FutureAg Expo – The Expert Stage

Rhi FutureAg Slide 6-cropped
Rhi FutureAg Slide 6-cropped

Opportunities for young people in ag

Rhiannan McPhee, Project Manager at Vic Hub NE Node Riverine Plains, also presented at FutureAg, taking the stage as part of a panel focused on young people in the ag industry. Kayla Evans, from AgCAREERSTART, and Catherine Velisha, from VEG Education, were also part of the same Expert Stage panel. This is a slightly abridged version of Rhiannan’s presentation.


Rhi presenting 5847-cropped-eDM - updated“I work in agriculture extension – a job that I didn’t know much about before I started.

“Extension can be as simple as the word suggests: extending information.

“But, in reality, it is much more than that. Extension is about supporting farmers with their seasonal challenges and being the eyes and ears on the ground.”

Extension is about:

  • It’s about passing on information regarding common challenges and issues across the industry to commercial companies and research bodies to help solve a problem.
  • It’s about linking farmers to various services that meet their needs.
  • It’s about translating research for commercial farm use and working to resolve an identified pain point in our local farm businesses.

“Extension in a farming systems group is about people, and supporting these people in the best way possible to achieve their goals.”


Inspiring farmers


“I would argue that this is one of the most important jobs in the agriculture industry. Our aim is to support farmers to continue to produce food & fibre in the most productive and profitable way they can.

“I have previously worked in logistics, ensuring the food makes it from farm to a supermarket shelf, and in agronomy, advising farmers on crop health and management decisions and supplying them with products to feed and protect their crops.

“These are both examples of pivotal roles across the agriculture industry, ensuring that quality food & fibre is accessible in Australia.

“But the industry is changing. Our future will be different. Governments are making policies that affect farmers. The agri-tech space is being flooded with new and exciting tools.

“Large corporate companies are vying to get in front of a farmer and have access to all the data points collected in the production process.

“People who work in extension represent the farmers voice in all of these conversations.

“In the Riverine Plains’ region – the most prosperous and productive agriculture area in the country – we are the voice of farmers across 15 local government areas – almost the size of Tasmania!

“We know the challenges these farmers face; we know how they operate day to day; and we know what they need to have a successful future.”


Rhi FutureAg Slide 2

Building capacity


“We are working towards building capacity, bringing innovation and bridging the gap between idea and commercial solutions.

“For agriculture to continue to be successful into the future, we need talent and we need technology. Talent is an obvious one – we need more young people staying or choosing to work in agriculture. Without smart, passionate and creative people, we cannot support our farmers along the rollercoaster ride that is the reality of agriculture.

“And we need technology to make this ride as smooth as possible. Farmers are already technology experts, they make an informed decision on the variety of crop to sow – a variety that has been researched for years before hand and trialled in various conditions to ensure it lives up to it’s technological traits.

“Farmers operate some of the smartest machinery in the world, from planting seeds across thousands of acres, to spreading fertiliser, spraying crop protectants and harvesting grain.

“Each decision a farmer makes is based on countless conversations with experts and past experiences to ensure it’s the best decision they can make with the technology they have.

“Farmers live and breathe technology every day – but it is getting harder.”


Translating information – and needing people to choose ag


“With more technology available in the digital space and more and more data being collected, it is up to groups like Riverine Plains to translate this information and bring farmers a solution to their problem.

“These solutions have come through a rigorous scientific pipeline, and we need to advise farmers what is the best fit for their situation.

“We also need to ensure this solution is commercially available as our members live in a commercial world, operating businesses that exist in the harsh climate that is Australia.

“Our job as a farming systems group is to bring the talent and the tech to the farmers and see them continue to be productive and profitable into the future.

“If you are here today then it is likely that you have an interest in agriculture, technology, or both.

“You may be just starting out in agriculture, you may have been sent here to bring back information for your kids or for a friend, or you may have a keen interest or relevant skillset and are curious to know where to go to next.

“Agriculture is one of the most diverse industries that we have in the world. From growing the crop, feeding livestock, to product marketing, banking, engineering, HR and management teams, even GIS and software developers, there is a job for everyone. The industry is forever evolving, the opportunities are increasing, and we need more people choosing agriculture!”


Connecting with young people – learning and having fun


“If you are a young person or have a young person in your life, we want to connect with you.

“One of the best things about agriculture is the people and the connections you make along the way – but building these connections can be dauting as a young person in the industry.

“This is why Riverine Plains created a Youth in Ag Program. We strive to support students, young farmers and young professionals in the industry.

“We have been running this program for three years now and have reached over 250 people in that time. We set out to create a space for people to build new connections, learn and have a bit of fun at the same time!

“We run two events a year, GRAZE and Cultivate & Connect, we offer student membership to our organisation and scholarships for people studying agriculture or a similar field.

“We focus on the future of the industry and where you see yourself going. It is such an exciting time to be involved in agriculture, and particularly the Riverina/Murray region – not to be biased! – because we are looking for talent.

“If you want to explore various job opportunities, build your professional networks, and see why agriculture is the best industry to be in – join the Riverine Plains Youth in Ag Program for 2024!”


Connect with us


“The Riverine Plains team and I have travelled down from our head office based in Mulwala, just over the border in southern NSW, to see everything that is FutureAg.

“We have had a great time learning about upcoming agri-tech and making new connections across the industry at this conference.

“We will be around for the rest of today, and I encourage any of you to stop and have a chat with us about the opportunities available across our region and where you see your future going in agriculture.”