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Media release. Nathan Free. 2015 Scholarship winner

Media release. Nathan Free. 2015 Scholarship winner

Nathan Free, from Lake Boga in Victoria, has been awarded a prestigious Nuffield Scholarship supported by Horticulture Australia Limited, using funds from the National Vegetable R&D Levy and matching funds from the Australian Government.

Nathan will study variety selection and soil amendments during conversion from conventional to certified organic farming.

As managing director of Alkira Organics, Nathan is responsible for vegetable production, packaging, marketing and dispatch at his family’s certified organic horticultural production business.

The 350-hectare property comprises organic stone fruit and organic vegetables, including zucchini, melon, pumpkin, tomato, corn, broccoli and kale.

The family converted their stonefruit and vegetable ground to certified organic five years ago, giving them an opportunity to develop their business using systems they find to be more ethical and sustainable.

“When we converted, we were surprised with the lack of help within Australia – ensuring that useful information is readily available to support transitioning farmers will be key to them having greater early success in the industry,” he says.

Nathan believes there is massive potential for the organic industry to develop, but the more demanding crops and the ability to achieve higher yields is holding the industry back.

“I intend to identify which varieties of vegetables are working well using organic production methods on an international scale.

In addition, I hope to tap into knowledge around the world regarding soil amendments that can bridge the gap during the conversion to organic as well as building the organic matter in soils,” he says.

Nathan will travel to the USA to visit The Rodale Institute and inspect the Californian stonefruit and organic seed industries, as well as England, to meet with the Soil Association.

“Nathan is certainly a young talent to watch – he has shown enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to the Australian vegetable industry beyond his years, and is also a recent recipient of the AUSVEG Young Grower of the Year Award.

Receiving the Nuffield Scholarship is a significant achievement, and AUSVEG congratulates him on this accolade – I am certain he will prove to be a worthy recipient as he continues his development as a young industry leader,” AUSVEG CEO Richard Mulcahy says.

Nuffield Australia is an organisation which provides an opportunity to Australian farmers to travel overseas on an agricultural research scholarship. It is a 16-week program consisting of both group and individual travel. The next groups will be travelling through New Zealand, Brazil, USA, Mexico, the UK, South Africa, Kenya and Europe in March-April 2015.

Nathan is available for interviews to talk about his planned study.  Mobile: 0427 178 626

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