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2016 Growth Awards Judges

Ian McConnel

Ian McConnel

Global Commodity Lead, Beef - WWF

A 5th generation beef producer from “Mt Brisbane” in the Brisbane Valley, Queensland, Ian has spent much of his career travelling the globe studying, researching and representing the Australian agricultural industry.

Ian has spent time studying in America, where he also served as the Australian delegate to the World Brahman Summit in 2001.

Ian has also served as the Australian Rural Ambassador for the Federal Council of Agricultural Societies (QCAS), was Australia’s “Beef Industry Rising Champion” and sat on the guiding council for the UN’s Global agenda for the sustainable livestock. Ian also serves as an Executive Board Member for the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

Through his current role with WWF, Ian is successfully developing a cohesive and effective global effort to create a beef industry that is socially, economically and environmentally responsible.

Throughout his career, Ian has been an advocate for promoting more effective communication of the beef industry’s environmental and social credentials to the consumer. He believes that through improved communication, consumers will be better enabled to choose sustainable food or agricultural products.

His third year on the judging panel, Ian looks forward to meeting nominees each year who care so much for not only the productivity of their farm, but also the sustainability and productivity of their region and the industry as a whole.



Mick Hay

Mick Hay

Managing Director - RIMFIRE RESOURCES

Mick has a strong background in agribusiness which has included working for major Australian companies, operating across different market segments and regions. After more than 12 years in corporate agribusiness, Mick established Rimfire Resources in 2001 to answer the unique needs of agribusinesses and agricultural professionals. Since then, he has led the business to create innovative new agribusiness products and services, including workforce capacity planning, HR consulting and training, an industry wide salary survey and HR review and a GradLink program, that connects aspiring agricultural graduates with potential future employers.

The GradLink program connects students from universities across Australia with agricultural employers nationally. Over the last year, Mick and the Rimfire team have worked to launch a fully-integrated online platform for GradLink, which allows employers to connect directly with students anywhere in the country via video link. The program not only helps graduates find work, but it also helps them gain a full understanding of the length and breadth of opportunities that exist in the agricultural industry.

This is Mick’s third year judging the Growth Awards, and each year he is pleasantly surprised and inspired by the level of nominees and the great things they’re doing in their industry and community. For Mick, the Awards are a wonderful way to recognise those in agricultural communities who are stepping up and making positive changes. 



Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

National Grains Industry Reporter - FAIRFAX AGRICULTURAL MEDIA

Gregor Heard is Fairfax Agricultural Media's national grains industry reporter, based in Horsham in regional Victoria.

He has been with the business for 12 years, starting with Stock & Land in Victoria, before being appointed to the national reporting team. He returned to the role in January this year after a seven month sabbatical studying in Spain.

In his time with Fairfax he has covered some of the industry's big issues, such as deregulation of the wheat industry, consolidation of the grain marketing sector and where to find the best pies in country Victoria.

An avid North Melbourne fan, he is currently enjoying the AFL season more than any other in recent memory.

Gregor accompanied last year’s Growth Awards winners on their Study Tour through Europe, where he had the opportunity to deep dive into England’s agricultural industry. Here, he explored the Royal Farms and the booming malt barley industry in England, and visited Cereals 2016.

This year, Gregor looks forward to seeing the innovative solutions from Australia’s leading growers and advisers, surrounding profitability and sustainability in Australian and New Zealand agriculture.



Sheila Charlesworth

Sheila Charlesworth

CEO - Burnett Mary Regional Group

Sheila Charlesworth is the CEO of Burnett Mary Regional Group in Queensland - a recent appointment after having served as CEO for Mingenew Irwin Group (MIG) for over three years.

With the Burnett Mary Regional Group, Sheila oversees more than 70,000 square kilometres of natural environment, including World Heritage listed Fraser Island, UNESCO listed Great Sandy Straight and the many rivers that flow into the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Last year’s Growth Awards Winner for the CASE IH Award, Sheila has been working in the agricultural sector for over a decade, and is a strong leader in both the industry and community.

She has been heavily involved in the grains industry, proactively leading a number of initiatives. One of the most significant projects Sheila has facilitated was the highly successful collaboration between MIG and PBCRC in the development of nitrogen technology to protect stored grain from insect pests.

Sheila has served as the Board Director of the WA Counsel of Grain Growers Organisation (COGGO), during which time she was proud to have been involved in establishing the prestigious Piper Prize Award for agricultural entrepreneurs.

As a previous recipient of a Growth Award, Sheila encourages the finalists and winners to embrace the awards and use what they learn in the process to further develop agriculture in their region.


Paul Luxton

Paul Luxton


Paul Luxton has over 20 years’ experience in the agriculture industry and a passion that began on his family’s horticulture farm in the Canterbury region of New Zealand.

As the Territory Head – Australasia for Syngenta, Paul leads a team of around 170 people across Australia and New Zealand who are committed to delivering the latest technology and innovation to the Agricultural sector. This technology ensures our Channel customers can enable growers to realise the yield potential of their crops, to better manage risk and to more consistently deliver quality produce which meets the needs of consumers, retailers and the value chain.  With over 600 research and development (R&D) trials conducted under local conditions in 2015, he is focused on supporting Syngenta’s R&D in Australasia and bringing an ambitious pipeline of new product introductions to market.

Paul is passionate about diversity and inclusion and leads the local business’ Diversity & Inclusion Council, which focuses on promoting and harnessing the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace that is reflective of the customers and communities Syngenta serves. 

Paul is also a member of the APAC Regional Executive team where he is involved in a number of initiatives, including co-leading the Diversity & Inclusion agenda across APAC and various growth initiatives in developing Asia.

Paul currently serves on a number of industry and company boards, including CropLife Australia, AgStewardship, LongReach Plant Breeders and CGS Pty Ltd.

Paul believes the Growth Awards are an opportunity to shine a light on the innovative work Australian and New Zealand growers and advisers are doing to progress the industry and to share positive, inspiring stories about Australasian agriculture.

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