Meet our new Soil Knowledge Broker

| Posted Jun 05,2023

We caught up with the Soil CRC’s new Soil Knowledge Broker, Felicity Harrop, to find out what inspires her and how she is helping connect our research scientists and grower groups.

Tasmanian born and bred, Felicity spent a large part of her childhood connecting with nature—from camping in Tassie’s magnificent National Parks to helping shear sheep and herd cattle on her cousins’ farms.

These experiences, along with the opportunity to study rural science at school, led her to study Applied Science (Agriculture) at the University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy Campus. Here she gained priceless hands-on experience, working on farms between lectures and undertaking industry placements.

Felicity’s career was launched when she accepted the position of Facilitator for the Birchip Cropping Demonstration Sites, now the Birchip Cropping Group and a valued Soil CRC partner.

“I was working with Adelaide University’s wheat breeding department when the role came up, and I decided to throw my hat in the ring,” Felicity said.

“I’m forever grateful that I did because this position provided the ideal training ground for facilitating farmer-led research and extension – connecting landholders with researchers and vice versa.

“The support I received working with the Wimmera/Mallee community made agricultural research and extension fun, exciting, challenging and rewarding – who doesn’t want a job like that?”

Felicity has been working across various industries in agricultural extension, research and education ever since. She relishes the challenge of taking scientific research and making it applicable for farmers to use.

“Working outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens, whether that’s personally or professionally. I love working with landholders trying a new practice and seeing them experience benefits they had never considered.

“In most cases in agricultural extension, we are asking farmers to change their practices, invest in a new product or innovation, and spend time learning and implementing something new. This kind of change is challenging for anyone and can be costly in time and inputs.

“That’s why it is important that these new practices and products are scientifically proven, cost effective, accessible, meet a need or solve a problem. The drivers for farmers to change practices are many and varied.”

It’s this passion for end-user driven research and innovation that led Felicity to the Soil CRC.

“The foundation of the Soil CRC is end-user driven, focused on farmers, grower groups and industry as equal partners and contributors to soil knowledge, research, and communication.”

“This collaboration is vital to the success of knowledge sharing and adoption of sustainable soil management practices,” she said.

Felicity previously worked with the Soil CRC as the leader of the Building Soil Management Capacity project, which was co-funded by the Australian Government through the Building Landcare Community and Capacity component of the Smart Farms Program.

Now as Soil Knowledge Broker, she has an opportunity to expand on her earlier work and continue to increase the technical capacity and capability of farmers, grower groups, landcare groups and industry groups, both within and outside the Soil CRC.

Felicity is looking forward to collaborating with the Soil CRC partners and participants to understand their soil knowledge needs to facilitate Soil CRC knowledge and information through engaging extension events and activities.

“Liaising with the Soil CRC researchers will be key to gaining a greater understanding of their research results to produce high quality science-based resources in a format that meets the needs of grower groups, extension officers, farm advisors and regional soil coordinators.

“I’m also looking forward to engaging with the wider soil community, participants in Australia’s soil extension network, including the National Soil Coordinator and Regional Soil Coordinators, to contribute to the implementation of the National Soil Strategy,” she said.

When she’s not soil knowledge brokering, you’ll find Felicity in the garden or exploring the great outdoors.

“I’m happiest when I’m outside, whether that’s building soil for the veggie garden or challenging my brain and body on the bike trails,” Felicity enthused.