Friday, April 12, 2024

Nuffield Scholars for 2024 step forward

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Wide range of interests and backgrounds set new crop up for era of ‘relentless change’.
Nuffield 2024 scholars announcement in The Grand Hall at Parliament. Photo copyright Mark Coote for Rural Leaders.
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Four food and fibre sector leaders have been awarded 2024 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarships. 

The Nuffield Awards Ceremony was hosted by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust at the Grand Hall in Parliament, Wellington. 

Carlos Bagrie, an Otago-based sheep, beef and arable farmer, will focus his research on circular farming systems that reduce waste while improving the bottom line.

The research of Central Hawke’s Bay agri-investments portfolio manager and dairy farmer Rachel Baker will look at the impact of existing and proposed global food strategies on food producers.

Jenna Smith, a Waikato Māori agribusiness CEO and dairy farmer, will focus on climate change-related land use changes.

Peter Templeton, a fifth-generation Southland dairy farmer, will pursue his interest in the future of farming and the role of innovation.

NZ Rural Leadership Trust chair Kate Scott spoke about a global and national context of relentless change, saying that the challenges the sector faces in this context require high-performing leaders for the teams they serve. 

In September 2022 the trust was commissioned by the Food and Fibre Centre for Vocational Excellence to research and design a leadership development ecosystem for NZ’s food and fibre sector. Scott drew on some of the work in the two project reports completed so far.

“Our leaders need to be more adaptive than ever before, creating healthy and diverse, high-performing environments that allow teams to acquire the skills and build the resilience they need to thrive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world,” Scott said.

The first report presents research into the current state of leader development in the food and fibre sector.

The second report, A Principles-centred Leadership Model, proposes that leaders who truly lead unleash their potential, and that of those around them. 

To ensure the 2024 Nuffield scholars can travel and gain international insights in a context of rising travel prices, the value of the scholarships increased in 2023. This has also meant that four scholars were selected this year instead of the maximum five, making competition for scholarships tougher still.

The four new scholars will join the over 180 Nuffield alumni who were awarded scholarships over the past 73 years.

Meet the 2024 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholars:

• Carlos Bagrie, Otago – sheep and beef/wool/arable/horticulture

Bagrie has been across multiple ends of food production and the value chain, including primary production, distribution, retail and media. 

He recently founded Royalburn Station, a renowned high-country farm that has carved a niche for itself by distributing premium quality food to some of NZ’s top-tier restaurants. 

He further diversified influence in the food sector when he co-founded My Food Bag. This innovative food distribution company helps answer the “What’s for dinner?” question for tens of thousands of Kiwis every week. During the covid lockdowns, Bagrie played director and videographer, filming TV1’s hit  Nadia’s Comfort Kitchen on his iPhone. 

In 2022, he found himself in front of the cameras on TV3’s  Nadia’s Farm, a TV show that highlighted the intricacies of farm life and food production at scale. 

Alongside his wife, Bagrie delved into the world of books and media. Together, Carlos and Nadia self-published a series of No 1 best-selling cookbooks that resonated with home cooks. 

Bagrie can usually be found on the farm, either in the butchery, on the combine harvester, or moving mobs of sheep across the property. 

“I’m humbled to be selected as a Nuffield Scholar and will be focusing my research on circular farming systems that reduce waste while improving the bottom line,” he said.

• Rachel Baker, Central Hawke’s Bay – agribusiness/dairy

The primary sector is both a passion and growth enabler for Baker. Her path has always involved the people, communities and business of food production.

Her extensive professional experience includes working as a dairy veterinarian, a dairy farm systems consultant, sharemilker, dry stock farm owner, educator, and more recently, an asset manager for horticulture investment businesses.  

“While being relatively new to horticulture, my role as portfolio manager of MyFarm Investments’ Hawke’s Bay apple syndicates has enabled me to learn, understand and challenge the grower model. I have been involved with development and management of 100ha of Rockit plantings in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.”

Baker’s current governance experience includes serving as a trustee of the Rockit Apple Growers Trust and directorships of horticulture and commercial property. She is a 2016 Kellogg Scholar, a 2018 NZ Dairy Woman of the Year finalist and past chair of the NZ Dairy Industry Awards.  

On her proposed Nuffield research, Baker said: “My research topic will explore the impact, challenges and opportunities of existing and proposed global food strategies on food producers, with particular interest in the applications for New Zealand.”

Her recent focus has been the response and recovery of properties impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle.

• Jenna Smith – Coromandel, Māori agribusiness/dairy/beef/arable/horticulture

Smith is the current chief executive of Pouarua, a diverse Māori agribusiness encompassing dairy, arable, beef and horticulture on the Hauraki Plains. 

Smith serves as a trustee for Dairy Women’s Network, is on the board of BEL Group and chairs St Francis Catholic School in Thames. 

She has extensive corporate agriculture experience across Waikato, Canterbury, Otago and Southland, having previously worked for Pāmu, and syndicated overseas investment farming portfolios. During this time, she has always “kept a gumboot in the grass” through her and her husband’s farming businesses. 

Leading Pouarua Farms to be awarded as finalists in the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in Māori farming in 2021, Smith was also named a finalist in the 2021 Zanda McDonald Award, which recognises talent and passion for agriculture across Australia and NZ.

“I am looking to study economically and sustainably viable alternate land uses for lowlands and peatlands that are highly susceptible to climatic pressures.”

Passionate about creating environmentally sustainable agribusinesses, Smith regularly contributes to advisory boards for the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry for Primary Industries. 

• Peter Templeton – Southland, dairy.

Templeton is a fifth-generation dairy farmer based on the south coast of Southland. 

He is passionate about Southland dairy farming and has been dairy farming for 11 seasons, working his way up from 2IC to farm manager before returning to the family farm in 2016. 

Templeton began his ownership journey as a 50:50 sharemilker for five seasons, before leasing the farm for two seasons and finally owning the farm in August 2023. 

He is interested in focusing on the future of farming, what it is likely to look like on an individual farm basis – in particular on new technologies to implement on farm. 

“I am always curious to see other systems and challenging myself to see what I could use in my own environment.”

Templeton is also excited to see and gain a better understanding of NZ’s value chains, understand how they intend to innovate to compete.

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