Steph is an Australian agronomist with a range of experience across multiple sectors including private consulting, commercial agronomy and government research and extension. She is the sole Director of Northern Ag Focus Pty Ltd, and has a Bachelor of Rural Science (Hons) and a PhD both from the University of New England, Armidale, Australia. Steph was recently conferred with the Chancellor’s Doctoral Research Medal (UNE) in recognition of her thesis research investigating new farming systems for upland crops in Northwest Cambodia. The focus of this study was to improve productivity, profitability, and sustainability of the farming system; and as such has provided important local information and research results for our current project.
Steph has been working on ACIAR projects in Cambodia and Australia for over thirteen years and has a strong interest in improving sustainability of the upland agro-ecological systems and farmer livelihoods without detriment to the soil resource base. The Samlout and Pailin regions where this new project is based are located in the top of the Sangke River catchment. Soil degradation from the plough based farming system has resulted in declining crop yields, conversion to monoculture cropping (maize and now cassava), declining soil fertility and downstream pollution of the catchment (>1 000 000 people) due to soil erosion.
Steph’s PhD research illustrated that through conversion to conservation agriculture including no-tillage and rotation cropping legumes and sunflower, sustainability of the farming system was improved by way of increased farm profitability and protection of the natural resource base. Furthermore, her research proved that a delay in sowing time by two months significantly reduced the risk of crop failure in the pre-monsoon season and greatly increased yield and profitability of the whole farm system. These results if adopted by farmers could have significant impacts on improvement of household livelihood, GDP and benefits to the environment. Steph is hopeful that by continuing research in the region, she will be able to provide more options to farmers to improve management and profitability of their farm whilst educating them on the importance of protecting the whole agro-ecological system.
· 2014 – ongoing Ag systems tour coordinator/guide for UNE B.RurSci or B.AgBus students
· 2012-2016 PhD research; technical advisor and facilitator for ACIAR ASEM2010-049 “Market focused integrated crop and livestock enterprises for NW Cambodia”
· 2012 Lecturer in soil and plant science for second year university students in the Degree of Agriculture, University of Battambang, Cambodia (8 months)
· 2012 Agricultural Consultant Myanmar, UNOPS for LIFT, to assess feasibility of restoring irrigation schemes on the Ayeyarwady River system (5 months)
· 2007-2011 Extension specialist, agronomist and crop protection components project leader ACIAR Battambang and Pailin Provinces ASEM206/130 “Cambodia Crop Production and Marketing Project “
· 2003-2007 co-leader for the components of extension, agronomy and crop protection, ACIAR Battambang and Kampong Cham Provinces ASEM2000/109 “Farming systems research for crop diversification in Cambodia and Australia”
· 2017 Northern Cropping Technical Support Officer, NSW DPI, review researcher’s paper to prepare for publication in the Northern Region Trial Results Book, 2017
· 2008-2011 Private agronomy consultant, finance manager and a Director of HMAg Unit Trust, Moree NSW; provided tailored on farm agronomy services to farmers in the northern grains region
· 2002-2008 District Agronomist Moree East, NSW DPI, providing advice, research and extension to farmers, advisors and scientists across Northern NSW and Southern QLD
· 2002-2008 Sunflower Technical Specialist contracted by AOF and NSW DPI joint funding to conduct research, benchmark crops and provide frontline support and technical training
· 2000-2001 Sales agronomist, Wesfarmers Landmark, Moree NSW
· 1999-2000 Sales agronomist, AgnVet, Coonamble NSW