PIEFA Conference 2023

PIEFA Conference 2023 brings cream of the crop to Canberra | May 8, 2023

After a 5-year hiatus due to COVID-19, and with unprecedented support from an outstanding group of sponsors, PIEFA Conference returned to Canberra on May 1 and 2 bigger and better than ever before.
​More than 200 delegates attended the 2-day conference, including teachers looking for resources to take back to the classroom, primary industry representatives keen to meet the educators who are influencing the next generation, growers and producers from across the country, and federal and state government representatives in attendance.

It’s both an exciting and challenging time for the agriculture, food and fibre sector with job opportunities outnumbering graduates six to one. But with the challenges that our primary industries are currently experiencing in building their workforce, we can also see immense opportunity. The PIEFA Conference provided the ideal setting to share news and updates on current projects.

In addition to the 13 highly engaging keynote speakers who addressed the entire delegate-base with inspiring stories of their specialised fields, there were 40 workshops. These opt-in, breakout sessions offered a more personalised and hands-on approach to implementing food and fibre content in the classroom, with the goal being to effectively engage young Australians to better understand where their food and fibre comes from.

At one workshop, for instance, IntegratedSTEM introduced the Arduino platform that’s being used to deliver AgTech education. The team demonstrated how this platform can be used to automate or gather data to inform decisions that lead to enhanced yield, reduced production costs and overall better farming practices. A highlight of the conference, and one that participants are still raving about!
From farm safety to empowering educators with AI (Artificial Intelligence), chickpea challenges and showcasing recently released Australian Good Meat classroom resources, the conference program was jam-packed with speakers and facilitators, keen to tell their story and impart their knowledge and insights to the (well caffeinated!) delegates.

With Day 1 done and dusted, the Gala Dinner took place at the magnificent National Arboretum, a short coach-ride away from the conference venue, Hotel Realm. Attendees were spoilt with outstanding paddock-to-plate meals, a food and fibre Kahoot! quiz and some superb entertainment by PIEFA’s guitar-wielding CEO, Luciano!

Energy levels were high. Smiles all round. Familiar faces and lots of new faces, too. People were excited and inspired. And it was so lovely to see.

Day 2 at Hotel Realm rounded out the program, and after a solid session of short and sharp lightning presentations that offered a snippet into the world of emerging food and fibre education programs, the conference closed out on a keynote and Q&A session that delved into workforce and labour shortages in the primary industries.

There’s no doubt we’re still battling misconceptions about what a career working in food and fibre looks like in the 21st century, and keynote speaker, Hardy Manser, speculated whether it could simply be a “marketing issue” with the outdated image of a “65-year-old bloke with his Akubra” still dominating Google search results.

While we continue to work with industry to promote what a career in agriculture really means, Anthony Lee, CEO of Australian Country Choice, addressed delegates in the closing session about a new initiative that will see an industry led, federal government-backed expansion of agriculture’s influence in the Australian school curriculum, impacting the next generation of Australians in their early years.

In what will be a revolutionary initiative for food and fibre education and the future of primary industries, PIEFA will lead outcomes under the guidance of a soon-to-be-established Working Group.
Experiencing the levels of enthusiasm at PIEFA Conference 2023 has only intensified our mission to enhance food and fibre education. Watch this space… exciting times ahead.