Northern Australia Food Futures Conference

Monday, 3 November 2014 to Wednesday, 5 November 2014 from 6:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Darwin Convention Centre, Darwin, Australia


Over two days Northern Australia Food Future's will cover broad cross-sector issues as well as focusing in on specific aspects of Northern Agriculture. On Day One sessions will investigate the big picture presented by markets and economics, issues to be discussed will stem from the experiences of successful Northern Farmers, research and development, soil and water resources, indigenous participation and environmental imperatives. Day Two of the conference narrows its focus to cover development pathways on specific crops and commodities such as sugar, cotton, horticulture, peanuts, aromatic rice, fodder for better beef, poppy, chia, guar and forestry.

Northern Australia Food Futures Program


18.00 Welcome Reception
at Darwin Convention Centre

DAY ONE - Tuesday 4th November

08.30 Conference MC Grant Fenton, CEO NT Farmers Association

08.35 Welcome to Country by James Parfitt

08.40 Opening
The Hon. Adam Giles, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory

The NT Chief Minister is a strong supporter of northern agricultural development, providing strong leadership at the highest level of Australian government. Agriculture is a key plank of NT Government policies. Adam is a can do politician driving the agenda for development. He has made numerous visits to Asia to attract commercial investment and set up an Office of Northern Development in Darwin.

08.50 Ministerial forum

The Hon. John McVeigh, Minister for Agriculture Qld, The Hon. Kenneth (Ken) Charles Baston MLC WA, and Hon Willem Westra Van Holthe NT

The ministers for agriculture from the NT, WA and Qld discuss development in each area, the common areas of interest and what can be learnt from each other across the north.

09.30 Learning from northern farmers

What works and why? What’s failed?

Panel with Rob Boshammer - Ord, Gavin Scurr - Pinata Marketing NT and Qld, John Howard - CEO Peanut Company Australia, and Gabi Bloecker - Bothkamp Australia P/L – Ord led by ABC Country Hour Mat Bran

A group of northern farmers discuss their development path, in an area haunted by failure. They grow, melons, mangoes, chia, grains, pineapples and peanuts. These farmers have been at the pointy end of northern agricultural development for many years. They bring credibility to the debate - the “can do” of northern agriculture. They deserve a strong voice in development. Success is possible if we get the approach and thinking right.

10.15 Break

10.45 Future synergies with Indonesia
North Australian agriculture and food security in Indonesia
Indonesian panel with Terry Mills Moderator
Dr Peter Horne, ACIAR, Hartono Atmadja CEO Garuda Foods, Prof. Bustanul Arifin Univ. Lampung

This panel will air the views of key Indonesians, facilitated by Terry Mills, former NT Chief Minister, now based in Jakarta. Rising food imports is putting pressure on the Indonesian economy e.g. sugar, soybean, cotton, peanuts. Senior business and government officials in Australia and Indonesia recognize the joint opportunity to develop northern agriculture to meet Indonesia’s rising food needs. Indonesia is already a partner in the northern cattle industry. Dr Peter Horne of ACIAR has a key role in contributing good research to development in northern Australia and Indonesia. Bustanul Arifin contributes to the policy positions on food security in Indonesia. Hartono Atmadja is CEO of Garuda foods, Indonesia’s largest snack food company with major interests in soy and peanut.

11.30 Market opportunities brain trust

Where are the opportunities, the competitive market advantages, and viable economics?
Panel with moderator. Bob Dall'Alba, Dr. Andrew Ash, David Hanlon, Grame Barty
Kristy O’Brien ABC Darwin

A panel to target realistic northern development opportunities, driven by markets and economics. Bob Dall'Alba is CEO of OLAM Australia (Queensland Cotton and almonds), a major international agricultural producer and commodity marketer, headquartered in Singapore. David Hanlon has 40 years of agricultural market and economic analysis experience across the north for government, commercial and indigenous clients. Dr Andrew Ash is one of the authors of the Food and Fiber Study, commissioned by the Northern Ministerial Forum. Grame Barty is a senior Austrade executive, General Manager Growth and Emerging Markets.

Markets and economics have to be the drivers of development - which crop, which area, what infrastructure.

12.15 Indigenous participation
Panel with Leigh (Tracker) Tilmouth, Wayne Bergman, Joe Morrisson
Moderator - ABC Darwin’s Charlie King

Indigenous participation is essential in northern agricultural development, as both a large landholder and a major part of the northern rural population. Four key indigenous thinkers discuss how indigenous participation can be part of northern agriculture. Wayne Bergman led the Kimberly Land Council negotiations on Ord Stage 2. Tracker Tilmouth, as CEO of Central Land Council, has for many years been a strong advocate of agricultural development on indigenous land. Joe Morrisson is CEO Northern Land Council and a strong advocate for environmental sound development on indigenous lands in the north. Issues of Ord stage 3, the wild rivers of the Cape, water and a strong environment are important considerations.

13.00 Lunch

Melbourne Cup Luncheon

14.00 The CRC for Northern Agriculture

CEO Michael Guerin
The coalition’s policy for a Northern Agriculture CRC is well advanced in development. The CRC will be a major catalyst for agricultural development. Michael will outline the key strategies in the Northern Agriculture CRC proposal.

14.20 Innovation for commercial success

Panel with Terry Hill, Craig Burns, Robert Gray, Bob Williams
Moderator Kristy O’Brien ABC Darwin

A group of leading northern researchers discuss the direction of R&D, with a greater focus on partnering commercial development and partnering with similar countries overseas. This panel includes Research Directors from NT - Bob Williams and WA - Terry Hill. Robert Gray is formerly GM of Harvest Company, the largest successful northern agricultural enterprise with a turnover in excess of $20 million. RIRDC CEO Craig Burns has been a catalyst funder of northern research for many years in diverse areas like melons, rambutan, Asian vegetables, essential oils, rice, buffalo.

15.00 Resources – Land and Water Resources in the North – where?
                                15.00 How did the Ord develop -
Peter Stubbs
                                15.20 NT Soils and Water for food –
Jason Hill
                                15.40 Flinders Gilbert Study CSIRO –
Dr Peter Stone

Three presentations on land and water resources in Qld, NT and WA, each with a different approach. Peter Stubbs has led the development of Ord Stage 2 and has additional areas for development in WA. Jason Hill has mapped soils and water resources across the NT to focus on development precincts. Dr. Peter Stone led the Flinders Gilbert Study in North West Queensland integrating soils, water, economics and markets into a development model.

16.00 The Environmental Imperatives
Panel with moderator Christy O’Brien ABC NT
Dr Bill Freeland, Prof. Andrew Campbell, Gavan Mac Fadzean

Food Futures brings the views of leading environmentalists and ecologist for a dialogue based on listening, not talking through the media. Dr Bill Freeland is head of Environmental Protection Authority NT. Prof. Andrew Campbell is an ecologist based at Charles Darwin University. Gavan Mac Fadzean is from the Wilderness Society, leader of their Northern Australia Campaign.

16.40 Impacts of today’s proceedings

A group of leading participants from government and business summarizes what they have learnt from the first day of proceedings.

17.15 Finish

19.30 Evening function – Darwin Convention Center Forecourt (outside)

DAY 2 Wednesday 5 November

08.30 Minister Willem Westra Van Holthe

The NT Minister for Primary Industry, a strong supporter of this conference, discusses his views on agricultural development strategies including the key policy areas of water, the role of R&D, his frequent visits to Asia and facilitating investment.

08.50 Brazil as a development model
Rodolfo Vaz de Carvalho

Rodolfo grows 10,000 ha of cropping, moving from just cattle in the mid 1990’s to a large area of cropping. He is a farm leader in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Brazil has lessons for northern agricultural development as the world’s leader in agricultural development over the last 40 years. How did this transition happen? Brazil operates in a similar climatic zone with similar crops like sugar, soybeans, cattle and rice.

09.20 Minister Terry Redman - WA Minister for Regional Development and Lands

Terry is an agricultural scientist (Univ. WA) and agricultural educator turned politician. His Ministry has led the development of new areas for northern agricultural in WA, driven by a strong policy thru the regional development fund. WA has been a leader in development models, with more areas in the pipeline for development. This is an area where WA can contribute to the development thinking across the north.

09.50 BREAK

10.30 Minister Barnaby Joyce and Brent Finlay President NFF

The 2 national leaders of agriculture discuss northern agricultural development, the politician and the farmer.

The coalition’s northern development policy has set new impetus for northern development, along with the 3 northern jurisdictions, in an expanding market environment. Agriculture is one part of a wider strategy of northern development across a number of sectors in defence, medicine, education, mining, indigenous economic development. The coalition’s policy has been a catalyst for renewed interest from many sectors and many individuals.



Break out on 6 specific commodities – Cotton, Sugar, Horticulture, Grains, Niche crops, Fodder.

Topics covering:
• Markets and economics
• Research and technology
• Resources – land, water infrastructure
• Development opportunities and constraints


1. Cotton - Chair Adam Kay, Cotton Australia

11.00 Modern Australian Cotton Industry
Dr Ian Taylor, Cotton RDC

11.25 Northern cotton production research
Geoff Strickland, WA Dept. Food and Agriculture

11.50 Moving cotton north where?

Dr Steve Yeates, CSIRO

12:15 Markets for cotton

Bob Dall'Alba, OLAM Qld. Cotton

12:40 Understanding industry development – the cotton experience & the north
David Anthony Auscott

13.00 Development pathway and development issues 

Workshop 3-4 groups of 6 (how to overcome key barriers raised in meeting)


2. Sugar - Chair Dr. Helen Garnett (SRA board member)

11.00 Economic considerations for sugar regions
Gavin Hughes, CEO Biofuels Association of Australia & Managing Director - Kingfisher Solutions

11.25 Future development of Ord sugar crop
Jim Engelke, Kimberly Agricultural Investments

11.50 Sugar research for the new areas in the north

Dr. Eoin Wallis, Former CEO Sugar Research

12:15 IFED sugar development
David Hassum, IFED

12.40 Farm innovation for profitable production
David Cox, DAVCO Farming

13.00 Development pathway and development issues workshop 3-4 groups of 6


3. Horticulture - Chair Anthony Kachenko – Portfolio Manager, Horticulture Australia 

11.00 Mangoes and melons for export
Bob Williams, NT Dept. Primary Industry

11.25 Farming aboriginal land
Vin Lange, CEO Centrefarm/Top End Farms

11.50 Export development barriers
Bernadette Eggington, Austrade

12.15 Domestic market opportunities
Peter Inderbitzen, Cape York farmer

13.00 Development pathway and development issues workshop 3-4 groups of 6

4. Niche crops - Chair Mike Guerin CEO CRC for Northern Agriculture  

Poppy, Chia, Rice, Guar

11.00 Poppy
Jarrod Ritchie CEO -TPI Enterprises  

11.25 Guar
Tony Matchett, Australian Guar Co.

11.50 Chia
Rob Boshammer

12.15 Aromatic rice growing in the north 

12.40 Tropical forestry
Glen Samsa, Plantation Partners

13.00 Development pathway and development issues workshop 3-4 groups of 6

5. Grains - James Clark Research Programs GRDC

11.00 Soybeans in the north
Dr Andrew James, CSIRO

11.20 Making peanuts work
John Howard / Peanut Company Australia

11.40 Northern Oil seeds
Liz Alexander / Australian Oilseeds Federation

12.00 Profitable grain legumes - North Australia and Indonesia
Rao Rachaputi, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

12.20 Specialty grains as part of a viable northern cropping system
James Hunt - Blue Ribbon

12.40 Economics of northern grain production systems 
Francis Bright, NT Dept. Primary Industries

13.00 Development pathway and development issues workshop 3-4 groups of 6


6. Fodder and new production systems for cattle - Chair Luke Bowen NADO

11.00 New abattoirs changing beef production systems
Troy Setter, CEO Consolidated Pastoral Co. 

11.25 Global trends beef trade - implications for northern production systems
Peter Barnard MLA

11.50 Economics of growing feed for finished beef

12.15 Cropping on pastoral properties 
David Warriner, Tipperary Station and Chair NTCA

12.40 Development pathway and development issues workshop 3-4 groups of 6

13.30 LUNCH


14.30 Session Chair 

14.30 Economics, Markets and Development
Dr Andrew Ash CSIRO and Francis Bright NT Dept. Primary Industries

Key economic findings from the Food and Fibre Study are presented with a focus on market and economic analysis. These 2 studies are the most comprehensive, most recent and most detailed studies on northern agricultural development. Francis Bright has worked in the Ord for many years, now working in the NT as an agricultural economist.

15.10 Plenary Session Panel - Development pathways
Results from the 6 commodity discussions presented by chairs of each session.

15.40 Building a policy agenda
Policy Panel with Moderator
Warren Entsch MHR, Jim Engelke, Gary Gray MHR
Land tenure, infrastructure, tax, water, logistics, and reducing risk.

A group of political leaders and a farmer – Jim Engelke of KAI Kununurra who has to deal with the policy agenda, discuss policy issues including land tenure, infrastructure, logistics and policies to reduce risk. Warren Entsch MHR is Chair of the Northern Australia Taskforce. Hon Gary Gray MHR, is Shadow Minister for Northern Development has worked across politics and across the region to facilitate northern development, especially in WA.

16.30 Young fellows impacts - Horizon Future Leaders Panel
Panellists have been chosen through the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation’s Horizon Scholarship, industry and government as passionate, emerging leaders between 20 & 35 in Agriculture. Coming from across Northern Australia each will represent a different industry area. This session will ask what future leaders in agriculture have taken from their conference experience. What were key arguments? What direction do they think industry should take? What role will their generation play?

17.00 Impacts
A group of government and business participants summarizes and discuss what they learnt from Food Futures Conference.

17.30 Next Steps?
NT Farmers Association presents the next steps for Food Futures Conference including Regional Roadshows, the theme for Food Futures 2015 and future conferences in Indonesia and China.

17.40 Close

NT Minister Primary Industry – Hon Willem Westra Van Holthe