SRA Media Release: Key appointments kick-start Sugar Research Australia’s RD&E investment journey

19 August 2013

Sugar Research Australia (SRA) has been appointed by the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as the industry service body for the Australian sugarcane industry. 

Mr Paul Wright AM, Chairman, SRA said that this appointment will allow the company to start delivering valuable research, development and extension (RD&E) services to levy payers.

“As the industry service body the statutory levy that growers and millers have paid since 1 July 2013 can start to flow to the new industry-owned company,” said Mr Wright.

“In addition to receiving the statutory levy, we can now apply to receive matching payments from the Commonwealth Government, adding significantly to our investment pool.”

SRA is expected to invest around $34 million per annum in RD&E of which approximately $18 million per annum will be contestable.

The contestable research grants process and broader research investments will be managed by the Research Funding Panel.

Led by Professor Alan Johnson AM, the Panel will select research projects that address key industry issues and national research priorities.

“Just as important as the choice of projects we fund, is the day-to-day management of the projects. This work will be done by the Research Funding Unit,” said Professor Johnson.

“The Unit has now been appointed and reflects a skills-based team that has a strong working knowledge of the sugarcane industry and experience in taking research to market.

“The Unit will be responsible for ensuring that milestones are met and reporting requirements adhered to.

“In this way we can deliver better research outcomes on-farm to our members and levy payers.”

Media contact: Vanessa Sandhu, Communications Manager, Sugar Research Australia, 0419 175 815.

Further information:

The Sugar Research and Development Services (Industry Services Body) Declaration 2013 and the Statutory Funding Agreement 2013-17 can be viewed on the Sugar Research Australia website –

The appointees to the Research Funding Unit are:

Dr Michael O’Shea, General Manager

Dr O’Shea is an experienced researcher with over 20 years of involvement in multidisciplinary agricultural research programs across the sugarcane and wheat industries. He also has over 7 years’ experience in research program management.

Dr O’Shea has acknowledged expertise in cane and sugar quality, carbohydrate chemistry and various industry analytical methodologies, including near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy.  His research efforts have been rewarded with the ASSCT President’s Medal and the SRDC Research Innovation Award.

Ms Felice Driver, Program Manager

Ms Driver is an experienced technical professional with a broad background in research, management and commercialisation within agricultural industries.

Ms Driver has experience working within an industry-owned company (IOC), gained in her recent role at Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).  Within MLA, Ms Driver was employed as a Project Manager for over 5 years where she had responsibilities within the Productivity and Sustainability portfolios, as well as the Goat Industry RD&E Program.

Dr Harjeet Khanna, Program Manager

Dr Khanna is a scientist with an outstanding record in the field of agricultural biotechnology, working across crops such as banana, sugarcane, wheat and rice.

Recently at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Dr Khanna was one of the lead scientists at the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities.  She has led projects seeking to deliver agricultural solutions for third world countries and has a passion for improving the roles and status of women in agriculture.

Dr Peter Samson, Program Manager

Dr Samson is a highly experienced sugar industry researcher with over 25 years of service to the industry.  Dr Samson played a high profile role within BSES as a Principal Scientist based at Bundaberg and Mackay, working across areas such as pest management, crop agronomy and extension methods.

Dr Samson was heavily involved in the development of BioCane, a biological control product for canegrubs, and the development and delivery of GrubPlan, a management and extension package which acts as the framework for delivering canegrub management across the industry.

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