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Published: 28 Oct 2020

Charles Downie

Charles Downie from Gretna is the inaugural recipient of the JM Roberts and Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) Nuffield Farming Scholarship.

Charles will investigate how the establishment of training modules and programs in agricultural businesses can help better attract an existing workforce to meet short-term labour requirements.

The ‘JM Roberts and Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture Nuffield Farming Scholarship for Young Leaders in Sustainable Agriculture’ was established this year and will support Charles to undertake a global study program using a $30,000 bursary, researching his chosen topic across 14 weeks.

Charles is the general manager of the family’s enterprise, Glenelg Estate, running a mixed production system with 14,000 merino sheep, 150 Angus cattle and 20 ha vineyard across 5,500 hectares in southern and central Tasmania.

Recognising the workforce challenges currently facing Australia’s agriculture sector, Charles will focus his research on exploring global strategies to access and train labour and secure a more sustainable workforce.

“As the use of technology in the livestock industry increases, the skills required for employees to be effective are advancing. In order to secure a sustainable workforce, there needs to be greater funding for training and simplification of available technologies to ensure industry is equipped with the skills and tools to drive the industry forward,” Charles said.

“People are our most precious resource. Through my Nuffield Scholarship, I will also explore how to shift perceptions of a career in agriculture and promote diverse pathways that harness different skills and knowledge capabilities.

“As part of my research, I plan on exploring the entrepreneurial development of technology in the United States, the value and utilisation of technology in the Netherlands and other European countries, and also the sector’s technological training methods in Indonesia.”

TIA Interim Director Professor Michael Rose said the Institute was proud to support an emerging leader in Tasmania’s agricultural sector.

“We are pleased to support Charles to develop his leadership capability and build international, national and local networks for the benefit of Tasmania,” Professor Rose said.

“This is one of the ways we are strengthening the sustainable growth of Tasmania’s agriculture and food sectors and ensuring that we remain at the forefront of global trends and innovation.”

“We would like to acknowledge the generous support of the JM Roberts Charitable Trust that has enable us to offer the invaluable experience of a Nuffield Scholarship to Tasmania’s agricultural community.”

Chair of Nuffield’s Tasmania State Committee, and 2014 Scholar, Greg Gibson, congratulated Charles on his Scholarship, and his motivation to explore global programs and practices that will help secure a more sustainable workforce for Australia’s agriculture businesses.

“The Tasmanian agriculture sector is renowned for its sustainable, future-focussed direction, so it’s exciting to see Charles focus his research on a topic critical to the continued operation and success of our livestock industry and the broader agricultural sector,” Greg said.

“With the generous support of his investors, Charles will be given a platform to lead a wave of change and embark on a life-changing opportunity to take his ideas to the next level.

“We’re excited for Charles and look forward to hearing about both the successes and challenges he experiences throughout his Nuffield journey.”

The JM Roberts Charitable Trust was established in 2003 by the late John Roberts, with a goal to provide additional funding to support and promote the well-being of our natural environment today and for generations to come.