Name Bronwyn Harch
What part(s) of the industry do you work in? I work in the RD & E parts of the industry – at the interface between research organisations, government (federal and state) and the agri-food and forest based industries
Job title Deputy Director, CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship
What does your company/ business do? CSIRO is Australia’s largest scientific organisation, specialising in research, development and commercialisation of science. Its Sustainable Agriculture Flagship has a goal to secure Australian agriculture and forest industries by increasing productivity by 50 per cent and reducing carbon emissions intensity by at least 50 per cent by 2030. Doing this in partnership both with national and global stakeholders.
Describe your job on the average day I lead researchers who aim to ensure innovations in ’smarter information use’ contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of Australia’s land use, whilst also achieving the productivity gains needed for prosperous agricultural and forest industries and global food security.
On an average day, I work with the scientists to develop their ideas for proposals for their next set of research projects. I work with research funders (from federal and state government, RDCs, agri-food/forestry industries) to match our research ideas to their specific challenges and needs and to advise them on what research already knows or does not know on a specific issue.
I am often interstate or overseas as many of the issues for ”sustainable agriculture” require engagement with researchers in other institutions (including universities, government, companies) or with industries with a national or global footprint.
How did you get involved with agriculture? I come from a family of horticulturalists in the Lockyer Valley, Qld.
My university studies were in statistical science with its application at the interface of agriculture and the environment.
My job roles to date have always had me engaged in landscape scale research issues – with agriculture as one of the many critical land uses.
Bachelor of Environmental Science: Ecology & Statistics as majors [Griffith University]
Graduate Diploma Secondary Education: Science/Mathematics majors [QUT]
Bachelor of Science (1st Class Honours) in Applicable Mathematics. [Griffith University]
PhD in Statistical Science. [UQ]
Postdoctoral Fellow [CSIRO]
Leadership courses [CSIRO]
Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors [AICD]
If you studied/ trained in agriculture, why did you choose that degree/ certificate? I chose Environmental Science – as I was finishing high school the major issues of debate concerned the impacts of land use (including agriculture) on the natural environment. I was very passionate about achieving livelihoods without negative environmental impacts.
The combination of Statistical Science with Agri-Environmental sciences was to ensure I had an extra skill set to the ’average agri-environmental scientist’! To make sure a had something extra special for building a career at the interface of agri-environmental issues.
What are/were you plans after school/TAFE/university? I wanted to get a uni degree – for me I saw it as a ticket to a rewarding job – where I could be making a difference.
Feb 2010 – present CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture National Research Flagship Deputy Director
Feb 2009 – Jan 2010 CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics & Statistics, Deputy Chief
Jul 2008 – Feb 2009 CSIRO Mathematical & Information Sciences, Acting Chief
2005 – 2008 CSIRO Mathematical & Information Sciences, Principal Research Scientist
2000 – 2005 CSIRO Mathematical & Information Sciences, Agri-Environmental statistician
1997 – 1999 CSIRO Mathematical & Information Sciences, Biometrician
1995-1997 CSIRO Institute of Natural Resources & Environment, Postdoctoral Student
1992 – 1995 Department of Agriculture, UQ, GRDC Junior Research Fellow – PhD student
1990 – 1992 Griffith University, Lecturer in the areas of Mathematics, Statistics & Computing
What are your interests?
Exploring my home territory (both the natural and built environment)
Traveling and experiencing local customs and foods
Spending time with my family
What is your favourite thing about the industry? The agricultural R&D sector within Australia is very collaborative and well respected globally for the quality of research undertaken and for its relevance and responsiveness to national and global industry needs.
Best experience in agriculture? Having my ideas incorporated into the workflow and operations of state and federal government departments as well as private industry – increasing their effectiveness in managing landscapes.
Worst experience in agriculture? Attending a meeting as a senior female member of my organisations’ delegation and being asked as the meeting started – to take the minutes and actions. I declined the opportunity and suggested the meeting organiser should consider the task.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges of the agricultural industry in the future?
Australian agriculture faces critical challenges in the decades ahead such as:
* the need to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint
* the need to improve productivity to ensure prosperous rural industries and, on the global stage, to ensure food security
* the need for long-term maintenance of healthy soils and ecosystems
* making the best use of water, nutrient and energy resources
* developing complementary land use options for agriculture, forestry and natural ecosystems.
Why do you think less people are becoming involved in agriculture? There is a perception that careers in agriculture are only as ”a farmer” and that you can’t make that much money.
These career profile pages will highlight the diversity of career you can have – including being a farmer – as well as show that like all career options it really depends on individuals in terms of goals they reach for and strive to achieve in relation to fiscal reward and/or other rewards (lifestyle, etc).
What advice do you have for people thinking about getting into agriculture? There are times when you will feel the culture of being in agriculture is ”conservative”, ”slow moving”, and being part of ”a man’s world”. When you feel that, shake it off. This happens in a lot of industries – it is not special to agriculture. Many use these terms as ”an excuse”.
If you are having these feelings – then at least you are identifying them as issues – and can then make your mark on making a difference!
How important do you think an agricultural background is to become involved in the industry? You do not need to be born and bred with an agricultural background to get involved in the industry!
Being involved requires a passion for what the agricultural sector is trying to achieve, having an awareness of the issues being faced and getting involved in a way that enables you to contribute proactively with your developed skills and knowledge – whether your skills have been nurtured within the agricultural context or will be brought to bare providing different insights and experiences.
What do you think is the most common misconception about agriculture?
Agriculture is a sunset industry requiring little skill.
The agricultural sector is just as important as it has always been, but the critical skill set for engaging in agricultural is now so diverse – it really is so full of many career opportunities!