Postgraduate student James Hawkins awarded 2018 Nuffield Scholarship

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Master of Agribusiness student James Hawkins is one of 24 recipients to be awarded a 2018 Nuffield scholarship supported by Rural Bank. James is a young agribusiness entrepreneur who is owner and manager of a pig producing operation from Neuarpurr, Vic and is passionate about soil health and promoting sustainable farming practices. It is with this scholarship that James will have an opportunity to investigate how Sub-Soil Manuring (SSM) can increase biomass production of pastoral systems growing in sodic clay soils and the level of productivity gains for producers. 

Here, James shares with us what drew him to a career in agriculture and what is the driving motivation behind his learning.

1. What is your background James and tell us a bit about yourself.

I was fortunate enough to be born in the sheep yards almost literally. Both parents were from farming families and instilled in myself and my sister Tara (FBM 09) the importance of strong family connectedness, hard work and constant improvement and growth. 
Despite having such a strong family farming connection, I have by no means only limited myself to agriculture in the past and won't into the future. I have worked in underground gold mines all over Australia and in the Middle East and have a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Deakin University). 
Our generation needs to be excited by change and have skills in many areas. 

2. What drew you to a career in Agriculture?

Agriculture is in my blood and I will always be involved in this industry. There are incredible opportunities and exciting challenges for Australian producers with growing potential to send high value products into newly emerging markets around the world. 
We are in a period of knowledge and technology access never seen before and members of the agricultural industry need to look to and work with other regions, countries and industries to improve productivity, increase efficiencies and access new markets to meet opportunities as well as challenges from globalised export markets. 
The opportunities in agriculture for entrepreneurs and innovators are huge, it's just a matter of getting the current and future members of the industry excited by these opportunities and confident about the challenges. 

3. Why did you choose to study at Marcus Oldham College?

Marcus Oldham is one of the premier agricultural education institutions in Australia, and has been on my radar since my secondary school days. 
At my family’s farming business, ‘Brippick’ in Neuarpurr Victoria and in the wider Hawkins farming operations, we have had Marcus Oldham students on their second-year practical placement and post-graduation for many years and these students were always of high calibre and clearly well-educated and skilled from their time at the College. 
We have many Hawkins family members who have been through Marcus Oldham with high praise for the school including my sister, Tara (FBM 09), and brother-in-law, Rob (FBM 09), who met and graduated with the Bachelor of Business (Agriculture). 

4. Congratulations James on gaining a 2018 Nuffield Scholarship! Tell us a bit about the research project you will be undertaking as part of the scholarship.

I am aiming to help increase productivity of Australian farming businesses by overcoming issues such as water logging and short finishes by ameliorating soil structure issues caused by sodicity. 
The technology being trialled - and showing great promise - is Sub Soil Manuring (SSM). I will be looking at equipment in Europe and USA, meeting scientists from all around the world regarding types of amelioration and meeting farmers in the USA regarding post SSM regenerative farming practices to extend the benefits of the practice. 
Our 2017 SSM on-farm trials has seen an increase in biomass production and the seed and grain yield looks very promising. Once we harvest these trials, we will know a lot more.

5. What is your driving passion behind your learning?

Personal growth is the driving passion behind my learning. Formal and informal education is a huge part of my life and it means I can live life with a huge amount of energy and excitement. 
Studying my Master of Agribusiness at Marcus Oldham has given me a depth of knowledge and formality to business skills that I never had before, and it will help me move into the future with more confidence and skill.