Australia Sustainable Food, Environment, & Social Systems 2017

Blog site for the 2017 MSU study abroad program.

11-Madison H.


Hi! My name is Madi Heath and I am from Milan, Michigan. I am majoring in Agribusiness Management with a minor in economics at Michigan State University. I grew up on my family’s cash crop farm. My family farms corn, wheat, and soybeans. Currently I am studying to become a grain merchandiser.

Agriculture is very close to my heart, and I am excited to study it in Australia. Growing up I have always dreamed of going to Australia. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.

Research Topic

Since I grew up on a cash crop farm, I love production agriculture. A possible topic to study while in Australia, is the difference in production agriculture compared to the United States with a focus on water management. Without a sustainable system in today’s modern society with finite resources, the production of agriculture products would be near impossible. While Australia may not be a power house exporter like to the United States, they are still a major world exporter of agriculture products. The United States imported $2.8 billion worth of Australian agricultural products.  Australia also produces around 11% of the world’s wheat. With the population expecting to reach 9 billion people by 2050 it will take the whole world to feed the population. I want to study sustainability efforts farmers are taking to ensure future generations are able to produce crops on the same farmland 100 years from now. I want to learn how they irrigate their crops, while effectively maintaining  water run-off.


How have your water sustainability efforts changed in the last five years compared to the last twenty years?

On average do most farmers in Australia have a water management plan put in place?

With improving variety of seeds, how much less water do you use today, compared to ten years ago?


“World population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 | UN DESA Department of      Economic and Social Affairs.” United Nations. United Nations Department of Economic    Affairs, 13 June 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.

Peter Langridge CEO, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, and Simon Prasad Researcher, Office of the Chief Scientist. “Australia can’t feed the world but it can help.” The Conversation. The Conversation, 30 Mar. 2017. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.

“Australia | United States Trade Representative.” Australia | United States Trade Representative. Office of the United States Trade Representative, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.


G’Day Mates!

We have returned from the land down under! What an experience! I have learned so much about sustainability in Australia. My research question changed from my initial question. While aboard I was focusing on finding out if Australia’s shift to sustainable  production threaten to lower the nation’s food production levels and ability to export food.

The month we spent in Australia we visited, toured, and met with many farmers, government officials, business owners and even random strangers in different cities. While aboard I learned that sustainability is the long term viability in which an ecosystem, production of crops or animals can sustain and remain without little to no change around it. Talking with farmers and local business owners is what I enjoyed the most on the trip. I was able to learn first hand sustainable practices that they have integrated into their operation within the last five to ten years. Nick a farmer who operates his small organic farm, Mallyons on the Murray, is a great example of taking a 360 degree sustainability approach on his farm. Nick made the investment when he originally went into business, by installing solar panels. These solar panels power his whole operation including his house and farm café. Nick uses biological control harmful insects if a pest outbreak were to happen. Nick also collects water off of his gutters into giant rain tanks. These rain tanks are then used to help water his produce. The irrigation pipes into his greenhouse are all gravity feed, and Nick uses drip irrigation. With the use of drip irrigators, Nick is able to water his produce using the least amount of water. While some of these sustainability practices were huge investments initially, Nick is now able to produce more vegetables using less resources.


Figure 1.1 Solar panels on Mallyons on the Murray


Figure 1.2 Vegetables growing in Nick’s greenhouse

In Australia we visited many different farmers markets. One type of market we visited was the Melbourne Wholesale Market. Here farmers were able to sell their produce to local restaurants and grocery stores. At this market, I had the opportunity to talk to a Capricorn farmer, David. David talk to us about his production, and how he recently changed his production practices. David switched to using hydroponics to grow his produce. Water is a scare commodity in most of Australia and the cost to irrigate outside was extremely high, so he moved his entire operation indoors. By doing this he is able to decrease his cost on inputs, while producing a good crop. David’s decision to switch was purely from an economic standpoint, however, his new practices are more sustainable.


Figure 1.3 Melbourne wholesale market

After countless hours touring and speaking with Australian locals, I came to the conclusion that Australia’s shift to sustainable production does not threaten to lower the nation’s food production levels and ability to export. Sustainable production practices will in the long term be better for Australia’s agriculture industry.  As we all know climate change is a dark cloud looming over everyone here on Earth. Climate change refers to any long term trends in climate over many years or decades around which climate variability may be year over year. Australia’s proactive approach will not only help reduce climate change effects, but allow Australia to adapt easier to climate change effects than other countries.

After many miles traveled, I’m glad to be back home. Studying aboard has changed my perspective so much. Not only have I gained a new perspective on sustainability, I gained a new perspective on the importance of learning different cultures. So much can be learned just by taking the time to talk to people of different backgrounds.  Below I have added links to places we visited in Australia in case you would like to read more about it! The photo below is one of my favorite from the entire trip. We passed by it while driving on the highway.


Figure 1.4 Local Elevator in Australia


Melbourne Wholesale Market

Mallyons on the Murray

Woolumbi Farms

Wirra Wirra Vineyards

Sydney Fish Market

Ballarat Stock and Station Agents Association

Jaques Australian Coffee

Adelaide Desalinization Plant



Australian Energy Resource Assessment (2nd ed.). (2014). Australian Government. Campbell, H., Rosin, C., & Norton, S. (2010). Chapter 15 examining the mythologies of organics: Moving beyond the organic/conventional binary. In G. Lawrence, K. Lyons, & T. Wallington (Eds.), Food security, nutrition and sustainability (pp. 238–251).

Brown, L. (2012). Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Matlock, M. (2011) Ecological Engineering Design: Restoring and Conserving Ecosystem Services . John Wiley & Sons.

Porter, T. (2015, May 27). World hunger falls to under 800 million, eradication is next goal. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from

Trade and Investment Topics. (2017, February 24). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from

What Is Biodynamics? (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from

What is Biological Control? (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from





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