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Responding To Change - A Workshop on Leading and Learning for Consultants and Farm Groups

Wed 26 Mar 2014

Bungaree Station, Clare, South Australia

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Ben Thomas


Public Good Extension - Who Pays?

The model of agriculture extension in Australia is changing and Ag Institute Australia needs to a leading player in how it evolves, advocating on behalf of our members.

At the very successful recent consultants forum in Clare, South Australia, I posed the question as to how ag extension might work in 2020.

In the past, the sector was heavily dependent on state departments doing both public good and private good extension.

While we can expect to see much more private sector involvement, the question is who is going to pay for the public good part of extension?

Attempts to get private funding without financial advantage have not been successful in the past.

I think it is likely there will be moves to have big benchmarking systems, and extensive cloud-based data and information.

We need to accept that for agricultural advice to be taken seriously there needs to be some sort of certification, just like many other professions.

A market needs to be built where there are advantages in being accredited and the Ag Institute is taking a lead in doing this.

Mike Stephens

Readying Grads For Work

The Ag Institute is acting on a common complaint about uni graduates not being work ready when they complete their training.

Institute advocacy specialist and past president Geoff Thomas told the Clare consultants event that with the high cost of initial engagement of a graduate, a new approach was needed.

Geoff said industry and universities recognised the need and consultants and farmer groups were prepared to provide mentoring.  But there had to financial and logistical support to make it happen.

The Institute was in the process of developing a business case for various funding bodies to get such a program off the ground.


Wednesday 26 March - 7:00pm - late

Welcome Reception At Bungaree

A barbeque largely intended as a “getting to know you” function.  Vicky and Mark Stewart will be on hand to tell us about the rich history of Bungaree Station.

Thursday 27 March 

7:15 – 8:15am : Breakfast at Bungaree

8:25 – 8:35am : Welcome and introduction
Speaker: Hamish Dickson – President AIA SA Division

8:35 – 9:35am : Climate Change

The importance of understanding the facts as part of our relationships with farmers, in applying for projects and in being part of the general debate. What we can do as part of the farm management process.

Speaker: Associate Professor Richard Eckard, Director Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre, University of Melbourne
Discussion leader: Prof Wayne Meyer, University of Adelaide

9:35 – 10:35am

The changing role of the private consultant and farm systems groups

Given changes in Government spending on R,D&E - what does it look like now, what should it be in 10 years’ time? What is the role in public good programs and how would they be funded? What are the current and emerging roles in applied field based research, development, extension and farm monitoring. The role in R&D and providing the skills to do this in a robust manner. The position of industry funds on supporting the private sector?

Speaker:  Mike Stephens, AIA National President and Director Mike Stephens and Associates.

Discussion Leader: Mike Stephens

10:35 – 11:05am

Morning Tea

11:05 – 12:10pm

Skills required of the consultant and farmer groups

In the changing environment, consultants and farmer groups need skills to meet the new demands (such as some livestock skills for agronomists and livestock consultants  vv, farm business, understanding farmer risk, managing projects using external funds etc). Importantly also, how and where do you obtain these skills?

Speakers: Tina Acuna (UTAS), Geoff Thomas AIA (distil previous work on skill needs)

Discussion leader: Geoff Thomas  AIA.

12:10 – 1:15pm


1:15 – 2:15pm

Addressing the needs of the client

A facilitated forum addressing issues such as:

  • What are the client expectations of consultant and farm systems groups?
  • Understanding the agronomy/livestock/farm business interface
  • Developing networks and partnerships
  • What are the limitations

Facilitator: Dr Nigel Wilhelm Leader, Sustainable Farming Systems Unit, SARDI.

2:15 – 3:30pm

Developing and Managing your Social Media and your intellectual property (IP)

Covers issues such as:

  • Developing an effective social media approach
  • Social media management should involve more content than sales – so how do we provide so much content without losing our IP (or does it matter)?
  • Is the way we manage our IP different now with more readily accessible information – should businesses be making newsletters, youtube videos, facebook/linkedin updates and blogs with the latest info for all or should we just keep this for our clients?
  • Legally protecting IP – how do you do it, what can be protected, is it really effective anyway, what steps would have to be taken to stop someone infringing on your IP and is it a good look to go that far?
  • Legal/insurance issues with “uncontrolled advice”

Speakers:  Leanne Isaacson (Rural Business Institute), Paul Gordon (Finlaysons Lawyers)

Discussion Leader: Hamish Dickson – SA Division President and AgriPartner Consulting

3.30 – 4:00pm

Wrap up and Close


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