Meet Matt Champness. A volunteer agronomist in Laos, a bright light in future of Australian agriculture, and a 2018 graduate of the 2030 Leaders Program.
Australian agriculture needs young bright minds and passionate drive like Matt for agriculture to reach $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.
Matt says his experience participating in the NFF 2030 Leaders Program was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Matt shared his story with AustralianFarmers and encourages other to apply to the 2019 Program.
Applications for the 2030 Leaders Program close 2 July 2019.
How did you come to be so passionate about Australian agriculture?
Agriculture is the backbone of rural Australia, it’s the lifeblood of rural and regional towns. Not only are Aussie farmers incredibly innovative and clever, their able to produce the safest and tastiest food in the world. But currently, agriculture is under increasing pressure; social, political, environmental and economic pressures, no different to many other industries. However, agriculture is unique in the fact that we need it. We can do without a lot of things, but none of us can survive without food.
There will be more food eaten in the next 50 years than there has been in the whole of humanity, however, we only have the capacity to produce 30% of that – pretty scary. We need radical advances in management and technology to ensure we have a food secure world. A world that is sustainable, meaning we can feed and clothe the world, for generations to come. I believe Australian farmers can be at the forefront of this, and I want to be a part of it.
What are your aspirations for your career in agriculture?
I dream of being a sheep farmer, but then the economic reality smacks me in the face. Currently I’m a volunteer agronomist in The Laos PDR working to find solutions to weeds in rice without the use of herbicides.
Next step, hopefully a PhD working on increasing the livelihood of small holder farmers through better agronomic practices.
In a world of endless possibilities, I could end up anywhere, but at the forefront: helping farmers to produce safe food, in a sustainable manner whilst maintaining a profit – can we do it? We have no choice.
What do you see your role to be (or potentially be) in assisting Australian agriculture in becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030 ?
I want to be a voice for Australian agriculture – advocating to improve the social perception, as well as using a science-based approach to increase the productive capacity of Australian Ag in a sustainable way.
We need strong voices, not just for “the people in the bush”, but the new age of farmers – the world class hydroponic vegie producers in the city, the cricket farmers and the algae farmers. We also need to look methodically into using the bioproducts of one industry in another, enhancing efficiency and driving productivity.
What was your experience participating in the 2030 Leaders Program and how did it assist with achieving your aspirations?
The 2030 leader program was truly life changing. It really enhanced my capacity in communication, leadership and people management. I wouldn’t have lasted a month in Laos without the skills I learnt whilst at “Cuppa”.
I also build an incredible network of leaders in the industry. The eight of us involved in the program continue to talk daily, challenging each other to become better leaders and global citizens. Furthermore, seven lifelong friends!
What does leadership mean to you?
Whilst I might be optimistic of the future, I’m no philosopher so I’ll keep it simple. To me leadership is about supporting and positively influencing those around you to maximise their potential and achieve a common objective.
What advice would you give to the 2019 cohort?
Be a yes man/woman. That’s advice to anyone. We’re all “too busy”, none of us have time, but if you’re passionate, you’ll find a way. Good leaders want to help other achieve their potential, therefore, don’t be afraid to get out there and start a conversation with one, who knows where it will take you.