At the beginning of 2019, ACICIS ran its inaugural Agriculture Professional Practicum (APP) in Bogor, with ten students participating from ACICIS member universities The University of Adelaide, RMIT University, La Trobe University, The University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland, UNSW Australia, and The University of Western Australia. Of this year’s APP students, seven received a $3000 New Colombo Plan mobility grant to support their participation in the program.

The APP began with a two-week academic program hosted by Bogor Agricultural University (IPB),   comprised of language classes, a series of seminars, and field trips. The language classes, led by an experienced teacher at IPB’s Language Learning Centre, helped prepare students for their subsequent four-week professional placement. In addition to these classes, students attended seven seminars discussing issues affecting the agricultural, livestock, conservation and environmental sectors in Indonesia.

Outside the classroom, students were also went on several field trips. The first of these trips was to the Mangrove Ecotourism Centre in North Jakarta, in collaboration with Indonesian Mangrove Restoration Foundation (IMARF). Students had the opportunity to learn about mangroves and their importance in coastal management, and to get their hands dirty by planting mangroves themselves. Other field trips to Koperasi Produksi Susu (Dairy Cooperative Society) and Rumah Tempe Indonesia in Bogor allowed students to gain first-hand experience of dairy production and modern tempe production in Indonesia.

Following the academic program, BPP students undertook professional placements at a wide range of agriculture organisations based in Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang, and Bali. These placements ran over four weeks at local and international bodies with a focus on agriculture, conservation, agribusiness, and livestock.

Riley Bennett (University of Adelaide) conducted his placement at Bogor Life Science and Technology (BLST) in Bogor, a holding production company of IPB. He was involved in marketing processes, and learned about the importance of value-adding products and about strategies for science-innovation products, such as corn rice and gluten-free pasta.

Zhiyao Zha (University of Melbourne) and Joe Gibson (La Trobe University) undertook their placements at TaniFund, an agriculture start-up company based in Jakarta. Zhiyao and Joe were involved in developing an article concerning digitalisation in the agriculture sector. Tasked with examining digitalisation barriers in agriculture in Indonesia, they found there were large gaps between small-scale farmers and large-scale farmers which could be minimized with the help of technology, such as the mobile technology applied in Australia and China helping farmers increase their productivity. Through the course of these tasks, Zhiyao and Joe learnt how to manage people in a group setting, and developed their teamwork and communication skills.

Based at the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Jakarta, Talia Daroesman (RMIT University) and Yingxuan Li (University of Queensland) found their placements really enjoyable. Talia assisted with research examining stakeholder participation in natural resource management in Indonesia, while Yingxuan researched mitigation and adaptation strategies for coffee farms in South Sumatera. In addition to these projects, Talia and Yingxuan were involved in writing a blog post. At the end of their placement they had a chance to visit Pagar Alam in South Sumatera, where they met local farmers and government representatives to discuss strategies to improve coffee productivity in more environmentally sustainable ways. The language barrier faced by Yingxuan and Talia did not prevent them from gaining new insights about both the issues at hand and the cultural diversity of Indonesia, but rather motivated them to further their study of Bahasa Indonesia.

Millie Hookey (University of Melbourne) had a great placement experience with Australian Rural Exports Pty Ltd. (AUSTREX) Indonesia in Tangerang. She had the opportunity to visit abbatoirs in West Java, and produced reports about halal slaughter and Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) protocols. She found that one of the seminar lectures on Indonesian livestock production had assisted her understanding of the supply chain from wharf to feedlot. She also found the main challenge during her placement was sustaining her energy throughout long work days, but felt that discovering the importance of balancing field work with office work was one of the most valuable outcomes of her placement.

Prislene Singh and Yonghao Wu from the University of Melbourne were hosted by IPB Agribusiness Development Station (ADS) in Bogor. They were involved in fieldwork and packaging processes, and also assisted the marketing department. Prislene had the opportunity to collect data from organic farmers concerning distribution to markets from ADS. “Through my placement activities I was able to understand more of the agribusiness side of ADS, and how this company is careful with what it passes as a certified organic product compared to what I found with most companies” she commented. Meanwhile, Yonghao was able to observe how the marketing team works at an agribusiness production station. He also examined the cooperative relationship between ADS and its associated farms. “My key learning outcome was that I’m now familiar with Indonesia’s typical trading pattern between farmers, producers, resellers and consumers,” he stated.

Amelia Hawkins from The University of Western Australia was placed at Yayasan Penelitian Inovasi Bumi (INOBU), an environmental research organisation in Bali. She wrote a pop-science article for the INOBU blog page, learnt about the Free Papua Movement, and was involved in research about the organic compounds in nutmeg. She excelled in conducting an economic analysis of the compounds in Papuan nutmeg. “Overall I feel like I’ve learnt well to synthesise information and try to be thorough in my understanding of certain issues,” she said.

Last but not least, Alice McGowan from The University of New South Wales undertook her placement at Rikolto, an NGO in Bali. She was involved in a number of projects, such as editing Rikolto’s Annual Report, writing about seaweed farming technology, documenting marine pollution, and working on translations of a consultancy proposal and notes from a Nusa Penida seaweed farmer meeting. Alice also had the opportunity to observe the damaging effects of tourism on the agricultural sector in Bali during a work field trip. “It has been great to recognise my passion for facilitating change in the agriculture sector amongst smallhold farmers, and I am certain I will take this path into the future,” she said.

The program finished with a pleasant dinner attended by students, IPB staff and participating host organisations in the final week of the program. We would like to congratulate all 10 students on their fascinating work, and to sincerely thank all parties involved in the success of ACICIS’ first ever Agriculture Professional Practicum in 2019. We wish all students the very best of luck in their future endeavours and hope to see them again in Indonesia!