The University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture (IOA) has hosted its largest Industry Forum since the annual event began eight years ago. The packed presence was largely to do with currency of the topic ‘Potential for food production in northern Western Australia'.
The Industry Forum brings together some of WA's leading farmers, key industry leaders and researchers to discuss a current topic in agriculture. This year's topic could not have been more timely, with WA Minister for Water and Forestry Mia Davies announcing plans to help expand WA's agricultural sector in the West Kimberley region just one day earlier. Vincent Catania (MLA), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister, formally opened the forum and expanded on the Water for Food program that was announced.
Terry Hill, executive director of Irrigated Agriculture and Diversification at the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA (DAFWA), gave the keynote address and noted that there is now a greater understanding of risks in the north.
Steve Meerwald of Agricultural Connections Australia, discussed the challenges and opportunities in the beef industry in this region, whilefarmer Christian Bloecker, of the Bothkamp Australia Farm near Kununurra, discussed his experiences with cropping systems in the Ord River valley.
A businessman's perspective to investment and risk in northwest agribusiness was delivered by Graham Laitt, managing director of Milne AgriGroup, who discussed how risks could be managed through diversification in the agribusiness sector. This point was touched on by Jeff Wilkie, Pastoral Stations and Agricultural Projects manager at Rio Tinto, who gave a perspective from the resources sector and discussed the synergies between mining and agriculture.
Water, environment and sustainable development issues related to potential food production in northern WA were discussed by DAFWA's principal research scientist Dr Richard George.
Consultant Kevin Goss, who facilitated the discussion and summarised the proceedings, noted that all speakers indicated that lessons had been learned and that the probability of success in WA's north is greater.
IOA Director, Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique, said feedback from the attendees had been extremely positive.
"The success of this event is directly related to the calibre of the speakers, so we are grateful that they were able to give up their time and in some cases travel to Perth for the forum," Professor Siddique said.