We do like our food. We know what we like, and especially what we don’t like.

Perhaps you are vegetarian. Maybe you’re a meat lover. Or do you have a special diet because of food intolerances? For the present, we have these choices.

Think ahead. It is the year 2050 and we are coping with a different Australia – less usable water, climate change and more than 30 million people.

What are the food choices in 2050? And what is the cost of securing its diversity, quality and quantity?

Will there be a never-ending need for more land and resources to feed and house our growing population and will this need cost us our healthy cities and biodiverse environment? Will we still have access to a diversity of affordable food or will we be forced to accept less attractive ingredients as human food?

Perhaps the biophysical challenges for agriculture in the decades ahead and the application of food science post-harvest will be just the catalysts needed to harness our ingenuity to produce ‘better’, more nutritious, more tasty, lower GI food.

What policies, investments and research are necessary now to deliver the smartest science, technology and knowledge to agriculturalists, environmentalists, town planners and policy makers to secure and sustain Australia’s enviable clean, green food bowl, quality of lifestyle and unique environment?

On Tuesday 15 October 2013, on the eve of the UN World Food Day, we have assembled a panel of global research leaders in food, agriculture, environment and human landscapes to cut, dice and serve up current and prospective global thinking on aspects of sustainability and food security in a changing world. 




Professor Neal Menzies
BAgrSc (Hons) (QLD), MAgrSt (QLD), PhD (QLD)
Professor of Soil and Environmental Science Head, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Dean of Agriculture

Professor Neal Menzies is Head of The University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Professor of Soil and Environmental Science and a member of the Cooperative Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC-CARE). With a passion for the environment, Professor Menzies has used his role as a teacher and research leader to bring others into this highly rewarding field of soil and environmental science. He believes that scientists must go further than identifying where human activity is harming the environment, they must also deliver workable solutions to the problems. While his research spans a range of environmental chemistry issues, he considers himself primarily a soil scientist, and sees soil science as a central discipline in the solution of a broad range of problems. This is well reflected in the research projects he has been involved in, including projects in agricultural production, water quality, waste disposal, mined land rehabilitation, conservation biology, and even forensic science. His current research focuses largely on the phytotoxicity of trace metals in soil solutions, giving particular consideration to aluminium and other trace metals such as lead, copper, zinc and nickel. 

Professor Robert Henry
B Sc (Hons) (QLD), M Sc (Hons) (Macquarie), PhD (La Trobe), D SC (QLD)
Director, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI)

Professor Robert Henry, is a graduate of The University of Queensland, B Sc (Hons), Macquarie University, M Sc (Hons) and La Trobe University (Ph D). In 2000 Professor Henry was awarded a higher doctorate (D Sc) by UQ for his work on analysis of variation in plants. Before being appointed QAAFI Director in May 2010, Professor Henry was Director of the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics at Southern Cross University, a centre which he established in 1996. Other previous positions held by Professor Henry include Research Director of the Grain Foods Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) (until 2010) and Research Program Leader in the Queensland Agricultural Biotechnology Centre (until 1996). Professor Henry’s speciality research area is the study of agricultural crops using molecular tools. He is particularly interested in Australian flora and plants of economic and social importance and has led the way in research into genome sequencing to capture novel genetic resources for the diversification of food crops to deliver improved food products. 

Professor James Shulmeister
BA (Mod) (Dublinensis), MSc (Queen’s, Canada), PhD (Australian National University)
Professor and Head, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management

Professor Jamie Shulmeister joined The University of Queensland in July 2009 as Head of the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management (GPEM). Much of Professor Shulmeister’s work looks at reconstructing the climate history of various regions to better inform our current understanding of global climate patterns. The results of his research may have significant impacts on climate models used for predicting global warming. Professor Shulmeister’s research focuses on reconstructing changes in regional circulation patterns, notably the Southern Hemisphere Westerlies and the Australian Monsoon. His interest particularly lies in longer duration oscillatory systems, especially the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the Inter-decadal Pacific Oscillation, as well as in abrupt climate events including the Southern Hemisphere manifestation of the Younger Dryas (if any) and the Antarctic Cold Reversal. Currently Professor Shulmeister is leading a project that aims to demonstrate how climate systems in South East Australia responded to large scale global change during Australia’s last glacial maximum, about 21,000 years ago. As almost 80% of Australia’s population and agricultural and industrial production falls in the region being investigated, significant economic and environmental impacts are likely as a result of altered climate systems.

Professor Hugh Possingham 
FAA BSc (Adelaide) DPhil (Oxford)
Professor of Mathematics and Professor of Ecology, The University of Queensland
Director, The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (2011-2018)
Director, The National Environmental Research Program Hub

Aside from his day job, Professor Possingham has a variety of broader public roles advising policy makers and managers sitting on 16 committees and boards outside the University including: The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists (founding member), Queensland Smart State Council, Chief Editor of Conservation Letters (an international scientific journal, Council of the Australian Academy of Science, and ENGO scientific advisory committee. He and Dr Barry Traill wrote “The Brigalow Declaration”, used by Premier Beattie to stop land clearing in Queensland thereby securing at least 1 billion tonnes of CO2. The Possingham lab developed the most widely used conservation planning software in the world. Marxan was used to underpin the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef and is currently used in over 100 countries by over 2500 users – from the UK to Brazil. Professor Possingham has co-authored over 300 refereed publications covered by the Web of Science (21 in Science, Nature or PNAS) and has 7500 Web of Science citations. He currently directs two research centres, each of $15 million, and he has supervised (or is supervising) 51 PhD students and 32 postdoctoral fellows. 


Anne-Marie Birkill 
BSc (Hons) (Flinders University), MBA (QLD)
Partner OneVentures

Anne-Marie Birkill is a Partner in OneVentures, a $40 million venture capital Fund backing innovative companies with global relevance in CleanTech, IT&T and Life Sciences. She is a Director for portfolio companies Paloma Mobile and Peak3. Anne-Marie has forged a career in the field of technology commercialisation. She has worked with hundreds of early-stage technology companies as senior executive, mentor and business coach. Previous roles included CEO of i.lab Incubator, various senior management appointments at UniQuest and Director of ASX listed energy storage company RedFlow Limited. Anne-Marie spent 15 years in leadership roles in agri-business companies developing and commercialising new cultivars of ornamental, aquatic, food and forestry plants. Anne-Marie has been a significant equity partner in both a plant breeding/propagation company and a boutique technology commercialisation firm. An active member of the innovation community, Anne-Marie is an Industry Fellow with The UQ Business School, a Member of the Federal Government’s $200M Clean Technology Innovation Fund Committee and a Director for Springboard Australia. Anne-Marie is a FAIM and a MAICD.


Global Leadership Series: Food Bowls vs Dust Bowls - What is the Future of Food? from UQ Journalism & Communication on Vimeo.

About Global Leadership Series

The Global Leadership Series (GLS) is a lively program of events for alumni and community members. Join us for lectures and discussions with the best of the best UQ-related speakers on matters that impact your community and shape your ideas of the world.

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