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Community Spotlight: Elizabeth Brennan

Mar 1, 2018

Elizabeth currently manages marketing strategy development and implementation for the largest citrus operation in WA, Moora Citrus, (which also happens to be her family’s business) and coordinates a multidisciplinary agricultural research program in Papua New Guinea for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. She is Past President and current Company Secretary of Australian Women in Agriculture, volunteers on many agricultural advisory groups and committees, and was recently appointed as Commissioner for the Agricultural Produce Commission. Elizabeth is a Fellow with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation having won a scholarship from Fairfax Agricultural Media to undertake the intensive 18-month leadership program. In 2014, Elizabeth was awarded the Most Outstanding Emerging Leader Award at the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 and last year won the 2016 WA Young Achiever of the Year for her voluntary and community contributions.

What ideas are you working on at the moment?
It may sound a little cliché but having grown up on a farm and subsequently living in Papua New Guinea for two years becoming fascinated by their subsistence food systems, I’m pretty passionate about feeding the world – sustainably. Food wastage anywhere along the value chain gets me hopping mad so I’m keen to transform our food systems with traceability and transparency. Being a farmer and a consumer, sometimes I take for granted what I know about the energy and resources that go into producing one orange, for example, and forget that the general public aren’t as aware and therefore not making informed decisions. Going by FAO statistics, we waste or lose 30% of food produced globally. By enabling more reciprocity in information flow along the food value chain, we increase our collective understanding of what it takes to get from farm to fork and we can make not just informed but empowered decisions about what we want OUR food system to look like. So, at the moment, I’m working on a way to introduce traceability into our citrus supply chain so that when a consumer picks up an orange in the supermarket they know it’s entire history – from provenance to product life cycle and everything in between. Knowledge is power.

What do you enjoy most about the Spacecubed community?
I triangulate between our farms in Wongan Hills and Moora, Perth, PNG and Canberra so Spacecubed is like my home-away-from-home with internet speeds the whole of regional WA is envious of! Not unsurprisingly, the community is something that I hold very dear so the Spacecubed community is the perfect eclectic mix of people doing all sorts of interesting stuff. I just love sparking up a conversation with people, especially around the fruit bowl where I’m often caught checking whether our Moora Citrus oranges are nestled amongst the apples and bananas.

How did your startup journey begin?
By definition, I guess Moora Citrus isn’t your typical startup, if at all? There are certainly similar phases in the development of our business that can be likened to the startup journey. Our family has always been pretty entrepreneurial so when we recognised that we needed to diversify in an attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change, our first step was to recognise what resources we had on hand (rather fortuitously, we discovered abundant underground water) and then extensive research on what we could do with those resources. At the time, 60% of the citrus Western Aussie’s were eating was imported. People didn’t actually know what a good orange tasted like! From there we envisioned turning one of our sheep paddocks with an annual turnover of $150,000 to WA’s largest citrus orchard with a $20,000,000 annual turnover. Whilst we had the vision, the project was staged with our first trees being planted in December 2005 and the last in November 2013, which enabled various stages of concept-proofing and capital raising. We’ve reached a scale now that we’ve displaced the imported fruit during the WA citrus season and are now exporting our surplus to international markets.

Who would you like to connect with most?
I’m keen to immerse myself in the AgTech space. I’ve spoken with a few people in the Spacecubed community testing concepts over the years and I think there is a great opportunity to connect these bright ideas and ground truth out in the paddock, so to speak.

Can you share with us a success story you've achieved during your time at Spacecubed?
I’ve been a community member with Spacecubed for over 5 years. In that time, I’ve learned code (albeit badly), introduced my way into Board positions, got regional WA involved in GovHack Perth, geospatially mapped community services and needs in the WA Wheatbelt, learnt the art of the power hour (thanks Josh!), attempted to join a whisky club (think I’ll stick to wine, sorry Ranjeev!) and met some of the most authentic and up-to-something-big people – all courtesy Spacecubed.

What do you hope to achieve in 2017?
I think I’m a few years off solving global food security so I’ll make it a little more bite-sized and say that I want to excite people as much about growing things as I do. That and wakingup every morning before the sun.

If you're keen to find out more, connect and tweet @amoeaba