Keynote speakers

Opening Keynote: Mirjana Prica
Food Innovation Australia Limited

Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) Managing Director, Dr Mirjana Prica, is an enthusiastic visionary who focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation to deliver commercial value. Dr Prica sits on boards and advisory groups of clusters, cooperative research centres, universities, research and industry organisations and businesses, where she leverages her 30 years of research and commercial experience in food, agribusiness, advanced materials and minerals. FIAL is a national and industry-led organisation, established by the Australian Government to drive innovation and business growth for the ~180,000 firms in the food and agribusiness sector.

Unlocking the $200B potential of Australia’s food and agribusiness sector
Over the past couple of years there has been renewed focus on Australia’s potential to produce high value food products. This potential is no surprise to many, including the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre (trading as FIAL), which has been supporting food producers develop the value-add potential for the food and agricultural sectors to grow. In 2020 FIAL estimated the value-add potential of Australia’s food and agribusiness sector could be three times its current value, at least $200B by 2030, creating 300,000 new jobs for the economy.

Opening Keynote: Dr Diana Saunders
Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance

Dr Diana Saunders has more than 17 years of experience as a project and research manager leading a large number of projects and building collaboration to address workforce and people development issues across agricultural industries. She has also conducted research in the areas of innovation, teamwork, leadership, knowledge transfer and the economic and social impact assessment of projects. Diana currently works as a policy advisor in workforce planning at Queensland Farmers’ Federation. She is the project manager of the Rural Jobs and Skill alliance (RJSA), whose purpose is to address mutual goals for its member organisations that focus on the attraction, development and retention of new entrants and existing workers to underpin the prosperity of Queensland’s agricultural sector now and into the future. Its mission is to identify agricultural workforce needs and seek effective solutions to ensure a sustainable agricultural workforce for Queensland. The RJSA provides leadership and advice to government, service providers and other organisations with respect to employment, skills, industry training and workforce planning on behalf of Queensland’s agriculture and related industries.

Queensland Agricultural Industry Workforce Plan
The Summit will feature a presentation about the five-year Workforce Plan for the state’s agriculture sector, including the consultation process and results. The Plan responds to the major issues experienced by the industry while anticipating future workforce demand.

The Plan envisions that Queensland’s agribusinesses aspire to be leaders in workforce planning and development. It also aspires to ensure that the state’s sustainable, productive and fair agriculture employers and training providers will collaborate, engage and develop a diverse and skilled workforce in Queensland’s regions.

The Plan suggests actions across key actions areas (Adaptability and business capability; Workforce attraction and diversity; Workforce retention; and Workforce skilling) to ensure that critical gaps and needs are addressed by strengthening agribusinesses, raising awareness of career and employment opportunities in a changing industry, embedding agtech and innovation, and developing education, training and career pathways.

Participants at the Summit will be asked for input to guide implementation of the plan.

Adaptability Keynote: Tracey Martin
Australian Agritech Association

Tracey is the CEO of the Australian Agritech Association (AusAgritech). AusAgritech’s mission is to ‘build a world-class Agritech sector that supports achieving the $100B national target for Agriculture and develops a $20B+ a year industry of technology exports and opportunities.’ She is also an agricultural producer, contributes to agricultural policy as a member of the Cattle Council of Australia Policy Council and was a Nuffield Scholar in 2020. A seasoned financial services professional, lawyer and risk leader with recent international policy experience as committee Chair in the European Union. Senior executive and advisory experience spanning diverse roles, organisations and sectors.

A Bright Future for Technology in Ag! Making sure we make the most out of the opportunity for our workforce from AgriTech
Tracey will provide an update about the agritech sector and ecosystem. She will provide an overview of the current state of play, what is coming into the sector and what the barriers and opportunities are. The state of play and ensuring it is future-fit, will be related to workforce training in agriculture and the agritech sector. She will canvass whether the agritech sector is having difficulty finding people and address workforce and skills issues that might be at the agricultural level. She will conclude with some thoughts about the opportunities for rural and regional Australia and the agritech sector into the future.

Adaptability Keynote: Leticia Grigorieff
Jobs Queensland

Leticia Grigorieff is the Director Workforce Planning and Development at Jobs Queensland. In partnership with industry leaders, regions and communities, she leads the development of Jobs Queensland’s workforce planning and development projects, with a particular focus on industry and place-based approaches. Leticia led the collaboration with the Queensland Farmers Federation in the development of the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Plan, Agriculture focussed workforce planning tools and resources, and this Summit. Leticia is a highly versatile professional, working with boards and executive teams across a variety of industries including not for profit, disability services, utilities sector, hospital and health services, financial services, commercial laboratory operations, local government and state government environment. She has extensive workforce planning experience across the public, not for profit and private sectors in developing, leading and facilitating workforce solutions that drive business outcomes during times of change.

Workforce planning in times of change
The need for the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles, at the right time rings true now more than ever. Workforce planning helps business be more resilient for economic, environmental, social and technological changes.  The last couple of years have been difficult for businesses due to the pandemic, economic uncertainty, supply chain interruptions and a tight labour market. Some industries have flourished while others have had to pivot or develop new approaches to succeed. Workforce planning that is flexible and integrated into business planning discussions has never been more important to support long-term success.  It’s about determining what you can do now to be best prepared for the future.

Given these moving dynamics, how can business stay ahead of the curve? This presentation explores how workforce planning can help align changing business needs to enhance achievement of strategic business objectives and minimise threats.

Attraction Keynote: Mark Puncher
Employer Branding Australia

Mark Puncher is a Dad, a CEO and a big fan of gin. He’s spent much of the last 20 years with one hand in marketing, the other in talent attraction and engagement, and both feet in leadership. He has run marketing or employer branding operations in the APAC and the UK for organisations including Guardian News & Media, Hobsons (formerly DMGT Group) and Hanson Wade. Mark lives and breathes employer branding and culture shaping. When he isn’t doing that, his current hobbies include finger painting, 5am ballet and building dens. He also has strong beliefs about the importance of wine.

Connected people perform better: How to attract great talent and keep them engaged, through authentic employer branding.
In our sector, attracting and retaining people has always been a challenge. But has it ever been harder than this? Whether you’re a small family business, a global corporate or anywhere in between, people matter most. In this engaging and practical session, Employer Australia CEO Mark Puncher will show you why, and help you rethink your approach to recruitment and retention. He says if he’s done his job, you’ll leave inspired to take action and equipped with examples of what works. You’ll also have written down specific actions to take to get started.

Retention Keynote: Mandy Johnson

Mandy Johnson is a best-selling business author who speaks, teaches and advises on the innovative ‘people’ strategies that transform individual and organizational results. With ‘in-the-trenches’ experience as a founder and ex-director of Flight Centre UK, she has also worked with a diverse range of companies including Virgin Australia, Teys Beef, Agtrade, the Australian Stockbroker’s Association, Dairy Australia, Ray White Commercial, the Queensland State Library, Michael Hill Jewellery, and Stahmann Webster to name just a few. One of only a handful of Australians to present at the Asia/Pacific Talent Conference in Taipei, Mandy has been interviewed for her innovative business ideas on media such as Sky Business News, The Australian Financial Review, ABC Radio’s Conversation Hour and Jon Faine program and Qantas In-Flight Radio.  Mandy also facilitates the Australian Owner/Manager Program, is an executive educator at several universities and mentors start-up entrepreneurs. For more info see:

Building a Remarkable Workplace
With massive labour/skills shortages, technology advances and generational change, our workplaces are morphing faster than our business practices can keep up. Finding and keeping good people is the new ‘must-have’ skill as no matter the organization or the industry, we’re now all in the ‘people’ business. In this thought-provoking presentation, Mandy Johnson explores innovative ways to navigate effectively in this rapidly-changing world, and outlines practical tools and techniques to engage the best people and build a high-performance workplace that they never want to leave. From the hidden motivators that people want (that aren’t just salary), to simple practical retention initiatives that you can implement immediately, Mandy revisits the way organisations partner with their people and uses compelling evidence to debunk myths and inspire participants to make immediate change.

Retention Keynote: Ben Lyons
University of Southern Queensland

Associate Professor Ben Lyons is the founding Director of the Rural Economies Centre of Excellence (RECoE), a Department of Agriculture and Fisheries-funded research collaboration between the University of Queensland, the University of Southern Queensland, James Cook University and Central Queensland University.  He leads a diverse team of experienced researchers investigating Queensland’s rural and regional communities.  In its fourth year of operation RECoE has delivered over 25 applied research projects looking at rural community challenges and opportunities from digital connectivity, work force and skills through to regional innovation and environmental offsets. Previously Ben has worked in China and Asia for two decades in agribusiness, media and education management before returning as the CEO of Toowoomba Surat Basin Enterprise in 2015.  Fluent in mandarin, Ben has a doctorate in economics specialising in export value chains from The University of Queensland.

Tackling workforce issues from a regional development perspective
This keynote presentation will approach the question of recruitment and retention of a national agricultural work force from the perspective of regional development and will expand the issue beyond just the agricultural sector. Mainly because our applied research would indicate that is impossible to separate the issue of recruiting and retaining an agricultural workforce within one sole sector focus and that the governance structure of regional development and how we respond to myriad issues is one continuous process of discontinuity – i.e. government programs at all levels suffer from the lack of a cumulative social capital approach, are short term, lack focus, execution and monitoring; and only serve to deplete the limited resources and capabilities of regional stakeholders over time. How can we look at solutions to the Workforce problem or indeed any regional issue without looking at the underlying aspects many regional communities face when it comes to not just attracting and retaining staff to their region but many of the issues around regional economic development that persist as “wicked problems”? We will cover aspects of the national agricultural workforce strategy but go beyond the specific requirements laid out in the recently completed taskforce exercise to examine execution and systemic issues that regions many of which have agriculture as their economic mainstay. We propose a simpler and clearer model of regional development and engagement developed in a recent Future Drought Fund programme – Regional Drought Resilience Planning (RDRP).

Skilling Keynote: Michael Hartman
Skills Impact

Michael has over 30 years in leadership roles in industry-based learning, skills, and VET. As the CEO of Skills Impact, one of 6 government funding Skills Service Organisations for the last 6 years and CEO of an Industry Skills Council for 10 years prior, he has had ongoing opportunities to oversee the development of industry-wide skills standards and qualifications, skills projects and annual industry-specific reports documenting trends in jobs and skills. Skills Impact works with industry and gathers vast amounts of information on skill needs and training solutions in Australia’s various grown and renewable resource industries, as represented by 12 Industry Reference Committees.

Attracting Talent with Quality Jobs
Labour and skill shortages are key issues not only for the Agriculture and Horticulture Sector, but for all industries in Australia. It has never been more important to improve our capacity to develop skills and manage people in this challenging environment. Industries and enterprises based in regional and rural Australia have unique aspects to their skill challenges. This presentation will cover one useful approach, the consideration of the jobs our industries or your enterprise creates and offers, the labour market as a “product”. This shift in thinking leads us to consider what makes such a product desirable (or undesirable) to the consumer (the potential or existing employee) and what we need to do to make this particular “product” fit for service. For many, this requires a significant mindset adjustment but opens the door to considering a wider range of solutions to the current attraction and retention challenges.

Skilling Keynote: Rod Morris

With a lifetime of farming experience and over 15years in Vocational Education Training, Rod brings a deep understanding of farming to his role as an Industry skills Advisor (ISA). This experience provides strategic advice to the Department of Education, Small Business & Training (DESBT). Hosted by Queensland Farmer Federation the ISA role that primary aims to raising industry awareness of and participation in the Vocational Education & Training (VET), providing advice to government on industry skills needs, supporting industry to develop business cases to influence the Queensland Government Annual VET Investment Plan, workforce development activities, and skill set endorsement at the national level. Rod plays a key role to enhance educational outcomes and employment opportunities for people seeking work and a career in the agriculture industry.

Interested in getting more skilled people into your business? – Learn how to make work placements work for you.
A great way for businesses to attract the next generation is to provide work experiences for those you’re looking to attract. For years you’ve seen trade apprenticeships work, but these are just a sample of experiences you can provide. Businesses like yours can offer school placements, holiday work, gap years, internships, traineeships, cadetships, graduate placements just to name a few. The benefits of these work experiences for everyone involved can never be overstated. But where do you start? With information we’ll provide so you can effectively implement work placements, and benefit from the skills built on the job. Even with the opportunity before them, training providers can still struggle to connect enterprises with willing and able trainees and apprentices. Our goal is to make this process simpler so you can reap the benefits of the next generation and know the ability to leave a legacy in this industry is in your hands. So, what legacy will you leave?

Skilling Keynote: Ian Atkinson
Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland

Ian has more than thirty years’ experience in Australian agriculture specializing in plant nursery production, irrigation, and environmental management. Former Industry Development Manager for the Nursery Industry Association of Australia he is co-author of several publications and training packages about water management in nurseries (inc. WaterWork). After leaving NIAA in 2000 he spent 10 years working for Cooperative Research Centre’s concluding as CEO of the CRC for Irrigation Futures. Ian is CEO of Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland which represents approximately one-quarter of the entire Australian industry “A billion dollar industry and growing every day.”

Making the VET system work for the ag industry.
Ian will use the Queensland nursery industry as a case example of how we can get wins from Vocational Education and Training (VET), if we work hard. The industry is worth $1b a year to the Qld economy (QDAF AgTrends data) and employs around 6,000 people over 1,270 businesses. Going back 5-6 years industries faith in the VET system had fallen to a very low ebb with many businesses preferring to employ people who hadn’t done VET. This was a result of a combination of factors; we had disengaged from the VET sector, the funding model was flawed (arguably it still is), some of the profit maximising Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) were delivering qualifications of no benefit to either student or employer, and a lack of industry relevant trainers. Several years of working through RJSA, partnering with RTO’s, marketing opportunities like the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program, and engaging with Skills Impact, has started to deliver real world benefits.