Home LEADProductsManufacturingNewsContactRapidAIM

Josie Clarke

Creation date: 02 March 2022

Introducing Josie Clarke


Josie Clarke is an agronomist and the founder of Ability Ag, a platform to share the stories of people with disabilities in the agri sector. Josie is especially interested in sustainability, genetics and inclusion and diversity in agriculture. In her LEAD application, she explored the topic of sustainabilitythe meaning, practices and behaviours that need to change for us to be truly sustainable and feed the growing world. Her response earned her a place on the shortlist.


Here’s some of what she had to say.


Sustainability by definition is trying to “maintain” or simply not lose. What is sustainability in agriculture? Is it simply put into the perspective of not increasing the impact on the environment – driving research into more efficient crops and reducing carbon emissions? Is it sustaining young people in the industry in remote areas? Is it sustaining the industry itself by encouraging diversification of farming practices.

Sustainability in my industry - grains research - is creating ways to produce more with less. However, the intensification of Australian Agricultural production to feed a growing global population requires the leftovers of the “less” to be reallocated to more production. What we choose to do with the “less” or how we utilise the “more” is what can truly define if Australian agriculture is becoming more sustainable or just more efficient in production.


In a world where “famine”, “increasing global populations” and “food shortages” are antagonistic headlines and facts used to gain funding for research, one might criticise me for raising the question - is agricultural overproduction in Australia sustainable? As a grains researcher we continually develop more productive, disease resistant, water use efficient, and fertiliser efficient varieties for the Australian grains industry. Does this allow the industry to be more sustainable by being more productive with less inputs? In the context that the Agricultural grains industry defines goals of sustainability at this point in time; then yes, it is sustainable. This “producing more with less” concept is the basis for acquiring funding for such ideas in research. However, if something is more water use efficient, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a grower will use less water – they are likely to reallocate that water to more production. Similarly, the development of a plant-based protein market doesn’t mean that animal protein production will cease, rather it provides an opportunity for the diversification for the Australian industry to produce two types of proteins.


However, is it making our industry more sustainable or just more productive? We’re not maintaining or sustaining production targets, we’re gaining.


If we are to address the sustainability and future of Australian agriculture feeding a growing global population, as an industry and an island have to ask ourselves – how do we intensify production whilst being sustainable? Agricultural practices that can increase sustainability include continuing the development of more efficient varieties in regard to water and fertiliser usage, increasing conservation or regenerative agricultural practices and increasing sequestered carbon in our production. However, with recent carbon credit incentives a grower that incorporates carbon can sell these credits to other industries. Recently Microsoft purchased carbon credits from a beef production company in Australia for $500,000 (Goodwin, 2021). Does this mean what sustainability we build in our industry we are selling off to another industry?

Other factors to consider with increasing production and sustainability is concerning production end-points, to consumers or trashcans.


Australia needs to position itself as a global food bowl. Otherwise, Australia, a nation that currently exports 70% of its agricultural production (ABARES, 2021), will be a nation that has a 70% production excess for its domestic market.


Australian agriculture is not a sustainable industry without the rest of the world as consumers. Commercial strategies for dealing with food waste, like biofuel and fertiliser and setting production targets per capita will ensure a production plan that can build a sustainability framework.


Whilst we continue to develop more efficient production there needs to be a framework and production strategy in agriculture that is sustainable, a sustainable intensification plan.


Without a plan Australian agriculture has no goals, strategies or allocation of resources to achieving sustainable agriculture under increasing production requirements. Achieving sustainable intensification will require a collaborative effort of leaders from innovative agricultural researchers, to policy makers and consumers. These leaders, young or old, can pave the way to an important cultural shift in knowing the difference between production efficiency and sustainable production. This planning and knowledge will determine if Australian Agriculture can be truly sustainable.

Alphabetical index  |  Sitemap  |  Disclaimer  |  Sales terms and conditions  |  Useful links