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Professor Simon Cook

An internationally accomplished scientist will lead the Food Agility CRC’s research program into Sustainable Food Systems, should the bid be successful.

Professor Simon Cook is an expert in applying data science and technologies to agricultural systems and natural resource management, to help solve problems at global, regional and farm levels.

Simon is the newly appointed, inaugural Premier's Fellow in Agriculture and Food at Curtin University. Previously, Simon provided strategic and analytical advice to global organisations as well as to nations including South America, Central America, South-East Asia and East Africa concerning food and environmental security, rural landscape development and climate change adaptation.

Simon has over 25 years’ experience of research management in agriculture, including many years with CSIRO and within the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research Centers. He has experience going back to the 1990s of applying information technologies to the management of natural resources. As leader of the CSIRO precision agricultural research group, he identified the opportunities and obstacles of applying information technologies to change in Australian agriculture. This group pioneered precision agriculture within Australian grains, wine and sugar industries and, with partners, produced the first yield maps for these crops.

Simon has a deep understanding of the need to design research with partners that promises technological change yet respects financial, institutional and political realities that determine how it will perform. This includes the development of data-enabled drought insurance instruments. He has extensive experience in developing multi-disciplinary research programs, including a US$10m research program that included over 30 institutions from four continents.

RESEARCH PROFILE

  • Water, land and agriculture: applying science to sustainable agriculture.
  • Local and global information for agriculture: innovative solutions to land management decision problems in Africa, Latin America, SE Asia & Australia.
  • Research program design: over 25 years’ experience designing research for outcomes in the developing and developed world.
  • Research program implementation and evaluation: improving delivery of multi-disciplinary, high quality research outcomes.
  • Scientific mentoring and supervision: enabling scientists to thrive in a constantly changing organisational environment.

Simon was awarded a Ph.D. in Applied Biology from the University of Cambridge in 1990, following a M.Sc. in Soil Science at the University of Reading, U.K. in 1982 and a B.Sc. in Geography from the University College of Wales, U.K.

BRINGING TO FOOD AGILITY

Should the Food Agility CRC go ahead, Simon will develop the Sustainable Food Systems Research Program which will focus on the change processes of data-enabled agriculture. His role will be to bring together producers, consumers, intermediaries and suppliers with research partners to identify targetable change in the operation of food value chains. He will take the activities and outputs outlined in the Food Agility CRC proposal and develop them with partners into realisable research plans that promise significant outcomes for the industry. This will involve drawing together:

  • market insights - clear signals for change with
  • the components that enable change to occur, i.e. information systems,
  • financial and administrative instruments and
  • developing a sensitised and proactive workforce through training.

“The agriculture industry now has access to large volumes of data that it didn’t have before. The challenge is to translate the data availability into improved decision making capability, both on farm and within the supply chain. This is essential if agriculture is to keep ahead of increasing pressure to deliver food security, while maintaining the natural resource base on which it depends,” Prof. Cook said.