Cotton leaders step up

Grace Griffiths of Goondiwindi.

Six Queenslanders have been chosen to participate in the 2024 Australia Future Cotton Leaders Program (AFCLP) after a record number of talented individuals applied for the prestigious opportunity.

Georgie Flick, Greg Pearce and Grace Griffiths all of Goondiwindi, Rhys Herbert of Warra, Alison McCarthy of Toowoomba and Brendan Murray of St George were successful, alongside nine NSW applicants and one from the NT.

In all, 46 people applied, forcing organisers to extend the participant number from 15 to 16 due to the quality received.

Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay said he was excited about the potential of the 2024 participants to advance the already outstanding reputation of Australian cotton.

“Each year we have been challenged in our selection process because the standard of applicants is incredibly high and this year was no exception,“ he said.

“Half of the 16 participants are growers and, after the completion of the program, they will be able to directly apply what they have learned to their respective farms and share that knowledge with their local farming communities.”

Held every two years, Cotton Australia runs and coordinates the AFCLP with additional funding from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC).

Designed for emerging leaders, the program has produced 116 graduates since the concept was devised back in 2006.

This year’s applicants came from across the cotton supply chain including growers, consultants, merchants and research and extension personnel.

CRDC acting executive director Allan Williams said the program recognised the importance of the entire supply chain.

“CRDC has supported the AFCLP since inception, as we recognise that our people are cotton’s most important resource. This program plays a crucial role in shaping cotton’s future – helping to establish the leaders of tomorrow,” Allan said.

Leadership is one of the key priorities in both the Cotton Australia and CRDC five-year Strategic Plans, demonstrating its importance to the industry.

CA and CRDC jointly support the AFCLP, the Australian Rural Leadership Program and Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarships.

“Pleasingly, the AFCLP is demonstrating its appeal to the best and brightest in the industry with the average age of the 2024 contingent sitting at 28,” Mr Kay said.

In 2024, the program will feature face-to-face forums, interactive online discussions, one-on-one coaching and integration with industry activities.

Participants will also undertake an individual project related to their area of interest, developing their leadership skills in a real-life scenario.

Mr Kay said previous AFCLP participants have moved into senior positions within Australian cotton, with many former graduates on boards including Cotton Australia, CRDC and CSD, as well as Cotton Grower Associations and other industry committees and projects.

The 2024 program will conclude with a graduation ceremony and leadership dinner at the 2024 Australian Cotton Conference on the Gold Coast in August.

* To find out more about the conference visit:


With a profound love for cotton and a commitment to embracing the opportunities the industry presents, Georgie is driven to make a positive impact on the Australian cotton industry and mentor future generations.

Georgie’s journey began in 2012, bug checking and progressively evolving through diverse roles. Starting as an agronomist with Nutrien Ag Solutions, she now collaborates closely with independent consultant Pablo Vega, offering advice and decision support to growers. Simultaneously running her own consulting business, Georgie contracts agronomy services in both cotton and broadacre. Her dedication extends beyond professional endeavours, serving on the executive Macintyre Valley Field Day Committee and Macintyre Valley CGA. Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and coursework from the Cotton Production course at UNE, Georgie looks forward to furthering her leadership journey through the Future Cotton Leaders Program.


Joining Cotton Growers Services in March 2017 as a sales agronomist in Wee Waa, Greg’s intrigue in cotton was sparked during his time as an irrigator for Auscott on Togo Station. Transitioning to Bayer Crop Science in March 2023 to oversee the Bayer business in the Gwydir, Macintyre and Mungindi valleys, Greg is actively involved in the cotton industry. Currently serving as president of the Macintyre Valley Field Day Committee and vice-president of the Macintyre Valley Cotton Growers Association, he showcases his dedication to the cotton community.

Drawn to the Future Cotton Leaders program, Greg aims not only to build on his prior knowledge and skills but also to evolve into a solid leader ready to contribute significantly to the cotton industry’s future. His excitement to delve into the program reflects his genuine commitment to personal and industry growth.


Growing up in a family agronomic cotton consultancy business and a family irrigated cotton property in Goondiwindi, Grace has been immersed in agriculture since childhood. School holidays and university experiences were filled with irrigating and bug checking, shaping her deep connection with the industry. Graduating in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Plant and Agricultural Science, along with specialised training in Cotton Production at UNE, Grace returned home to work as an agronomist in the family consultancy business. The journey didn’t stop there; she also started her own business 101 Ag Pathways, sharing agricultural roles and opportunities, particularly within the cotton industry.

Beyond her professional endeavours, Grace actively contributes to the industry’s growth. Serving on the Macintyre Valley Field Day Committee and participating in the local CGA, she is dedicated to community engagement and industry events. Embracing increasing leadership roles, Grace anticipates the opportunity for mentorship and professional development at this stage in her career, a sentiment that aligns with her passion for the agricultural sector.


In the 13 years Rhys has spent in the cotton industry, a deep appreciation for its values has taken root. The industry’s commitment to innovation and knowledge-sharing, along with the integration of technology for efficiency, has left a lasting impression.

As a farm manager, Rhys recognises the pivotal role of leadership skills. Joining the Future Cotton Leaders Program is a deliberate step towards honing these skills across the entirety of their career. Building on past mentorships, Rhys envisions the program as a means to emerge as a leader for the next generation, contributing not only within the farm management realm but also making a mark in the broader cotton industry and community.


Passionate about advancing the Australian cotton industry through AgTech integration, Alison, with a background in mechatronic engineering, has been a key figure in CRDC research at UniSQ’s Centre for Agricultural Engineering since 2010. Her expertise extends from a CRDC-funded PhD focused on cotton irrigation optimisation in 2007 to the 2018 Cotton Seed Distributions Researcher of the Year Award. Actively collaborating with scientists, consultants, and commercial entities defines her impactful work, including the adoption of algorithms in Goanna Ag’s GoField canopy temperature sensors and the PestDetect App for automated silverleaf whitefly monitoring.

Eager to join the Future Cotton Leaders Program, Alison aims to share her knowledge and play a crucial role in advancing AgTech adoption in the industry. She sees the program as an opportunity to contribute actively to shaping the future of the industry through innovative leadership, particularly in integrating AgTech solutions.


Brendan’s journey, from early work on cotton farms to pivotal roles in agribusiness, reflects a deliberate path guided by a personal development plan. Commencing as a summer irrigator at 15, he quickly found his passion in the cotton industry. Advancing from managing crews to roles such as irrigation manager and operation manager on large-scale cropping farms, Brendan is now employed in marketing and grower services in St George for Queensland Cotton.

As treasurer of the St George Cotton Growers Association, Brendan actively contributes to the industry. Eager to further develop his leadership skills, Brendan sees the Future Cotton Leaders Program as a crucial step to building and leveraging skills to benefit the cotton industry and his community.