PS Seminar Series - Feeding the world while restoring the planet

Abstract - Natural capital describes the stocks of renewable and non-renewable resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils and minerals) that produce flows of benefits to people. These benefits include clean air, food, water, fibre, energy, shelter, medicine, flood defence, climate regulation, pollination and recreation.1

Around half of Australia’s land is used for agriculture, making our farmers key managers and stewards of our natural capital. Agriculture is also the sector of the economy with the highest material dependency on natural capital. Adapting to a changing climate, while feeding a global population of over 9 billion by 2050, and without substantially depleting the global stock of natural capital will require significant investment in smarter, more resilient farming.

In this talk, I will discuss how Australia’s farmers are well positioned to take a leading role in this next agricultural transformation, with support from the research, financial and technology sectors. I will also present some of my thoughts on making the transition from a more traditional early career pathway in plant sciences research to a broader and less traditional mid-career role, with a recent highlight being the agile delivery of the Sustainable Agribusiness Adaptation project for NAB.

Biography - Madeline Mitchell (Maddie, she/her) is a plant scientist with broad interests in the social, economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture. While a postdoc at CSIRO and PhD student at the University of Cambridge, she collaborated with industry and community partners as well as diverse researchers to understand plant growth and to develop novel food, fuel and fibre crops for the benefit of farmers, consumers and the environment.

Since 2020, she has held joint roles with Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and RMIT University where she leads a research theme focused on valuing carbon and other forms of natural capital for productive, profitable and climate resilient farm systems.

Maddie is a member of the Riverine Plains farming system group’s Research Advisory Council and a Director of Cambridge Australia Scholarships as well as Chair of their PhD selection committee. She is an advocate for gender equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM and an alumna of the global leadership initiative, Homeward Bound. Her skills in science communication have been recognised by an ACT Young Tall Poppy Award and selection in the Superstars of STEM program.