Published: 23 January 2024 Updated: 23 January 2024
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DATE 23 Jan 2024
FEEDBACK/STORY SUGGESTIONS Dempsey Ward Communication Coordinator +61 2 6122 2134

FRDC-sponsored Nuffield Scholars Joana Mendes (2023 scholar) and Tom Cosentino (2024 scholar), have been awarded a 14-week global learning experience, diving deeper into their respective fishing and aquaculture study areas. 

By Dempsey Ward


Joana Mendes, FRDC’s 2023 Nuffield Scholar has returned from her Global Focus Program that focused on identifying new ways to help boost Australia’s aquaculture, particularly in Tasmania.  

Joana is an Environmental, Social, and Governance & Communities Partner at Tassal Group based on the apple isle.  

She hopes to show the Australian aquaculture sector how different countries are addressing sustainability, particularly in salmon farming. Using case studies, she plans to include detailed information on a range of different strategies that could work in Australia, as her final report.    

Venturing through numerous aquaculture-producing nations, Joana’s Global Focus Program commenced in Singapore, where she delved into discussions on Singapore’s ambitious ‘30 by 30’ food security plan – aimed at seeing the country produce 30% of its food locally by 2030.  

Joana Mendes and Nuffield scholars posing in front of Singapore ANZ's headquarters
Joana Mendes and Nuffield Scholars visited ANZ's Singapore headquarters


“Singapore is trying really hard to get the aquaculture sector developed, and they’re bringing in the experts to help do this,” Joana says. “Even though the climate or environment aren’t suitable, they are implementing innovation and crazy technologies to try and achieve their goal.”  

Joana then travelled through the starkly contrasting southern and northern regions of India, which illustrated the critical need of productive agriculture in regions stricken by poverty.  

Joana Mendes and Nuffield scholars posing with Southern Indian farmers
Joana Mendes and Nuffield Scholars visited farmers in both North and South India


“When producers in the South were asked about soil management and best sustainable practices, they were aware of these practices but not implementing them. These producers farm for survival, they don’t have time or money to invest in sustainable farming practices and they can’t see into the future where they may lose their resource.” 

With her tour leg taking her to the United States, Joana saw how a voluntary approach to conservation and sustainable farming practices, rewarded farmers with subsidies.  

Joana Mendes and Nuffield Scholars posing at US headquarters

Joana’s US visit saw her reevaluating potential avenues for Australia to incentivise sustainable farming which would require financial support for fishing and aquaculture. 

Joana's transformative experience has not just ignited her passion for agri-sectors but also broadened her perspectives and advocacy for exploring options for incentives while embracing new and sometimes uncomfortable growth pathways to progress fishing and aquaculture businesses in Australia.  

“I feel like I have a newfound outlook on my research topic, shaped by this global journey full of insights and observations I never would have experienced without the scholarship,” Joana says.  

The next portion of the scholarship will see Joana visit key aquaculture countries, Norway, Scotland, Canada, and Chile.  

Pathways for new entrants

As Joana concludes her first expedition, the baton passes to Tom Cosentino, FRDC’s 2024 Nuffield Scholar, a well-known face in the rock lobster sector. Tom, with his multifaceted expertise as an Executive Officer at Southern Rock Lobster Limited, has set his sights on reshaping food and fibre policies to aid succession planning in agri-businesses to ensure the seamless transfer of knowledge and businesses to the next generation. 

“Food and fibre production is such an integral part of our society that, in my view, the responsibility cannot be borne by so few,” Tom says.  

“It is imperative new entrants have pathways into agri-businesses such as meat and seafood production, so the knowledge and expertise can be passed on.” 

Tom Cosentino
Tom Cosentino received his Nuffield Scholarship at the 2023 Nuffield Conference


Tom’s research underpins one of the key outcomes of FRDC’s Research and Development Plan 2020-2025, developing capacity in the fishing and aquaculture sectors, to nurture passionate and innovative minds within food production.  

“By passing on family assets efficiently and affordably, we may not have to miss out on attracting passionate, intelligent and innovative minds to food production.” 

Embarking on a global journey to the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, and the US as part of his scholarship, Thomas aims to evaluate and enhance Australia’s succession planning frameworks and policies through a global lens.  

New and exciting doors  

“Nuffield is an amazing program that enables participants to learn, explore and build lifelong connections and networks globally,” states Capability, Capacity and Culture Change Manager at FRDC Sally Roberts.    

Nuffield Scholars are well-known for achieving distinction within their field, including making a significant impact at a regional and local level, both in community affairs and resource management. 

Previous FRDC Nuffield scholars include Rhys Arangio, Jonas Woolford, Tom Robinson, and Dennis Holder.  

“You don’t have to be a veteran of your industry or sector to be a Nuffield recipient – all we are looking for is passionate individuals who have a belief that their idea or topic can help their business, community, or the fishing and aquaculture sectors,” states Sally. 

Nuffield Scholarships for 2025 will open in March this year.  

Support for Nuffield is part of FRDC’s integrated leadership development program, which includes the Australian Rural Leadership Program and the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program.