AFI Research Fellows – A new model for research collaboration

The AFI is excited to announce that it is adding significant capacity to our small but dedicated team of researchers. Nine new Research Fellows will bring a diverse range of farm business and agricultural policy skills, knowledge and experience to the Institute.

The vision of the AFI is for policies that maximise the opportunity for Australian farmers and the agricultural sector to operate in a profitable and sustainable manner. We achieve this through conducting highly credible public policy research and promoting the outcomes to policy-makers and the wider community.

When the AFI was established it initially commissioned most of its research to third-party providers. As the resources available to the Institute have increased, we have established an in-house research team. Our Research Fellows will complement the capacity of our small team of full-time researchers and will provide more detailed expertise, farm business sensibilities and regional connections to the Institute.

In striving for continual improvement at the Institute we are eager to harness the extraordinary pool of intellectual capital that exists in farm businesses and regional areas around Australia. Many people involved in farm businesses or residing in rural and regional areas – who are highly qualified or have extensive experience in agricultural policy, finance, the law, business management, scientific research, economics etc. – can make an invaluable contribution to policy research and development for the sector. AFI Research Fellows will provide a pool of diverse expertise for the Institute with a common factor of an intimate understanding of the pressures of farm business, the constraints of operating in rural and regional areas, and the rewards of well-designed farm policy.

AFI Research Fellows will be tasked with ensuring that the Institute’s outputs remain relevant to all stakeholders and will underpin our credibility as an organisation with robust research capacity that is dedicated to providing the evidence for policy which is in the interest of Australian agriculture and the farmers that make up the sector.

We are very pleased to announce the initial cohort of Australian Farm Institute Research Fellows as:


Claire Booth

Claire Booth is a Senior Associate solicitor with Duffy Elliott Lawyers specialising in wills, succession planning, and the transfer of wealth across the generations involved in farming and business. Claire and her husband are also first-generation farmers, having started their farm business in 2012 at age 28 after saving the deposit in their 20’s. Booth Ag produces irrigated and dryland horticulture, grains, pulses and livestock on the flood plains of the Macquarie River near Geurie and Dubbo. Recently Claire completed a Nuffield Scholarship focusing on land values, debt and financial literacy in agriculture. 


Matt Cawood

Matt Cawood grew up on a West Australian cattle property and worked in a range of occupations on the land, from Queensland’s Gulf country to Bass Strait and the WA wheatbelt, before taking up journalism. Over 30 years, he has written on agriculture and the environment for a range of publications in Australia and overseas. He was a national writer for Australia’s largest stable of specialist agricultural print media for 15 years, a role that exposed him first-hand to farming and its supply chains across Australia and the globe. He currently works in communications for the University of New England, Australia.


Fiona Dempster

Dr Fiona Dempster is an applied economist with The University of Western Australia and with her family operates a 5,200-hectare crop and livestock operation in Mingenew, Western Australia. Her expertise is in designing decision tools for environment and agricultural management, valuing ecosystem services and identifying the adoption drivers of management practices in agricultural landscapes. Fiona joined the GRDC Western Panel in August 2017. Fiona is an active member of Mingenew Irwin Group, the Australasian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society and many other voluntary groups in her community.


Thom Goodwin

Dr Thom Goodwin is the Data and Analytics Manager of TasFoods Ltd. In this role he develops desktop productivity tools which enable better planning and supply chain visibility in the fast moving perishable goods environment. Thom has also developed financial and economic models for farm business management as a senior consultant with Macquarie Franklin and was a senior economic analyst with the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. Thom has also worked as an agricultural economist in Papua New Guinea.


Emma Leonard

Emma has over 25 years’ experience communicating technical information to farmers in Australia and the UK. She is proprietor of AgriKnowHow, a business she runs from a farm in South Australia. Since 2006 she has edited Precision Ag News, the magazine of the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia. Emma is a Nuffield scholar and in 2017, she commenced a PhD from the University of New England looking at ‘How to overcome the barriers to the adoption of digital agriculture’.


Kelly Pearce

Dr Kelly Pearce is a Grain and Prime Lamb Producer from Yealering in Western Australia. Kelly has had a 17-year career in agricultural research and continues to coordinate a number of regional science and innovation projects through her regionally-based business Wheatbelt Science Pty Ltd. Kelly is also a Director of Farmers Mutual Limited, 2012 Nuffield Scholar, Director of the Grower Group Alliance Inc, Director of the WA Meat Industry Authority, Committee member of the Corrigin Farm Improvement Group, and Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 


Oscar Pearse

Oscar Pearse is an experienced farm business manager from Moree in NSW where he is part of a family farming operation that has been in place since 1872. Oscar has a passion and extensive background in advocating for good agricultural policy and has held policy development positions with Cattle Council of Australia, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Lot Feeders’ Association and AgForce Queensland. Oscar also sits on NSW Farmers’ Association committees and has completed the Australian Grain Farm Leaders program.


Ed Perrett

Ed Perrett works for goFARM Australia, an Australian-owned agricultural investor, property developer and manager, where he is responsible for leading the company’s in-house commercial research. Ed’s career has focused on the intersections of agricultural policy, research, and business. He has previously worked for the Australian Farm Institute and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia. In 2016 Ed completed a Masters of Agribusiness in the Netherlands. He also holds Master and Bachelor (Honours) degrees from the University of Melbourne, where his studies specialised in agricultural and environmental policy. 


Sarah Sivyer

Sarah Sivyer is the Founder and Director of Just Been Laid Egg Subscription, the first egg subscription business in Australia. Sarah runs the pastured egg business in addition to the family’s fifth generation beef operation in Eccleston, NSW. Prior to moving back to the family farm Sarah worked for Rabobank as Head of Operational Excellence and a Senior Analyst, Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory. Sarah has also had roles with the International Finance Corporation, Syngenta and BHP Billiton. Sarah is a Nuffield Scholar and has an MBA from the Said Business School at the University of Oxford.