Agriculture's future meets

Top notch: Scholarship students (front) Luke Vella and Holly Chandler and (back) Royce Pitchford and Matthew Hyde. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE.
Top notch: Scholarship students (front) Luke Vella and Holly Chandler and (back) Royce Pitchford and Matthew Hyde. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE.

Australia’s smart agriculture future has been on show at Lake Hume Resort this week.

Thirty-seven elite agriculture students from right across the nation converged on the Border for the annual Horizon Scholarship Workshop.

The program has been run for the past seven years by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), in partnership with a range of industry sponsors.

These sponsors include the Grains Research and Development Corporation, Dairy Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and the McCaughey Memorial Institute.

“The whole reason for the scholarship’s existence is we wanted to identify the next generation of agricultural leaders,” RIRDC communications and capacity building manager Debbie van der Rijt said.

At any time, Horizon has 50 scholarship holders across various year levels in undergraduate, agriculture-focused degrees.

“There’s an application process where we review their interests and engagement with agriculture,” Ms van der Rijt said.

“They don’t have to come from an agricultural background, which is really important.

“Also, there’s their leadership skills and quality and their level of education and performance at high school is a factor, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

Those on the shortlist will be interviewed by RIRDC representatives and sometimes the sponsors, who make the final decision.

“They receive a $5000 bursary to assist with their study and also each year they attend a workshop, which is what we’re doing now, and complete two weeks of work placement, which is facilitated by their contacts, by their sponsor and by RIRDC,” Ms van der Rijt said.

“And so we really encourage them to get out and about and experience new things to get the best handle they can to prepare them for life in the real world.”

The workshops are held in Canberra one year and each alternate year in a major regional centre.

The focus changes each year, with this year’s theme “transformation and change”.

“It’s not necessarily forming part of their course work moving forward, but the themes are totally relevant to the industry,” Ms van der Rijt said.

“It is also designed to increase their personal perspective and skills to be the leaders of the future and to have opinions and to be measured and stand-out.

“The support of industry partners is vital and the fact is that they put in a lot of effort and resources to bring this to life.”