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Global farm research for graduate

Sporting a stunning purple dress with a floral design, University of the Sunshine Coast Environmental Science graduate Emily Rigby certainly stood out from the other primary producers who received prestigious Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarships in Albury, NSW, recently.

Emily, who works as a researcher in the cut flower industry on the Sunshine Coast, stood shoulder to shoulder with burly graziers, grain growers and aquaculture operators as one of 24 recipients Australia-wide of the annual agricultural scholarship.

She was one of only three women to receive the award.

The scholarship has provided Emily with a travel bursary of $30,000 to study greenhouse production systems used in horticulture industries all over the world.

She will begin her research with an international conference in Ireland in March, followed by a six-week group study tour to China, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, the USA, Canada and France.

Emily is the Research Manager at Cedar Hill Flowers and Foliage, and also teaches science research methods at USC, where she gained a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science) followed by First Class Honours in Horticulture.

She said she was surprised that she was chosen for the scholarship after undertaking intensive interviews at both state and national levels of the application process.

“I work in primary production, but I’m not your classic farmer, being a research scientist,” Emily said.

“I’m looking forward to getting a global perspective on the agriculture industry. California has developed some of the world’s largest fern plantations under protected cropping, there are large protected cropping industries in Israel, and I’m keen to go to Kenya to experience the flower industry there.

“It’s a little bit daunting to be away so much but the networking and research opportunities open to me are incredibly valuable.”

Emily said she wanted to use her research findings from the scholarship to improve production systems in Australian protected cropping.

“I’d like to see the industry develop more Australian native products, like the Australian grass tree,” she said.

“Protected cropping also offers the potential to mitigate the effects of climate variability.”

The Nuffield Australia program is a privately-run scholarship initiative with an aim of increasing practical farming knowledge and management skills.

Earlier this year, Emily was named one of four Queensland finalists in the National Rural Women’s Award.

— Gen Kennedy

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