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University's new agribusiness professor welcomes cotton conference to the Gold Coast


Jessica Nelson
7 August 2018

Cotton farmers will share their experiences of life on the land in an industry Q&A with Professor Robin Stonecash, Head of Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus and School of Business and Tourism, at this week’s 2018 Australian Cotton Conference on the Gold Coast.

Professor Stonecash has worked with Dutch agricultural bank Rabobank for more than 20 years as director of the Executive Development Program and Farm Managers Program and will bring her expertise to the stage at the national farming event.

The Cotton Conference will be attended by 1875 delegates from around Australia. It is the second national Cotton Conference – the first was held in 2016.

Professor Stonecash said cotton growers, agronomists, researchers, marketers and industry partners from across the country, including many drought-affected farmers, will come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing cotton.

“We’ll be talking about how strategic planning can help improve your business and how to grow cotton in a more sustainable way. A lot of the cotton growers I work with do not want to waste a drop of water,” said Professor Stonecash, who has worked on aspects of agribusiness from the application of technology to the impact of changes to water rights.

“A lot of people think ‘why should we be growing cotton in Australia?’ But our cotton farmers are actually some of the most efficient growers in the world. It’s really a pleasure to work with them to help them improve their businesses.

“At the conference I will be interviewing the three farmers from Boggabri and Narrabri in NSW and the Burdekin region in Northern Queensland about what’s made their businesses successful and what are some of the roadblocks they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them.”

Professor Stonecash said while she is not a farmer, she is a keen foodie who loves to cook and became very interested in the people who grow our food and fibre. This was part of the reason she chose to move to Southern Cross University, a strong regional university that has strong interests in plant science and agriculture, the business of agriculture and regional healthcare.

“Australia produces some of the best and safest food in the world. I am very passionate about helping those people who provide us with this high quality food and fibre. I love the people – they’re wonderful to work with and they’re some of the most successful business people in the country.

“There are many joys to living in regional areas but the drought has caused enormous difficulty for some farmers and I have an enormous amount of admiration for them because they keep going in really tough times, and the sense of community is wonderful.

“I’m really delighted to be working in a regional university that allows me to connect with the communities that I’ve been working with for so long out of the city. The beauty of being a regional university is we understand regional issues, which I think a lot of people in the city don’t understand.”

Professor Stonecash said she was passionate about helping farmers improve their businesses and increasing awareness of the importance of the sector to the communities and the economy.

“As a tourist destination the Gold Coast has an increasingly strong reputation for food and beverage as well as clothing, so it’s very fitting to bring farmers here to showcase that.  We are Australia’s gateway to Asia, so showcasing our food and fibre industries is very important,” she said.