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Sue Middleton

Sue Middleton
Regional Winner | Community & People category

Wongan Hills

What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
If I had to pick one, it is the development of Moora Citrus. We developed an orchard from scratch on our farm at Moora. It’s taken us about 20 years from go to woah but we’ve gone from being a business that was a family-owned farm to bringing in an equity partner, developing up that project, bringing in the capital and developing a packing partnership for the fruit. In the peak season, the businesses now employ more than 200 people.

I married into my husband’s family farm and had an economic development background. It just seemed logical to do something with our water asset as there is a large aquifer under the farm. Also, when we were doing strategy work for the business, climate change projections showed a 20 per cent drop in rainfall in our area and we saw that as a risk to our cropping business. We also saw that we could diversify and intensify the farm business.

How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
Twitter is the main platform that I use. I use it as a communications platform and to connect and meet other people in agriculture. My handle is @Middleton_Says 

What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
I can’t narrow it down to a single opportunity. There are eight things that will be happening in the next year that I will be involved with. The opportunities I am working on are:

  • My appointment on the board of the National Water Grid where we want to get water onto the same footing as other infrastructure at a national scale.
  • Digital access – getting WA fibre network in place so we can fully digitise agriculture in the state, that project is in commercial processes at the moment.
  • Working with the National Farmers Federation on Drought, Competition and Farm Business policy
  • Working on a remote job creation project with Pointer Remote’s, Jo Palmer, which is important because there are openings now to attract people to move to the regions and bring their jobs.
  • Working on the Board of Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), to develop a philanthropy program within WA. Currently we’re building a WA Committee to assist with donor development.
  • Working with AgZero2030, an organisation and movement founded with other farmers about a year ago to work on climate change solutions for agriculture.
  • Champions for Change program with RRR Network which is seeking funding to train first responders in sexual harassment to create a network of people through ag workplaces across Australia that can respond to people experiencing harassment.

What is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the next 12 months?
Funding, election timetables, gaining support for projects

What is the biggest challenge Australian Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
Agriculture is sitting on a precipice of huge growth and there is interested capital. There are three pieces to the puzzle:

  1.  Ag needs to build its narrative around climate change – we need to be solutions orientated and demonstrate we can manage that risk to attract the capital and serve our markets
  2.  Human resources – we need to become employers of choice to attract the best talent
  3.  Digital connectivity – we can’t solve this problem without building fibre and this should be a priority for industry and government.