South Australian Merino breeder Sydney Lawrie admits he has been obsessed with sheep and wool since he was a kid, forever in the sheep yards.
That obsession has led him to declare his intention to seek nomination in the 2021 Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) director elections.
At just 39 years of age, if elected Mr Lawrie would be one of the youngest AWI directors in history.
But his age, he says, is one of the reasons he is seeking nomination.
"We keep on talking about our industry and having diversity and how we need to take it to the next generation," Mr Lawrie said.
"Well I am that younger woolgrower. I have a lot to give with fresh drive and passion, but still with a lot of business experience.
"I see a real gap there. I could provide that diversity on the board, connect with younger and older growers, get a good understanding of the younger growers' point of view and take that forward."
I have been obsessed with sheep and wool since I was a kid, forever in the sheep yards- Sydney Lawrie
Principal of Collandra North Poll Merino Stud, Mr Lawrie owns a mixed enterprise at Tumby Bay on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, which includes about 6000 sheep and 2600 hectares of crops.
In 2015 Mr Lawrie was a WoolPoll panelist and in 2018 he was appointed Chair of the WoolPoll committee.
After leaving school a traineeship with Nutrien Ag Solutions (then Landmark) gave him experience from another angle of the industry before he settled into the family business, which he has been running for 15 years.
His industry involvement now spans over 20 years - just the right amount of time to offer strengths, yet not too much to exhibit humility and a desire to learn more.
"I have enough experience to take the right points of view forward, but it also gives me a lot of room to grow and be able to take more points of view on and go forward," Mr Lawrie said.
After having a year off showing sheep last year due to COVID, it gave him some time to complete his Australian Directors course which, he said, gave him more of an understanding of the corporate world and more about his legal obligations.
But he comes into the nominations as an independent candidate, with no state or national industry positions.
He was a member of AWI's National Merino Challenge, has completed AWI's Breeding Leadership Course and currently sits on the Eyre Peninsula Stud Merino Breeders Committee and Tumby Bay Silos Committee.
Mr Lawrie believes it's about growing the wool industry, but also making working with livestock a lot more attractive to the next generation.
His big push if he lands a director's seat will be to encourage more young growers into the industry.
The National Merino Challenge is one of the better programs AWI has in getting the next generation involved in the industry, he said.
"I realise COVID has had a big effect of late, but that event and events going forward of getting people into our industry and getting young people to understand our industry is so important," Mr Lawrie said.
"We have to attract people to the industry to work within the industry.
"We need to be giving them that understanding and offer them that basic training. Once you give them that, they want to find out more and they start asking the questions.
"That's where the National Merino Challenge is so important to have there and to grow."
Yet he said marketing is also where the real push needs to continue.
He said travelling to China 4 years ago allowed him to see first-hand the role AWI plays with China and their long-standing history.
"I saw the role AWI play with the processors, how passionate the processors are about the wool industry and the partnerships they have made," he said.
"Just seeing that gave me real passion and drive to want to keep continuing to drive the industry forward and I am going to be continuing to push marketing.
"We have to continue those marketing partnerships throughout the world.
"As woolgrowers we don't always see it on the ground, but it is really important to continue to drive new products and AWI, with their partnerships, are encouraging and supporting a lot of those processors over there to continue to make new products."
He said there is also room for increased levels of transparency and being "on the ground" more with the commercial woolgrowers.
"I would like to push for AWI to come out of their strategic plan they tend to stick to, and bring a lot of that forward so people can get a better understanding of every aspect of the industry," he said.
"I think it is a really important time for the wool industry to continue to shine coming out of the COVID period, and continue to be a competitive agricultural commodity.
"That is why we need that marketing drive to continue to push that price up."
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