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Soldier fly

Come fly with me

24 April 2019
Sydney graduate receives prestigious award for her Honours research
Stephanie Mackillop is flying high after being awarded the Chris Russell Medal of Excellence for her Honours research into using soldier fly larvae to fuel high protein food for livestock and aquaculture industries.
Chris Russell and Stephanie Mackillop

Chris Russell and Stephanie Mackillop

Congratualtions to Stephanie Mackillop who has been awarded first place at the NSW Division of the Ag Institute Australia’s 2019 State Student Awards, receiving the Chris Russell Medal of Excellence.

Stephanie also won the National Student Award final in Tasmania recently against four other state representatives from across Australia in what was a tight contest, and was presented with the AEV Richardson Memorial Award.

To soldier on home with the awards, Stephanie prepared an essay and gave a public talk about her research, which investigated the use of organic waste, particularly household vegetable scraps, as a food source for soldier fly larvae, which can then be used as feed for animals.  

“Soldier flies have the ability to make a massive difference in the agricultural industry, and in organic waste management, by converting organic waste into a source of high-quality protein that can be used in livestock and aquaculture feeds,” Stephanie said.

Director of the Ag Institute Australia, Associate Professor Daniel Tan explains, “We are pleased that the Ag Institute is able to lead and organise this state competition to attract the best and brightest agriculture students from universities across New South Wales to compete for this prestigious medal and award. This year’s student presentations were of a very high quality and showcased excellent industry-led research.  I am very pleased that Stephanie has won the medal, a credit to the excellent agricultural teaching and research programs at the University of Sydney.”

Chris Russell, an agricultural scientist who has spent the last 40 years working in more than 20 countries on innovative agricultural and engineering projects, was there to present the award and offer his congratulations to the participants. Chris also extended his thanks to the sponsors for this year’s award, Auscott Limited and Carbon Count Pty Ltd

Stephanie was inspired to enter the competition after attending the Chris Russell Medal of Excellence the previous year.

“The student presentations were inspiring, and the amount of work that had gone into their Honours projects was evident. I jumped at the chance to enter, and I loved being given the chance to showcase my research in a public forum. I think this is a new and exciting area with developing prospects for the future, and I’m proud to talk about the potential,” says Stephanie.

“The presentation and awards ceremony night was fantastic and proved to be a great networking opportunity where I made many new contacts who are interested in guiding me in my agriculture journey. Winning the award was a massive bonus and I can’t wait to compete in the national awards this month in Tasmania.”

Stephanie has not always been so eager to deliver public talks, and credits her Honours year for giving her the skills and confidence. Stephanie decided to undertake an Honours project because of an inspiring lecturer.

“I loved the entomology electives that I took with Dr Tanya Latty, and decided I wanted to investigate the possibilities that insects have in making a difference in the agricultural industry. Tanya suggested soldier flies to me. From there I did some research and found the topic highly fascinating and never looked back.”

“Honours is a great opportunity to learn about something new and really dive into a particular topic. It is also beneficial in terms of the skills that you learn over the year. Not just research skills but also a lot of life skills and public speaking skills which are a fantastic asset to possess when trying to get a job.”

It's been a big week for the 22-year-old, who also started her first full-time job as an Operations Intern at escaVox.

escaVox is an agricultural start-up company that has created a solution to tracking cold chain produce from farm to store with data sent in real time to provide greater knowledge of the fresh food supply chain and allow for better decision making.

“This results in a massive reduction in waste and provides huge benefits for the entire supply chain, from the farmer to the consumer. escaVox has a strong focus on improving the quality of our fresh food supply and reducing waste in both the supply chain and on the consumer end to reduce landfill and protect our environment,” said Stephanie. 

“My studies have improved my organisation skills and fuelled my desire to learn and develop as a person. I have become very passionate about the agricultural industry and my goal is now to do something meaningful, something that is going to make a difference. This has prepared me for my current job as I am inspired about the work that I am doing and want to work to the very best of my ability in order to achieve my own personal goals as well as my company’s goals.”

Stephanie’s passion for agriculture was sparked as a child visiting her uncle’s sheep farm in spring and winter for shearing and lambing seasons. She then studied agriculture at high school.

“I had an incredibly inspiring high school agriculture teacher who took us on many fantastic camps to many farms across the central west of NSW where I gained lots of hands on experience and knowledge of how farms are managed.”

“I was encouraged to study agriculture at university by my high school ag teacher, which was great advice. The University of Sydney has such a high calibre of teachers and allows you frequent access to the most knowledgeable people in the agricultural industry. The mix of theory and practical in the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture course was fantastic and allowed for fun and engaging learning.”

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