The head of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, departmental secretary Andrew Metcalfe AO, visited CRDC and the research hub of Narrabri yesterday.
Hosted by CRDC’s Dr Ian Taylor, Mr Metcalfe and his chief of staff Colin Hunter visited the CRDC office where they met in person with CRDC team members and virtually with Cotton Australia chief executive officer Adam Kay. On the agenda was discussion about the strength of the partnership between Cotton Australia and CRDC, key research focus areas for the industry, the development of northern Australia, and the uptake of research outcomes via the industry’s extension program, CottonInfo.
The visit to CRDC was followed by a tour of the IA Watson Research Centre, where Mr Metcalfe and Mr Hunter met with the University of Sydney’s dean of science, Professor Iain Young and director of the Plant Breeding Institute, Professor Richard Trethowan.
With digital technology a key focus of CRDC’s investments, Dr Taylor invited the GoannaAg team of chief executive officer Alicia Garden and chief operating officer Tom Dowling to present on their work with the cotton industry: helping growers to optimise water management and improve on-farm efficiencies through low cost sensors and connectivity.
The Department team then visited the Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI), where they met with CSIRO’s Dr Warwick Stiller and NSW DPI’s Rod Jackson, director of ACRI.
Mr Metcalfe has a personal connection to the research station: his uncle is the late Norm Thomson, one of cotton’s pioneering researchers and cotton breeders, who helped to establish the research centre for CSIRO in the early 1970s, along with its cotton breeding program.
After ACRI, the team conducted a short visit to CSD’s seed facility in Wee Waa, before returning to Narrabri for dinner with local researchers and growers.
Dr Taylor said the visit provided a great opportunity for CRDC to showcase cotton industry research and Narrabri’s research facilities to Mr Metcalfe.
“Mr Metcalfe has a long association with the Australian cotton industry, through his uncle Norm Thomson, who is well-known as one of the first cotton industry researchers. And he is no stranger to Narrabri, having visited his uncle while he was stationed here. Interestingly, he also visited his uncle at Kununurra, where he was conducting early research into the northern cotton industry – so he was very pleased to learn more about today’s expansion of the industry in the north,” Dr Taylor said.
“We were very pleased that Mr Metcalfe, who is responsible for the implementation of critical policy areas for cotton growers – agriculture, water and the environment – took the opportunity to visit us in Narrabri, to meet with local growers and researchers and to learn more about our current RD&E investments.
“He was very impressed with the level of collaboration within the industry, and the uptake of research outcomes and best practice.”