Horizon Scholar in a field of his own
A passion for food sustainability and a desire to use technology to help feed the growing global population has seen Western Sydney University student Isaac Jones selected as a Horizon Scholar.
After studying at Hurlstone Agriculture College, Isaac enrolled in a Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security at the University's Hawkesbury campus, with the aim of helping a new generation of young farmers feed the planet while preserving the land for future generations.
His leadership qualities, passion for farming and love of local produce saw him selected by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation as a Horizon Scholar. Sponsored by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the scholarship is awarded to young Australians with a love of agriculture and the capability to be future leaders.
"I'm hoping to immerse myself in agriculture during my University degree, and the Horizon scholarship will help me develop new professional networks and be confronted with new ideas," says Isaac from his small farm in Richmond, his home while studying at the nearby Hawkesbury campus at Western Sydney University.
"It's a big chance for me to connect with other young agricultural leaders across Australia and collaborate as we start our careers."
Growing up in the Western Sydney suburb of Campbelltown, Isaac was always interested in farming and sustainability, especially after attending Hurlstone Agricultural High. But it wasn't until a Primary Industries class in Year 11 that he grasped the possibilities for a rewarding career.
"Going to an agricultural high school gave me a broad introduction to farming, from the scientific elements of seed production and soil management, to the physical aspects of working on a property," he says.
"But it wasn't really anything I thought would be a passion in my life. That all changed in a sustainability class one day, when it started to dawn on me how big a role agriculture will play in the health and future of the planet."
"I knew right then that this was an industry where technology would provide new solutions to age old problems, and since that moment I've been engrossed in the world of agriculture."
After fininishing the HSC, Isaac decided to take a gap year to gain first-hand experience on a range of different farms, including an alpaca farm in the Southern Highlands.
"Working on the land gave me an appreciation of the different emotions of animals, how to read them and know when they're not happy with you. For example, you learn to spot the warning signs with alpacas pretty quickly, such as when they glare and drop their ears. At times like this it's best to keep your distance otherwise, you end up with a kick to the knees, or a faceful of spit."
In addition to his University commitments and the demands of running a small farm, Isaac also participates in a range of agricultural programs at uni and the local community.
"One of my passions is the Youth Food Movement, which runs workshops with young Australians to try to build their knowledge of healthy, sustainable food and farm. I feel young people today are very interested in where their food comes from and what it contains, which means agriculture will only be under more scrutiny over time," he says.
For now, Isaac is working on building his basic farming skills at his home patch, completing the first semester of his degree, and preparing for the Horizon scholarship.
"Agriculture is entering an exciting period. We have a lot of challenges in terms of feeding a growing global population with scarce resources, but science and technology have big roles to play. From drones monitoring distant patches, to new social networks distributing excess food, technology and social networks can help us address some of the big issues, first locally, and then globally."
9 June 2016
Mark Smith - Senior Media Officer
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