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Nuffield Farming Scholarship

AWI sponsors the annual AWI Nuffield Woolgrower Scholarship, in collaboration with Nuffield Australia. The scholarship is a unique opportunity for somebody in the wool industry to study a particular subject of interest, and increase practical farming knowledge and management skills and techniques in the Australian wool industry.

Applications for the 2020 round of scholarships closed on 14 June 2019. For further information, visit

Recent AWI Nuffield Woolgrower Scholars

2019 – Anthony Close, Culla, Vic

Anthony Close a mixed livestock producer from Culla, Victoria, will research ways that the Merino can once again become a prominent feature of the Australian farming landscape.

Anthony works on his family farm, running 7,000 self-replacing Merino ewes to produce wool, prime lambs and breeding rams. Anthony’s family also run a large cattle operation.

Acknowledging the shrinking size of Australia’s sheep flock throughout the past 20 years, Anthony said his focus will be researching the range of factors that have caused this reduction, comparing the industry with those overseas to gain a better understanding of what makes progressive industries grow and prosper.


Anthony Close, Culla, Vic.

2018 – Scott Nicholson, Stawell, Vic

Scott will research ways technology can help modernise and improve profitability in the sheep and wool industry.

He operates Bretton Estate, 2900 hectares of owned and leased land with a mixed farming system that includes 4500 Merino ewes for wool and lamb, broadacre dryland cropping, hay production and a lamb finishing system. Scott is also a partner in Sohnic Merinos at Marnoo, which is focused on breeding Merinos to optimise overall profitability.

Scott believes technology such as the adoption of mandatory electronic identification (EID) tags in Victoria has great potential to boost the industry through its improved traceability of individual sheep. He said the industry can expand on this and will focus on researching technology in DNA and genomics; EID for performance recording and feedback; farm management software; handling and drafting equipment; drones and robotics; virtual fencing and remote sensors.


Scott Nicholson, Stawell, Vic.

2017 - Felicity McLeod, Wentworth, NSW

Felicity will investigate how to increase income potential through diversification in pastoral wool enterprises.

She will look at utilisation of the natural resource base, flexibility in species mix and multi-species infrastructure to help woolgrowers looking to improve whole-farm profitability, productivity and sustainability.

Felicity oversees her family owned property, Tor Downs, which is situated halfway between Broken Hill and Wentworth on the Great Anabranch Creek in western NSW. Tor Downs Station is 40,000ha and is currently carrying 90 per cent of the company’s Merino flock and 50 per cent of its cattle. The three family owned properties – Coombah, Popio and Tor Downs – total an area of approximately 120,000ha.

By learning more about the entire farm system involved in the wool supply chain as part of her scholarship, Felicity hopes to improve woolgrowers’ business bottom line, animal health, quality, total grazing pressure and staff health, safety and retention.

Felicity McLeod, Wentworth, NSW.
Felicity McLeod, Wentworth, NSW.

2016 - Jack England, Kingston, South Australia

Precision agriculture (PA) and variable rate technology (VRT) have long been used by the cropping industry to enhance productivity, while the livestock sector has often lagged behind in its uptake of these technologies.

However 2016 Nuffield Scholar Jack England has identified a number of clear opportunities for the integration of these systems across livestock businesses with potential to improve both efficiency and environmental outcomes.

Jack manages his family’s 3,200 hectare mixed sheep, beef and cropping property near Kingston South East in South Australia.  With a background in agronomy, he brought a scientific approach to his research, supported by AWI, which took him to the United Kingdom, Israel, New Zealand and Australia to discuss the use of VRT with cropping and horticultural specialists, researchers and livestock producers.  His goal was to establish an understanding of how PA and VRT could be extrapolated across the livestock industries.

Read Jack England’s report
View Jack’s presentation on the Nuffield channel on YouTube


Jack England, Kingston,
South Australia.

2015 - Robert Webb, Tarana, NSW

Robert's family owns and operates a seventh-generation fine wool Merino production and beef property. Spread across two properties totalling 1190 hectares, they run approximately 2000 fine wool Merino breeding ewes, 1500 fine wool Merino wethers, 700 prime lamb-producing ewes and 150 beef breeding cows.

He will study the use of fire as a native pasture management tool. Fire rejuvenates native pasture and makes it more productive, which in turn can benefit woolgrowers by improving profitability through increased fleece weight and staple strength. Robert will visit wool producing countries, as well as other grazing enterprises, to gain further knowledge of the use of fire as a grazing management tool for improving native pasture productivity.

Robert Webb, Tarana, NSW.
Robert Webb, Tarana, NSW.

2014 - Tim Gubbins, Moyston, Victoria


Through an AWI-funded Nuffield scholarship, woolgrower Tim Gubbins from Darlington in the Western District of Victoria investigated ways to maximize the reproductive potential of the Merino breed with a specific focus on the period from conception through to weaning.

“My Nuffield studies have been aimed at finding ways to help woolgrowers simply and effectively unlock the potential that exists within their own flock. To do this we need to achieve higher lambing percentages and weaning rates. Lamb birth weight is the absolute key factor in determining lamb survival.”

Read Tim Gubbins’s report
View Tim’s presentation on the Nuffield channel on YouTube.

Tim Gubbins, Moyston, Victoria.

2013 - Matthew Ipsen, Wareek, Victoria

Matthew is a director of a private agricultural company with his parents and together they own and operate an 820ha property in central Victoria, consisting of 3,000 sheep and 400ha of crop. The major enterprise is wool production along with sheep meat, hay and cereals. They also own and manage a Merino sheep stud and contract harvest business.

As well as working on the farm, Matthew runs a small business in sheep artificial insemination (AI) and pregnancy scanning. This business mix prompted Matthew to focus on the reproductive performance of sheep through his Nuffield scholarship. He will use his scholarship to investigate world's best practice in sheep reproduction and lamb survival.

Read Matthew Ipsen's report.
View Matthew’s presentation on the Nuffield channel on Vimeo.

Matthew Ipsen, Wareek, Victoria.

2012 - James Walker, Longreach, Queensland

James farms 15,000 Merinos on a mixed enterprise pastoral property near Longreach in central Queensland with his brother.

"With the size of the national flock starting to slowly recover, the rebuilding of flocks could be sped up by farmers using real-time, measurable data management to improve conception rates" said James.

James used his AWI Nuffield Woolgrower Scholarship to investigate if the multiple reproductive cycle trait of ewes can be capitalised to speed up the lamb-to-lamb interval using real-time, remote weight and health management.

Read James Walkers’ report.
View James's presentation on the Nuffield channel on Vimeo.

James Walker and daughters, Longreach Queensland.

2011 - James Robertson, Renmark, South Australia

James is the manager of a family-owned operation of four adjoining properties operating as one entity. Chowilla is a wool-growing enterprise, producing 400 bales per year and selling 6,000 sheep. An average of 15,000 sheep is run on the property at any one time. The family also owns a property near Salt Creek in the southeast of SA which is primarily a prime lamb and beef property supplying local markets.

Through his AWI Nuffield Woolgrower Scholarship, James studied animal nutrition, focussing on weaning and feedlotting. "I wanted to see how methane emissions can be reduced by rumen development and diet," he said. "I can see an industry opportunity in the carbon trading scheme."

James also examined marketing with a particular reference to sustainability and rangeland monitoring.

Read James Robertson's report
View James's presentation on the Nuffield channel on Vimeo.

James Robertson and daughter, Renmark, SA.

2009 - David Cussons, Kojonup, Western Australia

David manages his family's mixed wool and cropping property in southern WA with his wife Kelly and his parents. The 1,000ha property runs 2,400 Merino ewes for wool and prime lamb production, with 270ha of winter cereal production.

Frustration with the growing disconnection between agriculture and the general public led David to study agricultural communication techniques using his AWI Nuffield Woolgrower Scholarship.

"The way in which the world is communicating is evolving at a rapid rate - who would have thought Twitter would rule the world, or that one of America's most significant farmers' markets would now look to bloggers as their preferred media outlet?" said David.

"I worry that Australian agriculture is not keeping up with these trends, so I wanted to find out what the best practitioners were doing around the world, then bring these techniques home."

David visited media marketplaces in Japan, England, Sweden, the USA, Canada and New Zealand - all similar in nature to Australia. He interviewed a range of lobby groups, journalists, interest groups, agri-politicians, universities and public relations professionals. David recommended Australian agriculture:

  • Understand the demographics of the public to enable effective public relations.
  • Improve selection and training of agricultural spokespeople.
  • Embrace the latest social media techniques.
  • Use electronic traceability for consumer education.
  • Use sports personalities to promote agriculture.
  • Consider launching a country-themed lifestyle magazine.
  • Formalise a written crisis communications plan, no matter how simple it may be.

Read David Cussons' report

David Cussons, Kojonup, WA.

2008 - Ben Ranford, Cleve, South Australia

Ben is a fourth generation farmer, cropping cereals and running a 1,200 breeding ewe, self-replacing, dual-purpose sheep flock on 3,000ha. He wants to ensure farming's future, but says being a 'good farmer' is no longer enough to meet business challenges.

Ben used his AWI Nuffield Woolgrower Scholarship to identify how farmer collaboration can capture value for farmers as well as create benefits for supply chains.

"I targeted overseas examples of farmer co-operation, investigated business models and measured the outcomes generated" said Ben. "I wanted to identify the motives behind collaborative participation, and the principles that sustain farmer's commitment. I also looked at why farmers chose to operate individually and why collaborative approaches fail."

Ben found that the economies of scale in farmer owned co-operative structures created the opportunity to engage highly skilled management and apply technology to innovating competitive, sustainable supply chains.

According to Ben, the sustainability of a supply chain relies on adding value to the customer and generating a profit for every business in the chain.

Read Ben Randford's report

Ben Ranford with orphan lamb and dog in ute.

2007 - James Walker, Carrick, Tasmania

James is both Operational Manager and Managing Director of William Walker Proprietary Limited, a family company owned in conjunction with his family.

They operate a mixed enterprise business of fine Merino and Corriedale wool production, prime lamb production, beef production, stud Corriedale and stud Hampshire sheep, stud Murray Grey cattle, forestry, horticultural production and seed production.

As an AWI Nuffield Woolgrower Scholar, James visited 12 countries to study future trends and opportunities for Australian woolgrowers in the manufacturing of woollen products and consumer sentiment towards wool and sheep production in the country side.

"Australian wool is seen as a quality product and is much sought after by textile manufacturers in China and Italy," said James.

"A number of countries produce quality wool, ensuring continuity of supply, and we should be working co-operatively with them to expand the overall market. Other fibres, e.g., cotton and synthetics, are our competitors, not other wool producing countries."

James recommended farmers, the Australian wool industry and government focus on:

  • Marketing and promotion in co-operation with other countries involved in the wool industry.
  • Continued research and development, and delivery of results to all stakeholders.
  • Continued quality assurance.
  • Animal welfare and food safety as a high priority.
  • Sustainable farm practices.
  • Giving a high priority to biosecurity.

Read James Walker's report

James Walker with dog, Carrick, Tasmania.