About the forum


1. Data Analytics for Food and Agribusiness

This session provides an introduction into how digital technologies like IoT devices and the digital supply chain can create opportunities to utilise data to help drive the food and agribusiness industry. An introduction to (i) the various digital technologies ripe for use in the industry; (ii) how these technologies can enable data analytics to generate important and timely decision support; (iii) existing application examples; and, (iv) a discussion of how the food and agribusiness industry can systematically approach this will be discussed.

Facilitator: Associate Professor Kok-Leong Ong

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Program Director, Business Analytics, La Trobe Business School

Kok-Leong (KL) Ong is currently an Associate Professor in Business Analytics at La Trobe Business School. He is also the Program Director for the School’s suite of Business Analytics courses. Kok-Leong’s research is in the area of data analytics, where he has attracted over $570,000 in research grants and over 500 citations from his 80+ conference and journal papers. Kok-Leong served in over 50 Program Committees of international conferences, including the prestigious KDD and PAKDD analytics conferences. He is also a Steering Committee member of the Australasian Data Mining Conference and a Section Editor in Business Analytics of the Australasian Journal of Information System. Outside of academia, Kok-Leong has strong engagement with the industry, including his partnerships with practitioners on various aspects of the course and serving a judge for the Victoria iAwards and SAP-RMIT University Analytics Competitions. Recently, he was invited as a speaker to the Emerging Big Data Technology Summit and the La Trobe Stats Colloquium.

2. Disruptive Lean Business Model Design

This session provides insights into the exploration and exploitation of disruptive innovation, using entrepreneurship tools to facilitate commercialisation and transformation. We explore The Lean Startup and Business Model fundamentals; not only for start-ups, but those dynamic organisations wishing to transform methods of operation, create of customer solutions and value propositions to achieve high growth imperatives. We explore initiatives such as fast iterations, the minimum viable product (MVP), components of lean business models and entrepreneurial ecosystems. We conclude by validated learning through testing assumptions associated to Food and Agribusiness transformation and disruption.

Facilitator: Dr Alex Maritz

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Professor of Entrepreneurship, La Trobe Business School

After more than a decade in Executive Directorships for multi-nationals as a corporate entrepreneur, Alex entered academia full-time. Roles included Chief Operating Officer of Sony Playstation and Managing Director of Blockbusters Entertainment National Sales Manager at Boots Pharmaceuticals and Glaxo SmithKline.

With an international reputation in entrepreneurship education (learning & teaching, research and practice), Alex is the recipient of Stanford Technology Ventures and Global Innovation Management Scholarships and internationally awarded finalist in the Entrepreneurship Education Award from the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE). Being a recipient of an Australian Learning and Teaching Citation for excellence in entrepreneurship education, Alex also received Faculty excellence awards in learning & teaching and research. He is the recipient of numerous best paper and esteemed paper awards from leading academic conferences and journals, and sits on the editorial board for leading journals in the discipline.

Having procured in excess of $ 3.8 million in external research grants and consultancies (including Chief Investigator of an ARC Grant in Biodevices), Alex has published over 200 scholarly reviewed articles in entrepreneurship and innovation, with 26 successful higher degree research completions (including 12 PhDs). Alex is the Vice-President of the International Association of Organizational Innovation (USA), and current and previous Visiting Professor appointments include Saarland University (Germany), Chan Jung University (Taiwan), HuaQiao University (China) and RMIT (Vietnam). Current interests include the development of cross-disciplinary entrepreneurship education (including online and blended technology innovations), Australian leadership of research and engagement on Senior Entrepreneurship, PhD supervision, startup consulting and international engagement with leading and prominent entrepreneurship ecosytems, networks and collaborations.

3. Industry 4.0 for Agribusiness

The session will provide an overview of Industry 4.0 and the global trends in advanced manufacturing and automation in context of Agribusiness that are set to transform the industry. Supported by case studies from both large and small scale operations, the master class will focus on review of technologies that will empower future connected farms and next generation production equipment from automated tractors and machines to farm to fork traceability and logistics technology of the future.

Facilitator: Dr Aniruddha Desai

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Director and Research Professor, Centre for Technology Infusion, La Trobe University

Professor Aniruddha (Ani) Desai holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Electronics, a Master’s degree in Micro-electronics and PhD in Computer Science specialising in micro-computer architecture. He is currently a Research Professor and Director of La Trobe University's Centre for Technology Infusion, a Tier 1 Research and Innovation Centre specialising in delivering technology-based commercial innovations to industry and Government.

He has successfully led several multi-million-dollar R&D programs in socially relevant high impact application areas such as intelligent transportation systems, energy management, logistics/supply chain and precision agriculture. Nearly every major project delivered by him has involved live field use of the new technology or solution being developed, and most of his projects have been profiled on TV, radio and in print media. His work has resulted in several innovative designs and patent applications which have underpinned a number of start-up companies.

Professor Desai has received many prestigious industry innovation awards recognising excellence in R&D innovation at State, National and International levels, and he was also the winner of Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence in 2016. He has served on technical and advisory groups for a number of Government Departments and Institutions. He is also currently the Chief Technology Officer of SensaData – an innovative technology company partnering with his Centre to develop and commercialise next-generation intelligent RFID technology for logistics and supply-chain applications.

*You will be required to choose your selected masterclass when you register online.

View program schedule

Keynote speakers

Allan McCallum

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Chairman of CANN Group, Australia’s first licensed/permitted grower of medicinal cannabis in Australia.

Mr McCallum has led or been part of the team that instituted privatisation of the grain industry storage, handling and transport sector, (Vicgrain/ Graincorp) and the merging of regional based fertiliser businesses that became a global leader in explosives (Incitec Pivot).

Via his work with Tassal, which is now a world leader in sustainable salmon production, Allan has been active in the restructure of the Tasmanian salmon industry.

Presentation: Agtech — Agriculture’s disrupter or saviour?

Disruptive technology is changing our daily lives and Agriculture is not immune from this digital wave. Indeed Agriculture has prided itself on its ability to be innovative and embrace change but the latest wave of AGTECH will bring more rapid and greater change to food production and agribusiness. So, should we see this new technology as a threat or embrace it as an opportunity? At the Cann Group we embraced it which set us on a path to building a world-class Australian business in the emerging medicinal cannabis industry.  The presentation focuses on the challenge of how to bring an agribusiness concept to market from a startup to listing on the ASX in a period of rapid disruption.

Mark Stone AM

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Chief Executive, VCCI

In 2016 Mr Stone was awarded an Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. As Chief Executive of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he leads Victoria’s most influential business organisation.

He is a director on the Board of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), an Australia Day Ambassador and Fellow of the Williamson Leadership program.

Prior to his role at VCCI, Mr Stone spent 12 years as the Chief Executive of Tourism Victoria. Prior to that role he enjoyed a 12-year stint as Chief Executive of Parks Victoria, which employs 1200 staff and has a $4 billion asset base.

2nd Keynote Address: Innovation and the Victorian Chamber’s Agribusiness Taskforce

Mark’s presentation will focus on why innovation in food and agriculture is important, where there is room for improvement and industry challenges including technology adoption, understanding international consumer preferences, public funding of research and development, and skills gaps.

The Taskforce identified the need for a stronger focus on innovation and quality and the priorities include early adoption of new technologies, stronger networks, clusters and services to support collaboration, commercialising innovation and research and developing stronger skills within the sector


Professor Tony Bacic

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Director, La Trobe Institute of Agriculture and Food, La Trobe University

Professor Bacic is Director of the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture & Food (LIAF) at La Trobe University.

Internationally recognised as a leader in plant biotechnology, his research is focused on the structure, function and biosynthesis of plant cell walls and their biotechnological application as well as the application of functional genomics tools in biological systems.

From 1996 to 2017, Professor Bacic held a Personal Chair in the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne, was Leader of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls team at the University of Melbourne (2011-2017), and also spent time as Deputy Director of that Centre, and Director of the Plant Cell Biology Research Centre at the School of BioSciences.

Professor Bacic has held numerous leadership roles within the University of Melbourne, the ARC and NCRIS, including Director Bio21 Molecular Sciences & Biotechnology Institute, Chair ARC Biological Sciences and Biotechnology & LIEF (infrastructure) Panels and Chair Biological Sciences and Biotechnology Panel of the ERA (Excellence in Research Australia), Platform Convenor for Metabolomics Australia, an NCRIS-funded platform within Bioplatforms Australia Pty LTD.

He is a current Board Member of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. He is a James Cook University Outstanding Alumnus (2010) and a La Trobe University Distinguished Alumnus (2013).

Presentation: The future of agricultural production systems: a scientist's (and farmer's son's) perspective

Tony will provide an overview of Australia’s agri-food sector, its challenges, and opportunities. He will also talk about the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food.

Professor Peter Corke

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Professor, Australian Centre for Robotics, QUT

Peter Corke is the distinguished professor of robotic vision at Queensland University of Technology, and director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision. His research is concerned with enabling robots to see, and the application of robots to mining, agriculture and environmental monitoring. He is well known for his robotics toolbox software for MATLAB, the best selling textbook “Robotics, Vision, and Control”, MOOCs and the online Robot Academy. He is a fellow of the IEEE and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, has held a number of editorial board positions and held various visiting positions.

Presentation: Robotics and AI are coming your way and changing your business environment

Robotics technology is almost 60 years old. It revolutionised manufacturing industry but it’s uptake in many other important industries has been limited up until now.  Artificial intelligence, particularly computer vision, has dramatically increased the fields into which robots can be employed.  The talk will cover robotics, AI and computer vision technologies with a particular emphasis on what this means for food production.  Some examples of recent work, at QUT and elsewhere, will be used to illustrate what the near future entails.

James Fazzino

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Vice-Chancellor's Fellow, La Trobe University

Mr James Fazzino came to La Trobe from a successful career in the international chemicals industry and has concluded a highly successful eight-year term as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Incitec Pivot Limited.

He also served as the Chief Financial Officer and Finance Director at Incitec and had senior finance roles in ICI/Orica including CFO Chemicals Group, Assistant Treasurer and Head of Investor Relations.

Under his leadership, Incitec was transformed from a fertiliser co-operative, operating in four Australian states with an enterprise value of $400 million, to a Global Diversified Industrial Chemicals company, operating in 13 countries and with an enterprise value of $8 billion.

Incitec is now the world’s second largest supplier of commercial explosives and Australia’s largest manufacturer and supplier of fertilisers.

Mr Fazzino is also passionate about gender diversity and oversaw a doubling of the number of women in senior management at Incitec since 2012.

Presentation: Building a global business in a period of disruption - lessons from an Australian ASX top 50 business

Incitec Pivot grew from a Southern Australian fertiliser co-op to a global ASX 50 diversified industrial chemicals and fertiliser company over 14 years. James will elaborate on Incitec Pivot's strategic growth path and discuss learnings from the CEO's perspective including how the company responded to digital disruption in its core businesses. Industrial chemicals and fertilisers are key inputs to soil health and nutritional needs, helping food producers maximise productivity and remain globally competitive.

Professor Harsharn Gill

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Professor, Food and Health Bioscience, RMIT

Professor Harsharn Gill is Head of the Food Research & Innovation Centre at RMIT University. He has over 25 years’ experience in leading and managing food, nutrition and health R&D in private and public sectors. Prior to joining RMIT, he held senior R&D leadership roles in Australia and New Zealand, including Research Director at the Department of Primary Industries Victoria; Chair of Functional Foods & Human Health at Massey University, and Director of Milk & Health Research Centre at Fonterra, New Zealand. He has published widely and his research contributions have been recognised nationally and internationally with several awards and appointments to international expert panels, including WHO/FAO, NIH and IDF.

Presentation: Future foods

The presentation will focus on consumer trends and the opportunities and challenges that this presents to the Australian food industry. In particular, opportunities for developing and marketing plant-derived protein products.

Andrea Koch

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Principal, Andrea Koch Agtech

A board director with the National Farmers Federation and SproutX, Austalia’s first agtech accelerator Ms Agtech, who holds a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) and a Master of Sustainable Development, is from a fifth-generation Australian farming family and is passionate about Australian agriculture.

Her family background and varied career allow her to bring together farming and digital technology.

She sees a future where digital technology underpins our farming sector being the most competitive and innovative in the world.

Much of her consulting work focusses on the translation of science into practice and building strong relationships between research and industry.

Her professional experience includes 15 years in marketing and product development with IBM, Optus and News Limited, and six years leading a soil policy think tank program at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

She convened Australia’s first public conference on big data and agriculture in 2015 and is heavily involved with the emerging agtech sector.

Presentation: Crossing the Chasm – Agtech and innovation eco-systems

The agtech sector in Australia has taken off over the past two years and we are now seeing a proliferation of ag and food tech accelerators and incubators across the country. Over the next decade, this sector will become increasingly important in driving Australia’s agricultural innovation, but it doesn’t have green fields in which to do this. Australia already has a unique agricultural research, development and extension system. Currently these worlds are somewhat disconnected. This presentation outlines ways in which they can complement and work together to strengthen our agriculture and food industries.

Serena Lee and Geert Hendrix

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Directors, Farmwall

Farmwall is a startup that designs and implements natural, food-producing solutions in urban spaces, with the goal of enhancing the built environment with positive social and environmental outcomes.

The company’s flagship design is the Farmwall, a system that can grow fresh produce indoors in a small-scale vertical farm.

Farmwalls grow produce at the place of consumption, without any food miles or food waste.

Building sustainable business ecosystems and actively cultivating ongoing collaborations are key elements for this innovative city farming business.

Presentation: how Farmwall uses food to implement sustainable change from within

The delivery of sustainability is shifting through the rise of the experience economy, the push for health and wellness within our urban landscape, and innovations in AgTech. Farmwall is showcasing how a combination of technology and customer service can bring meaningful experiences through food, with positive social and environmental outcomes. The mindset of staying agile and embracing a disruptive business model has brought the startup one step closer to their vision of creating 'cities that feed our planet'.

Scott McKenzie

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Chief Executive Officer, SensaData

Mr McKenzie’s background is in open innovation, design and commercialisation, engineering and project management.

He previously lead technology development initiatives in diverse fields to deliver the scaling and risk reduction for the transfer of technologies from the laboratory to industry, coordinating research providers and industry groups including multinational OEs.

Presentation: Digitisation of supply chains and the effect of the IoT on Australia’s food and agribusiness

Is big data the answer for the future of agrifood business? With industry vendors, commentators and researchers advocating IoT adoption across the agriculture and food production sector, it is worth looking to approach implementations in stages with clear objectives and referring to practices, challenges, and outcomes in other domains. What answers are required?  How does data from IoT provide this?  What is the value and to whom?

Joe Manariti

Joe ManaritiGeneral Manager Melbourne and Avocado Category

LaManna Premier Group (LPG)

Joe joined LPG in 2011 in the role of Market Sales Manager at the Footscray Market. Joe has progressed through the organisation to now manage the Melbourne business. which includes market sales and operations and 2 distribution centres in Footscray and Yarraville.  Joe is also responsible for LPG’s national avocado supply and sales program, national service provision, ripening and supply services.

Prior to joining LPG, Joe managed his family’s fresh produce retail business in the Queen Victoria Market, he completed his Economics and Finance Degree at RMIT University and prior to this he spent 3 years in Financial planning.

Joe has also been an elected Advisory Board Member of the Melbourne Market Authority since March 2016.

Presentation: Supply challenges and consumer expectations

Joe’s presentation offers insights to innovation and research into diseases for different fruit and vegetable varieties from LaManna Premier Group’s (LPG) experience. LPG is one of Australia’s largest fresh produce supply chain companies and continues to invest heavily in research and development, funding new frontiers in horticulture, packaging and cold transport and distribution. Joe will also talk about the challenges of managing consumer expectations and the quality of in farm management.

Joann Wilkie

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First Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Ms Wilkie is responsible for providing advice on a broad range of policy issues affecting the agriculture industry, overseeing the Research and Development Corporations and managing the R&D for profit program.

She is an experienced public servant who has worked on a range of policy issues including energy, deregulation, women’s business taxation and economic policy.

Presentation: Towards 2030- Innovation and productivity growth in the agricultural sector

The agricultural sector has set the aspirational target of reaching $100 billion in gross value of production by 2030. Reaching the target is dependent on accelerating the sector’s productivity growth. Innovation will be crucial to accelerating this growth. This presentation will explore the opportunities and challenges for continued innovation in the agricultural sector relating to: on-farm productivity; agtech and innovation; transport; regulations; competition; labour markets and workforce; industry structure and governance; and institutions. Options for government and industry to better facilitate continued innovation will be examined.

Regional panellists

Sam Birrell

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Chief Executive Officer, Committee for Greater Shepparton

Sam graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor Applied Science (Agriculture) in 2003. He worked as a horticultural agronomist in the Goulburn Valley, and from 2008 to 2016, was agronomist with global micro irrigation pioneers Netafim, in which capacity he worked across Australia and New Zealand. In March 2016 Sam was appointed CEO of the Committee for Greater Shepparton. He graduated from the Fairley Leadership Program in 2013, and in 2017 graduated with an MBA from La Trobe University. He is Chair of the Goulburn Murray Community Leadership Board (which runs the Fairley Leadership Program) and sits on the La Trobe University Regional Advisory Board.

Janelle Marsden Boynton

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Managing Director of Phoenix Life Sciences International

Janelle has had a diverse career – dedicating her 20s to design and construction, her 30s to tourism and wine and her 40s to Medical Cannabis.

Janelle moved from St Kilda to Porepunkah in 2003 where she was able to apply her project management skills to build an agribusiness and contribute to developing a vibrant regional economy.

Despite her transformation from an urban chic St Kilda Project Manager, to now a mother of two children and a busy professional life which includes hands on roles in her businesses, as well as holding an international director role for a US based company, she still loves the diversity.

Born in Wangaratta, studied at Deakin University Geelong, she then went on to complete an honour in the US and Italy and Masters of Architecture.

Janelle is a strong networker and excellent communicator with a focus on collaboration and inspiring stakeholders to work towards a vision. She was instrumental in the rebranding of the winery FEATHERTOP label after the 2003 bushfires, achieving a significant turnaround from loss to profit making venture.

Her previous achievements included project management of many state and local government architectural projects.

Janelle has been Chair of Regional Development Australia Hume board, Chair of North East Valley's Food and Wine, Chair of the Victorian Government's Ministerial Advisory Council for Food and Wine Tourism, Ministerial Board member of the Victorian Government's Agribusiness forum, member of the North East Food Cluster as well as holding a director role of Victorian Tourism Board from July 2008 to 2014.

Janelle is also an active member of her local community, helping with charity functions and various not-for-profit events including Chairing the Mount Buffalo Chalet destination advisory board and Mountain taskforce, director of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and assisting with many other social impact projects.

Janelle is a leader and has many interests with her love of the outdoors, art and great food and wine. She enjoys travel with her two children, Boston and Zara Lily and experiencing the many adventures that Australia and overseas has to offer.

Aimee Snowden

Creator, Little BRICK Pastoral

Aimee hails from an irrigation farm near Tocumwal in southern NSW where her family specialise in the fodder production. Aimee holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management. Aimee works off-farm in agricultural communications, PR and education.

​She has a passion for ag education which led her to creating, the LEGO Farmer in 2014, now known as Little BRICK Pastoral, to celebrate Australian agriculture and share the story of farming through unique photos of a farmer minifigure. Aimee has received media acclaim for her work, was named a 2016 NSW/ACT Rural Women’s Awards Finalist, a 2016 RAS Rural Achiever, a 2018 ABC Heywire Trailblazer, and recently one of eight National Farmers’ Federations Talking 2030 Emerging Leaders.

Jane Foster

Jane Foster

Extension and Innovation Manager, ORM Consulting

Jane’s career experience has traversed a diverse range of industries including Banking and Finance, Import/Export operations, Wholesaling, Event Management and Communications. She is a graduate of, the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and an MBA from La Trobe University.  Currently engaged in Industry development and extension projects relating to the grains industry on a national level, the objective is towards decision making for sustainable profitability. Jane’s focus is the digital evolution around broadacre cropping and the future impact this will have on shaping the industry, she brings a very optimistic view on the prospect of opportunities that can be captured as the landscape of producing and selling grain transforms.

A career with NAB spanning nearly two decades included the role of National Agribusiness Operations Manager and Program Leader of projects for the NAB. These experiences were invaluable in shaping Jane’s flexible approach to addressing business challenges and understanding the vagaries of the business landscape. An international role in India was a pivotal professional and personal experience, it formed Jane’s early understanding that the way to thrive in business on the international stage is to embrace and exploit that which makes us culturally diverse.

As board member for a local grower co-operative in Bendigo, Jane enjoys participating in and supporting local business.

Jane’s strong belief is that we are limited only by the breadth of our imagination and how we measure success.

Ashley Franks

Ashley FranksAshley Franks Reader/Associate Professor, Physiology Anatomy & Microbiology, La Trobe University

Ashley has established the Franks Lab for Applied and Environmental Microbiology, which investigates microbial community structure and functions at interfaces. Together with colleagues and students he has active research projects looking at the interactions of mixed microbial communities with plants, soils, microbiome, electrodes, sewer systems and submarines. For his research he has received a number of awards and funding from national and international sources.

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