory Council, Victorian Agricultural Advisory Committee, LaTrobe Uni Regional Advisory Board, RIRDC National Rural Issues Consultative Group and the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee
  • Former Chair of the CSIRO Agriculture and Food Advisory Council
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Richard Heath – Executive Director

  • Executive Director, Australian Farm Institute
  • Director of the Grains Research and Development Corporation – former director Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars
  • Previously Associate Professor of Agronomy and Farm Management for the University of Sydney responsible for managing their North West Farms group
  • Served for six years on the Northern Panel of the GRDC advising on research priorities for the Australian grains industry
  • Owned a consulting business advising on the application of new technology in Australian agriculture.
  • Travelled on a Nuffield Scholarship researching precision application of fertiliser

Research Advisory Committee

Roles:
• Make recommendations to the Executive Director and Board on the design of research projects
• Ensure that research project reports are rigorous and objective
• Act as an editorial panel for the Farm Policy Journal, and referee papers submitted to that journal for publication

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Professor Les Copeland

  • Emeritus Professor of Agriculture in the University of Sydney. He has taught and published extensively in the areas of agricultural, grain and food science, and he has been the primary mentor of 34 PhD students
  • Director of the Australian Government Cotton Research and Development Corporation
  • Editor-in-Chief of the journals Cereal Chemistry (Wiley) and Agriculture (MDPI)
  • Former Dean of Agriculture and Foundation President of the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture
  • BSc (Hons) and PhD degrees from the University of Sydney and a Graduate Diploma from the Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Held research positions in the US at Yale University, the University of Buffalo, and the University of California, Davis, as well as at the Australian National University
  • Fulbright Alumnus and the recipient of an Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Association of Cereal Chemists-International
  • Awarded a Membership of the Order of Australia (AM) in June 2019 for for significant service to agricultural science as an academic and researcher
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Wayne Dunford

  • Partner in a family partnership that operates a mixed farming business west of Parkes, producing prime lambs, wool and a winter cropping program as well as a beef cattle 
  • Mr Dunford has always had a strong interest in promoting agriculture as an important part of rural Australia and a keen desire to see it continue on as a viable industry for future generations
  • Member of the NSW Farmers’ Association for 30 plus years and has held various positions at a local level for a number of those years. Former Vice President and Board member
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Richard Eckard

  • Richard is Professor and Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre (www.piccc.org.au) in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, the University of Melbourne
  • His research focuses on sustainable livestock production, nitrogen cycling and loss in grazing systems, with a recent focus on carbon farming, managing extreme climate events and options for agriculture to respond to a changing climate
  • He is a science advisor to the Australian, New Zealand and UK governments, and the UN FAO and EU, on climate change adaptation, mitigation and carbon policy development in agriculture
  • Richard leads a network within the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses and a member of the Greenhouse Gas and Animal Agriculture international science committee
  • Published over 150 peer reviewed papers, with 80 peer-reviewed papers, 7 book chapters, and 140 conference papers on climate change, carbon farming and agriculture since 2010
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Professor Ross Kingwell – Chairman

  • Professor in the School of Agriculture and Environment, University of Western Australia
  • Economics and Market Intelligence Team manager in the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
  • Agricultural economist with over 35 years’ experience in research and provision of policy advice
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Professor Jim Pratley

  • Dean, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, Charles Sturt University
  • Vice-President, International Allelopathy Society
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Dr Michael Robertson

  • Deputy Director of CSIRO’s Agriculture Flagship
  • Member of the team that won the 2013 CSIRO Medal for Impact from Science
  • Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (2012)
  • A key player in the development of the APSIM farming systems model
  • A national leader in the grains industry, on cropping systems, variable rate technology, simulation modelling, mixed crop-livestock farming, and water productivity
  • Publications (ISI statistics, February 2015): 133 articles, career cites 2772, H-Index of 24
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David Sackett

  • Managing Director Growth Farms Australia
  • Board member TA Field Estates
  • 20+ years as an agricultural consultant
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Professor Leanne Wiseman

  • Professor, Griffith Law School, Griffith University
  • Associate Director, Australian Centre of Intellectual Property in Agriculture
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Richard Heath – Executive Director

  • Executive Director, Australian Farm Institute
  • Director of the Grains Research and Development Corporation – former director Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars
  • Previously Associate Professor of Agronomy and Farm Management for the University of Sydney responsible for managing their North West Farms group
  • Served for six years on the Northern Panel of the GRDC advising on research priorities for the Australian grains industry
  • Owned a consulting business advising on the application of new technology in Australian agriculture.
  • Travelled on a Nuffield Scholarship researching precision application of fertiliser

Research Fellows

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Claire Booth

Claire Booth is a Senior Associate solicitor with Duffy Elliott Lawyers specialising in wills, succession planning, and the transfer of wealth across the generations involved in farming and business. Claire and her husband are also first-generation farmers, having started their farm business in 2012 at age 28 after saving the deposit in their 20’s. Booth Ag produces irrigated and dryland horticulture, grains, pulses and livestock on the flood plains of the Macquarie River near Geurie and Dubbo. Recently Claire completed a Nuffield Scholarship focusing on land values, debt and financial literacy in agriculture. 

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Matt Cawood

Matt Cawood grew up on a West Australian cattle property and worked in a range of occupations on the land, from Queensland’s Gulf country to Bass Strait and the WA wheatbelt, before taking up journalism. Over 30 years, he has written on agriculture and the environment for a range of publications in Australia and overseas. He was a national writer for Australia’s largest stable of specialist agricultural print media for 15 years, a role that exposed him first-hand to farming and its supply chains across Australia and the globe. He currently works in communications for the University of New England, Australia.

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Fiona Dempster

Dr Fiona Dempster is an applied economist with The University of Western Australia and with her family operates a 5,200-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.

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Thom Goodwin

Dr Thom Goodwin is the Data and Analytics Manager of TasFoods Ltd. In this role he develops desktop productivity tools which enable better planning and supply chain visibility in the fast moving perishable goods environment. Thom has also developed financial and economic models for farm business management as a senior consultant with Macquarie Franklin and was a senior economic analyst with the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. Thom has also worked as an agricultural economist in Papua New Guinea.

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Emma Leonard

Emma has over 25 years’ experience communicating technical information to farmers in Australia and the UK. She is proprietor of AgriKnowHow, a business she runs from a farm in South Australia. Since 2006 she has edited Precision Ag News, the magazine of the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia. Emma is a Nuffield scholar and in 2017, she commenced a PhD from the University of New England looking at ‘How to overcome the barriers to the adoption of digital agriculture’.

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Kelly Pearce

Dr Kelly Pearce is a Grain and Prime Lamb Producer from Yealering in Western Australia. Kelly has had a 17-year career in agricultural research and continues to coordinate a number of regional science and innovation projects through her regionally-based business Wheatbelt Science Pty Ltd. Kelly is also a Director of Farmers Mutual Limited, 2012 Nuffield Scholar, Director of the Grower Group Alliance Inc, Director of the WA Meat Industry Authority, Committee member of the Corrigin Farm Improvement Group, and Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 

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Oscar Pearse

Oscar Pearse is an experienced farm business manager from Moree in NSW where he is part of a family farming operation that has been in place since 1872. Oscar has a passion and extensive background in advocating for good agricultural policy and has held policy development positions with Cattle Council of Australia, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Lot Feeders’ Association and AgForce Queensland. Oscar also sits on NSW Farmers’ Association committees and has completed the Australian Grain Farm Leaders program.

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Ed Perrett

Ed Perrett works for goFARM Australia, an Australian-owned agricultural investor, property developer and manager, where he is responsible for leading the company’s in-house commercial research. Ed’s career has focused on the intersections of agricultural policy, research, and business. He has previously worked for the Australian Farm Institute and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia. In 2016 Ed completed a Masters of Agribusiness in the Netherlands. He also holds Master and Bachelor (Honours) degrees from the University of Melbourne, where his studies specialised in agricultural and environmental policy. 

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Sarah Sivyer

Sarah Sivyer is the Founder and Director of Just Been Laid Egg Subscription, the first egg subscription business in Australia. Sarah runs the pastured egg business in addition to the family’s fifth generation beef operation in Eccleston, NSW. Prior to moving back to the family farm Sarah worked for Rabobank as Head of Operational Excellence and a Senior Analyst, Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory. Sarah has also had roles with the International Finance Corporation, Syngenta and BHP Billiton. Sarah is a Nuffield Scholar and has an MBA from the Said Business School at the University of Oxford.

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