Speaker Profiles
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Sally Brown - Research Professor, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences - University of Washington

Sally Brown is a research professor at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. She has a BA from Williams College and a MS and PhD from the University of Maryland in Soil Science. Her research focuses on different aspects of the use of biosolids and composts including risks associated with contaminants, in situ restoration of contaminated sites, carbon balance for different end use options, and integration of residuals use in green urban infrastructure.

She is a Fellow and former Board member in the Soil Science Society of America, a former Board member in the US Compost Council, and was a two- term member of the National Academy of Science Standing Committee on Soil Science. She was a member of the NAS committee on the bioavailability of contaminants in soils and sediments. She has co- edited two books on urban agriculture and is a member of the USDA Committee on Urban and Innovative agriculture. She has written a column for Biocycle Connect for close to twenty years.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Steve Nicholson - Owner/Operator, Eniver & Agricultural Agronomy Consultant

Agricultural Agronomist, Steve Nicholson operates ‘Eniver’, a mixed farm of about 4000 hectares between Forbes and Grenfell in New South Wales.

Over the 22 years he has been farming ‘Eniver’, Steve has adopted minimum-tillage practices and ensured constant ground cover to build carbon. He has experimented with various soil amendments to boost soil health and through regular soil testing, Steve has seen an increase in organic carbon content every year.

Steve was awarded Conservation Farmer of the Year for Lachlan Valley in 2010 and has participated in numerous boards and committees including: Ooma Creek Land Care, the Grains Research Development Corporation Advisory Committee and Australian Woolgrowers Association.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: Cate McQuillen - Head Smarty Pants, mememe Productions

Cate McQuillen is a producer and writer, known for Dirtgirlworld (2009) and Get Grubby TV (2014).

From her home base in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW, Cate is one half of mememe productions, creating ‘out there’ children’s programming for a new generation of content seekers. With a myriad of skills and interests, her greatest assets are her approach and attitude and ability to generate ideas, motivate, inspire and see the ‘big picture’.

Mary Addae – PhD Candidate, University of Queensland

Mary Addae is a second year PhD candidate. Her research focuses on “Economic Analysis and Environmental Impact Assessment of Composting Food and Green Organic Waste. Collaborating with the Fight Food Waste CRC, she aims to analyse Benefit and Cost of transforming the unavoidable food waste into compost to support crop production. Mary has an MPhil. in Agribusiness Management and extensive experience as an Independent Research Consultant and Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist.

Prof Andy Ball - Centre Director, RMIT University

Andrew S. Ball: Director of the ARC Training Centre for the Transformation of Australia’s Biosolids Resource and Distinguished Professor at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia and Solving Plastic Waste CRC Program Leader-Mitigating the risks of microplastics in agricultural soils; previously Director of the Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Remediation at RMIT University and Flinders Bioremediation in Adelaide, Australia; has worked in the area of soil microbiology,  environmental pollution and biogeochemical cycling for 40 years, publishing over 300 peer reviewed articles.

Mark Bannister - Manager - Waste and Contaminated Land Policy, EPA Victoria

Mark Bannister is the Manager of Waste and Land – Policy and Regulation at EPA Victoria. Starting at EPA in air quality science, Mark developed a strong interest in how to use science in decision making and eventually moved to a role in policy. An opportunity to work with waste data led to a more formal role in waste which covers a significant part of EPA’s regulatory responsibility. Since working on waste related issues, the balance between protection of the environment, supporting circular economy and public confidence in recycled material has been of great interest. Culminating in a lead role in the development of the waste regulations and considerable policy involvement in the legislative reforms to the Environment Protection Act commencing in 2021.

Nick Behrens - Director, Queensland Economics Advocacy Solutions

Nick Behrens has significant experience representing and researching issues impacting on Queensland’s and Australia’s small businesses and the not-for-profit sector across a range of areas including taxation, regulatory environment, workers compensation, employment legislation and infrastructure issues.

Joshua Bennett-Jones - PhD Student / Senior Research Assistant, University of Queensland

Before studying sustainable agriculture at the University of Queensland, Joshua Bennett-Jones worked as geotechnician and ran his own market garden. In addition to his undergraduate studies, he also worked as research assistant within the University’s Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients. Today, Joshua is a PhD candidate, aiming to develop a mechanistic model that will explain how phosphorus and carbon are sequestered in soil organic matter. 

Johannes Biala - Director, CROWN, University of Queensland

Equipped with degrees in Agriculture and Environmental Science, Johannes Biala has worked in organics recycling, composting and the use of recycled organics products for well-over over 30 years. He has extensive experience as consultant and researcher in all key areas of the organics recycling supply chain, including the use of recycled organic products in agriculture & horticulture. Since 2017 he is Director of the Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients at the University of Queensland’s School of Agricultural and Food Sustainability.

Oliver Brunt - Sales and Partnerships Manager, Orez

Ollie is the sales and partnerships manager for Orez and brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to his work, having dedicated over two decades to collaborating closely with clients and third-party partners. His open, honest, and collaborative approach has consistently driven positive and successful outcomes for his stakeholders across a diverse range of projects and industries.

Prof Chengrong Chen - Group Leader, Griffith University

Professor Chengrong Chen is a world-leading researcher in environmental biogeochemistry with focuses on soil carbon sequestration, soil and compost contamination and remediation, and waste recycling. He has published over 200 refereed journal papers and secured over $20M government and industry funding support in the past 10 years. Prof Chen was a past ARC Future Fellow and is currently on the ARC College of Experts panel. He is the Research Director of the Solving Plastic Waste CRC.

Hugh Christie - Chief Executive Officer, Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Board

Hugh has spent the last twenty-five years in a variety of resource management roles, including a range of senior management and executive roles in Tasmania and Victoria.

His focus with the Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Board is to work with industry and the community to deliver sustainable changes and confidence in the sector to drive continued investment in the resource recovery and waste management sectors.

Andrew Connor, Executive Director, Office of Circular Economy at the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation

Andrew is committed to sustainability and has over 20 years’ experience working in environmental management and regulation. Having obtained a Bachelor of Science, Andrew has built experiences across a range of service delivery, policy and program delivery areas. Leading the Department’s Office of Circular Economy sees Andrew at the forefront of implementing Queensland’s Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy and progressing Queensland towards becoming a zero-waste society, where our environment is protected and the economic and jobs benefits of a circular economy are realised.

Charlie Emery – Managing Director, SOILCO

Charlie joined SOILCO in 2001 and over the past 20 years has overseen the growth of the family-led business.   In his current role as Managing Director, Charlie is focused on innovation, strategy, infrastructure development and business growth. He has the foresight to know what an intensive organics operation needs to look like now and in 10 years’ time.  Prior to SOILCO, Charlie achieved tertiary qualifications in science and worked with a range of environmental, landscaping and horticultural businesses. Charlie is also the Chair of the Australian Organics Recycling Association.

Bill Grant – Research Fellow, Federation University

Bill Grant is an agricultural and environmental scientist who has worked with the organics recycling and composting industry for over 25 years.  His career has included diverse roles in State Government, landscape gardening, laboratory assistant, farm hand, university lecturer and co-owner of environmental consulting business, Blue Environment.  Bill has a long-standing fascination with compost and how it can transform soils and is now engaged in in- depth research into how and why composts ‘work’ and how they can be used to cost-effectively boost farm productivity and sustainability.

Frank Harney - Director, Elmore Compost & Organics

Frank Harney is the Director of Elmore Compost & Organics, a diverse family farming business located in Central Victoria. As a third-generation farmer, he has been operating in collaboration with his family for more than 40 years. Frank is deeply passionate about organic recycling, composting and sustainable regenerative farming practices.

Sarah Larkin - Manager, Strategy & Policy Circular Economy, NSW Environment Protection Authority

Sarah Larkin is a policy manager in the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA’s) Circular Economy Policy Branch. She is currently overseeing the EPA’s work on the waste infrastructure plan, including for FOGO infrastructure, and on the review of the NSW waste levy. Sarah is an economist by background, and prior to joining the EPA, she gained experience at Deloitte Access Economics, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with a particular focus on infrastructure regulation.

Matthew Layton - Operations Manager, Dulverton Waste Management

Matthew has been managing Dulverton compost processes since 2018. As an experienced engineer with a focus on Zero Harm and Lean processing, Matthew has been instrumental in the development of Dulverton’s new In-vessel compost production facility, which will have the capacity to accept almost every organic source currently known.  Having supported industry from poppies to biosolids, tugboats to salmon, sawdust to fishnets, there are few throughout the Island who could boast a better understanding of Tasmania’s waste resources and needs than Matt.

Simon Leake - Director of Science. SESL Australia

With over 40 years of experience, Simon is Australia’s expert in soil science; soil rehabilitation and reconstruction in mine sites and urban renewal projects; field pedology; soil chemistry; soil physics; waste to land application; and environmental contamination. He has published a practical guide titled “Soils for Landscape Development” and has extensive experience in composting and waste resource recycling to land.

Lisa McLean - Managing Director & CEO, Circular Australia

Lisa McLean is a circular economy and zero-carbon business transformation leader and Managing Director, CEO of Circular Australia, a national independent NFP leading the transition to a zero-carbon circular economy in Australia. She has been successfully advising industry and governments in developing new policy frameworks and regulations that bring about market change to enable the circular zero-carbon economy over the past 20 years. This work has covered the supply chains, infrastructure, energy, water, waste and mobility sectors in the UK and Australia.

Cara McNicol - Policy and Legislation Manager, Office of Circular Economy - Dept of Environment, Science and Innovation (QLD)

Cara McNicol has nearly 30 years’ experience in the Queensland Government, having worked on National and State programs and currently works in the Office of Circular Economy. Cara and her small team have developed and implemented some of the much needed reforms under Queensland’s Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy and keenly understand the importance of evidence based research, effective and genuine stakeholder engagement and pragmatic approaches to achieving economic, social and environmental outcomes. Cara’s team continues to work on delivering on Queensland’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, is about to embark upon developing a built environment waste strategy for Queensland and progressing implementation of the Queensland Organics Strategy and Action Plan.

Prof Thava Palanisami - Team Leader, Environmental Plastics Innovation Cluster, University of Newcastle
Associate Professor Thava Palanisami has led the Environmental Plastics and Innovation Cluster (EPIC) at The University of Newcastle since 2015. Thava specializes in providing expert opinions, problem-solving, and conducting contract R&D on biodegradable, and compostable alternatives to plastics. His primary areas of R&D in compostable plastics include designing packaging and products for enhanced degradation in both industrial and home composting environments while evaluating materials in laboratory and field settings.
Mike Ritchie - Managing Director, MRA Consulting

Mike is one of Australia’s leading waste experts. With 25 years’ experience in the environmental and waste sector, Mike combines complex technical expertise and business knowledge. As a former senior executive for Visy, SUEZ and WSN, Mike has become one of the sector’s most recognised strategic thinkers, advising governments and business on waste and recycling.

As MRA’s Managing Director, Mike provides extensive insight into the economics, policy constraints, issues and challenges of Australia’s waste and recycling sector, whilst working toward economically sensible environmental reforms. Mike’s goal is to help make waste management economically rational and environmentally sustainable. 

Dr Nicole Robinson - Research Associate, School of Agriculture and Food Sustainability, UQ

Nicole is an expert in plant-soil interactions and nutrient cycling. She has worked with farmers on sustainability topics including addressing salinity in WA and with QLD sugarcane farmers aiming to solve the nitrogen pollution problem that threatens the Great Barrier Reef. More recently Nicole has focussed on soil health and the many components that contribute. FOGO compost has been a topic as part of research with the Fight Food Waste CRC that aims to maximise benefits.

Dr Zahra Sobhani - Team Leader, Environmental Plastics Innovation Cluster, University of Newcastle

Dr Zahra received her PhD degree in environmental remediation focused on the characterization and fate of micro/nano plastics in wastewater, sludge, and soil, at the University of Newcastle in 2022. Zahra has more than 10 years of experience in contaminant risk assessment and analytical chemistry. Zahra has worked in Iran’s food administration from 2008 to 2017 and contributed to national human health risk assessment projects.  Zahra’s current research is contributing in Risk assessment of environmental microplastics Risk assessment of PFAS contaminants

Prof Susanne Schmidt, School of Agriculture and Food Sustainability, UQ

Susanne is a scientist and educator with over 25-year experience. She leads a vibrant team at The University of Queensland with fundamental and applied research aiming to improve plant nutrition, soil health and the circular nutrient economy.

Dr Kevin Wilkinson - Director and Founder, Frontier Ag & Environment

Kevin is an agricultural scientist with more than 25 years research and consulting experience in organic waste management. His work has touched on many subject areas including soil science, agronomy, food safety and biosecurity. Kevin has been engaged in compost standards development since the mid-90s.

Jessica Wundke - Manager Policy Reform, Green Industries SA

Jessica works to develop and implement policy and programs to support strategic objectives for resource recovery and promoting the circular economy in South Australia. Working across policy areas covering food and organic waste, single-use plastics policy, packaging and events, Jessica led the development of the food waste strategy for South Australia to drive this material away from landfill and circulate it into productive use. 

xperienced in managing programs to support policy implementation and improve resource efficiency, she works with stakeholders to facilitate change in the management of resources and support the transition to a more circular economy.

Olympia Yarger - CEO & Founder, Goterra

Olympia is a leading voice in agricultural sustainability and climate technology innovation.  With her bold vision, Olympia has made a significant impact in the sustainable food industry. Olympia has worked as a consultant for both government and non-profit organizations, in the development of regulation for emerging industries giving her insight into the policy-making process and the regulatory landscape. Olympia’s has earned numerous awards and recognition, including being named Australian of the Year for the Australian Capital Territory and having a species of fly named for her by the CSIRO.

Thank you to our 2024 Conference Supporters

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