If you asked agriculture fund manager and newly appointed Cattle Australia Chair Garry Edwards about the best investment he has made in his career, you might be surprised by the answer.
The founder, CEO and managing director of AAM Investment Group oversees approximately $800 million in assets including cattle stations, sheep farms, poultry farms, sawmills and cropping properties across Australia.
Mr Edwards has led capital raises, expansions and multi-million-dollar acquisitions, all the while ensuring stabilised returns by diversifying across production cycles, commodity markets and geographical regions.
But there is one stock he keeps going back to that always pays dividends - exceptional people.
And according to Mr Edwards, ICMJ is one of the industry's top sources of exceptional people.
"I see ICMJ as the number one program for agricultural talent, not just meat industry talent," he said.
As an ICMJ alumni, former Australian ICMJ team member and a past Australian ICMJ association committee member, Mr Edwards is keenly aware of the integral role ICMJ plays in developing and inspiring the next generation.
In fact, he could easily take credit for much of the organisation's success since the late '90s, having written the business case for ICMJ's expansion into a national program and competition.
Instead, he prefers to recognise the 3,500 ICMJ program participants who have not only gone on to build their own careers but have fostered the development of the subsequent generation.
"ICMJ really sets itself apart because of the spirit of the people involved," he said.
"This is such an incredible industry where people want to help other people progress.
"I encourage young people to be bold, be brave, have a go and never say never."
By that, he means to motivate them to let go of self-imposed limitations.
"If you stick within your comfort zone, you have a limited breadth and depth of learning you can achieve," he said.
"ICMJ is one of those great events that encourages people to build their networks and to do things differently.
"All of those things are what brings about change in any industry or any business and is the foundational principle of what gives this industry such a bright future."
Mr Edwards grew up on a cattle property in the Hunter Valley, NSW, and studied applied science and systems agriculture at the University of Western Sydney.
When he joined the university's meat judging team and took part in the ICMJ National Conference and Competition, Mr Edwards opened himself up to a world of opportunity which led him to the United States, Japan and Korea.
"It was the most incredible experience of understanding the diversity of the beef industry that I've ever done in my life," Mr Edwards said.
"For a young person to go from the Australian system to a farm in the United States and see the way they were investing in genetics and business structures was really impressive."
ICMJ's international industry tours continue today, with the current Australian ICMJ team having recently returned from a three-week study tour in the US where they also competed in various competitions on the US ICMJ meat judging circuit.
With registrations now open for ICMJ's Northern Conference in Rockhampton in April, Mr Edwards is encouraging more young people to invest in their future career.
"ICMJ is having a tremendous positive impact on the entire agriculture industry," he said.
"Young people who take part in ICMJ have a tremendous attitude around their future in agriculture and it's great to see that level of involvement and commitment.
"They come to ICMJ to be inspired and to learn some great scientific advancements and new technologies, but also to hear the stories of how people have built their careers within the industry."
Full details and registration links can be found at icmj.com.au/icmjevent/2024northern