THE influence of Australia’s now defunct Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation in the sector’s transformation is set to continue, according to former Sheep CRC chief executive Professor James Rowe.
He said the industry is well placed to continue its transformation well into the future, in large part thanks to the 82 post-graduate researchers who were sponsored by the Sheep CRC and mentored by Murdoch University’s Dr Graham Gardner.
“The results of this program have been spectacular – top quality young professionals are coming back to the industry to maintain the momentum through innovation and application of new knowledge,” Prof. Rowe said in Western Australia today.
“And at a time when the community is rightly seeking more balanced gender representation in its leadership, it is interesting to look back at see that this transformation is already well underway within the sheep industry, with more than 75 percent of the Sheep CRC’s PhD research in the last 10 years being women.
“We know from ongoing graduate tracking surveys that they are likely to end up in research and academic leadership positions, and in fact this is already happening in the agriculture faculties at a number of universities,” he said.
Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, pro vice chancellor College of Science, Heath, Engineering and Education at Murdoch University, and world leading dietary expert, shared how the Sheep CRC strongly supported the university’s SAGE Athena Swan Initiatives in support of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
“It’s delightful to see the high representation of women completing their PhDs through the CRC, then continuing further into full employment, while at the same time underpinning research in the production of nutritionally better and tastier lamb that can help support a healthier diet,” Prof. Itsiopoulos said.
The scale of the role played by the Sheep CRC in industry transformation is captured in the recently launched book, Concept to Impact: The story of the Sheep CRC 2001–2019, which was launched to Western Australian readers at a Murdoch University event today.
Professor Rowe said the Australian sheep industry has become a global leader and this wouldn’t have been possible without the input of the likes of Murdoch University, DAFWA, WAMMCO, Fletchers International and Merinotech.
“It should be noted that the increase in value in our industry has been achieved despite the national flock decreasing in size by more than 40pc over this period – on a ‘per sheep’ basis the real gross value of production has increased 2.6-fold.”
It has achieved this through the development of genomic technologies to enhance genetic gain and productivity, big data predictive apps, and the exceptional meat science work led by Prof. Dave Pethick from Murdoch University, he said.
The meat science team developed technologies to underpin the eating quality and human health attributes (such as omega 3 and iron content) of lamb by utilising breeding, feeding and slaughter systems such that consumers are now enjoying lamb and sheep meat products that are second to none.
Prof. Rowe said transformational industry change like this required vision, clear objectives, a well thought out strategy and adaptable tactics to deliver real impact.
“Everything that the Sheep CRC did was driven by a focus on consumer preferences so that we could capture benefits along the entire value chain by delivering wool and meat products that consistently surpassed consumer expectations,” he said.
The Sheep CRC came to a close on 30 June 2019 and the book is available by contacting Polly Ward ([email protected]) before 25 October. After that date an electronic download will be available (www.sheepcrc.org.au) or hard copies via eBay and Gumtree.
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