Inaugural board appointed to leadcharge on Zero Net Emissions from Agriculture

Australia’s largest Cooperative Research Centre will be overseen by a diverse Board of Directors with decades of experience.

The Zero Net Emissions Agriculture Cooperative Research Centre (ZNE-Ag CRC) has announced the establishment of the inaugural Board of Directors

The ZNE-Ag CRC is an initiative brokered by The University of Queensland and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and involves consortium of 74 partners across industry, education and government.

Establishment of the inaugural board follows a rigorous process to identifyexperienced and qualified industry experts to lead the CRC.

CRC partners this week voted to elect four new directors who will join three directors continuing from the establishment committee.

Chair and founding director, Dr Deb Cousins said she is thrilled with the breadth of experience on the Board.

“Each member is an exceptionally accomplished individual and expert in their field. We have representation from the family farm right through to internationally recognised experts in the global agribusiness and technology sectors.

“Each member brings a unique perspective, knowledge and experience to the table. Together, with our many partners, we will take on the challenge ahead of us, ensuring that our industry grows while simultaneously achieving emissions targets.” Dr Cousins said.

ZNE-Ag CRC aims to catalyse industry, community, and government action to achieve Zero Net Emissions from agriculture from 2040, and below zero net emissions by 2050. The Board is tasked with overseeing the strategic direction and performance of ZNE-Ag CRC to harness the extraordinary capacity in research and innovation within the ZNE-Ag CRC partners.

Elected to the Board of Directors is:

  • Dr Nicholas (Nick) Austin
  • Dr Kathleen (Kat) Giles
  • Ms Melinee Leather
  • Mr Christopher (Chris) Murphy

The newly elected Directors will join continuing Directors from the Establishment Committee:

  • Dr Debra (Deb) Cousins – Chair
  • Mr Anthony (Tony) Lee
  • Ms Tresslyn (Tress) Walmsley

Dr Cousins said the appointments of the new members expand on the experience of the founding members and signal the imminent commencement of the CRC operations from 1 July 2024.

“Dr Austin is a globally recognised expert in agriculture and natural resources with extensive experience accelerating technology translation through his input on high-profile boards.

“Dr Giles, a veterinarian and respected leader in agriculture, brings with her a wealth of experience working in collaborative research environments, as well as red meat production, supply chain and broadacre cropping.

“Melinee Leather runs a progressive, family-owned beef cattle operation in Central Queensland. Focussed on ongoing research and development across sustainability, global food security and climate action, Melinee’s experience will be a valued asset to the board.

“Chris Murphy is a respected advisor, specialising in commercial agribusiness. His expertise in the dairy, meat and livestock, forestry, grains and horticulture industries across Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom will be a great contribution.” Dr Cousins said.

Board members are based across Australia and will convene for the first time next month.

Full bios on all board members can be found at

Media Contact: Rachel Buchanan 0422 852 578

Leading the charge towards net zero in agriculture

Highly regarded agricultural identity Richard Heath will head the newly funded Zero Net Emissions Agricultural Cooperative Research Centre (ZNE-Ag CRC) as it begins its work to reduce emissions in Australian agriculture.

The former Australian Farm Institute Executive Director will take up his new role as CEO in March.

ZNE-Ag CRC Chair Deb Cousins said Mr Heath was recruited after an extensive search.

“Richard brings strong sector and leadership expertise to this new role,” Ms Cousins said.

“He also has a passion for sustainable agriculture, given his experience as a farmer and industry advocate.

“We very much look forward to his contribution.”

Mr Heath said he was relishing the challenge of leading the $300 million collaborative venture.

“The CRC is very important to the future of agriculture in Australia,” Mr Heath said.

“Our agricultural and production systems and capacity are under threat from climate change, and we must act now to protect the future of one of the country’s most important sectors.

“We will coordinate an industry-led approach to help safeguard the profitability and marketing access of Australian agri-businesses as we make the transition to net zero.”

The ZNE-Ag CRC was brokered by The University of Queensland and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, with a consortium of 73 partners across industry, government and education.

The Australian Government’s CRC contribution of $87 million is the largest in the program’s history.

Mr Heath said ZNE-Ag will support the industry to achieve emissions targets in Australian agriculture by 2030 and 2050.

“Our trading partners also look to us as a source of science and technology, so it will strengthen our capacity to engage with our neighbours to help with their efforts in the same direction,” he said.

“The CRC will deliver standardised, trusted guidelines, metrics and benchmarking tools to monitor on-farm emissions and accelerate Australian agriculture’s transition to net zero and beyond.”

Media: Natalie MacGregor,, +61 409 135 651 or Carolyn Martin,, +61 439 399 886.

Net zero emissions from Australian agriculture: a challenge and opportunity

An ambitious alliance to achieve zero net emissions in Australian agriculture and boost the $70 billion sector has been funded by the Federal Government. 

The Zero Net Emissions Agricultural Cooperative Research Centre (ZNE-Ag CRC) is an initiative brokered by The University of Queensland and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and involves a consortium of 73 partners across industry, education and government.

QAAFI Director and ZNE-Ag Interim CEO Matthew Morell. Image Lyndon Mechielsen

Interim CEO and Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) Director, Professor Matthew Morell said there was no time to waste.

“Reducing emissions across Australian agriculture is a significant challenge given the diversity of agricultural products we produce, the unique challenges presented by our environmental conditions and the need for new technology to ddrive emissions,” Professor Morell said.

“Time is of the essence if we are to hit our 2030 and 2050 targets. 

“The collaboration includes 16 major industry groups, all six state governments and the Northern Territory, 10 universities, 3 Indigenous organisations and many SMEs and grower groups.

“This commitment of industry to this CRC is particularly important, demonstrating the leadership the sector is taking in finding economically viable mechanisms to drive to a zero net emissions future.

“I’m also particularly excited to have Indigenous organisations involved, providing the opportunity to integrate Indigenous knowledge and western science in developing enduring solutions.

“We also see a tremendous opportunity to upskill industry by developing new PhD projects, bringing more students into undergraduate courses and through the vocational training sector reach as many Australians as possible.”

The ZNE-AG CRC Chair, Dr Debra Cousins, said it was gratifying to see the government support for the CRC bid.

“The national collaboration has secured $300 million in funding over 10 years, with the Federal Government’s contribution of $87 million making it the largest CRC in the program’s history,” Dr Cousins said.  

“There’s an economic imperative if we want Australian agriculture to be valued at $100 billion by 2030.

“The ZNE-Ag CRC will develop technologies and solutions to reduce emissions in agriculture, mitigating risks to future investment and trade and securing the economic future of our industry.”

Professor Morell said the team expected results within the first few years.

“We’ll provide coordinated tools for industry and benchmarks to assess emissions footprints as the first part of a more coordinated and rigorous set of approaches,” he said.

“It’s fantastic to be in a position to make such meaningful change and to drive an exciting opportunity to help Australia’s agricultural future, our national and regional future and to be good citizens in the world.”

Media: Natalie MacGregor,, +61 409 135 651 or Carolyn Martin,, +61 439 399 886

The original media release from QAAFI can be found here.

The CRC media release can be found here and the list of projects can be found here. The ministerial media release can be found here.

UNE media release can be found here. UWA media release can be found here.