Over the past six decades, Tom Fraser has successfully translated complex scientific concepts into practical farming applications, transforming the face of New Zealand farming.
The Canterbury-based farm system scientist was awarded the Alliance Significant Contribution Award at the Beef & Lamb NZ Awards held in Christchurch last week for his significant contribution to the industry.
Born and raised on a farm, Fraser told REX host Dominic George that having a farming background has served him well in his scientific pursuits.
"A lot of people that go into science don't have that farming background, and while the science they're doing is very, very good, it may be that they don't have the expertise or the knowledge to be able to get that out into the end user, the farmer," Fraser said.
His work revolves around understanding the farmer's perspective and translating intricate scientific findings into actionable insights. He emphasised the individuality of each farm and farmer, underlining the importance of bespoke solutions.
"Every farm is different. So you've got to treat farmers, sheep and beef farmers, red meat farmers as individuals really, because they have their own little problems and big problems and big achievements."
Fraser’s journey began at Lincoln, after which he managed a farm before joining DSIR Grasslands. His journey took him from measuring grass to analysing the animals that ate the grass, recognising that the end product was what mattered most.
Reflecting on his career, Fraser explained, "And then, of course, the Crown Research Institutes came into force, and went into Ag Research and became what we called system scientist for want of a better word, and that was really to try and take all that research that was going on and [figure out] how does it fit into a farm system."
Fraser's contributions have not gone unnoticed. In fact, he's been dubbed a 'legend' in his field, a title he humbly accepts.
"That sounds very high-brow, doesn't it? I've always had a passion for the sheep and beef industry, and if it's come through in the work that I've done, that's great."
As we navigate the changing perceptions of farming, Tom Fraser’s work stands as an inspiration for the next generation of farmers. The importance of education in the field is a topic he emphasises, advocating for more programs available to secondary school students.
"I certainly think we could do a lot more in the secondary school space, but at least it's a start," Fraser said.
Listen to the full chat between Tom Fraser and Dominic George above.