Bill relishes getting back to agricultural roots

As a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western regional panellist, Bill Ryan has enjoyed getting back in the field and interacting with growers and industry people throughout Australia.

“As you move through your career, you typically get further and further away from the field and spend more time in the office,” he said.

“As a GRDC regional panellist, you have the opportunity to get back and kick the dirt, talk to growers and really get back to the roots of agriculture which is where I started my career – and I enjoy that.

“It also exposes you to a broader range of people and activities than you would otherwise be exposed to.

“You get to meet the best scientists in Australia and the best farmers in Australia – so it is really rewarding.”

Dr Ryan, who has had a long career in the research and corporate sectors of agriculture, is completing his second term on the GRDC western regional panel.

He encourages other industry people to seize the opportunity to apply for positions on the panel, with the GRDC recently calling for applications.

Successful applicants will take up the part-time positions from September 1, 2015 and appointments will initially be for two years.

Dr Ryan said serving as a GRDC western panel member was an important and exciting role.

“You’re dealing with growers, understanding their issues and then taking this information back to convert into research questions and projects that will deliver answers for them,” he said.

“The regional panel system is providing that link between the research community, research managers and growers, and I think this system is one of the reasons for the GRDC’s success.

“Panels play such an important role in making sure we’re delivering value for growers in return for their investment in the GRDC levy.”

Dr Ryan said the western regional panel had made some significant achievements during his four years serving on it, such as the GRDC’s investment in the National Frost Initiative – addressing a key issue for growers.

The GRDC is investing $3 million annually into the initiative, which takes a multi-discipline approach to frost mitigation encompassing genetic, management and environmental solutions.

“We’ve also made a major investment into soils and subsoil constraints via the $33 million collaborative research effort ‘Soil Constraints – West’, which will develop and deliver practical management solutions for a range of soil constraints confronting WA growers and limiting crop production,” Dr Ryan said.

“The good thing about this project is that it is a coordinated investment – we’ve got CSIRO, the Department of Agriculture and Food, Murdoch University and grower groups all involved.”

Dr Ryan holds a degree in agricultural science and a PhD in animal science from The University of Western Australia.

He worked in the research arm of the then Western Australian Department of Agriculture for 20 years before moving into corporate agriculture, working with the Heytesbury Group and then the Kondinin Group as its chief executive officer.

Today, in addition to his role with the GRDC, he chairs the Agricultural Produce Commission and provides consultancy services to AGWEST International.

Dr Ryan said his career experience had enabled him to contribute constructively to the GRDC western regional panel.

“What I bring to the panel is a broad range of experience – both scientific and commercial – so I know enough to understand the science and ask some of the tough questions, but I also understand the commercial world well enough to appreciate the challenges that growers have that scientists sometimes don’t appreciate,” he said.

Applications for western regional panel positions are open until Tuesday, June 9, 2015.

Each panel is comprised of grain growers, agribusiness practitioners, scientists and the GRDC’s executive managers, with provision for other industry experts to participate as appropriate.

Applications are invited from candidates with skills and experience including extensive knowledge of the Australian grains industry and excellent communication skills

The GRDC is one of the world’s leading grains research organisations, responsible for planning, investing in and overseeing RD&E to deliver improvements in production, sustainability and profitability across the Australian grains industry.

More information about the GRDC regional panel application process is available here or by emailing

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