Nuffield International CEO Jim Geltch receives 2018 Rabobank Leadership Award

The chief executive officer of Nuffield International Jim Geltch has taken out the 2018 Rabobank Leadership Award, recognising the “fundamentally important” role he has played developing upcoming leadership in the Australian and New Zealand food, beverage and agribusiness sectors.

Mr Geltch, who was appointed inaugural CEO of Nuffield International in 2016 following more than a decade leading the agricultural capacity-building program’s Australian operations, was announced as recipient of this year’s award at the annual Rabobank Leadership Dinner in Sydney last night.

AACo chief operating officer Anna Speer took out the 2018 Rabobank Emerging Leader award, recognising developing leaders in the sector.

Presenting the awards, Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group managing director Peter Knoblanche said in his work leading Nuffield, Mr Geltch was making one of the most fundamentally important contributions to leadership in the food and agribusiness sector.

“Jim is one of the great unsung heroes of the sector, whose enormous contribution to agriculture and the food and agribusiness industries is truly deserving of recognition.  Not only is he an extremely accomplished leader in his own right, he has had a huge impact on the sector and done great good by fostering and developing leadership in others,” Mr Knoblanche said.

“Through his own leadership of the Nuffield organisation, Jim has played, and continues to play, an invaluable role in the future growth and prosperity of the sector, by facilitating the development and engagement of the talented young people in our agricultural and agribusiness industries.”

Mr Knoblanche said, as a capacity-building program, Nuffield farming scholarships provide innovative and progressive young farmers and agriculturalists in Australia and New Zealand – and in a number of other countries – with the opportunity to travel the world to learn best practice and gain a global view on agriculture.  “And this plays an enormously valuable role in helping them manage and drive their businesses, and our sector, into the future,” he said.

“Indeed, in leading Nuffield Australia and now Nuffield International for almost a decade and a half, Jim is quite likely responsible for mentoring more agricultural leaders than any other individual in the sector in Australia today.

“Nuffield Scholars who have completed the program during Jim’s tenure have gone on to become federal and state members of parliament, to sit on numerous industry boards, to become community and business leaders and to develop and demonstrate best farming practice.  And indeed, in some cases, to go on to develop entirely new agricultural industries, like Australian chia industry pioneer John Foss.”

Mr Knoblanche said it was notable that two recent past Rabobank Emerging Leaders were Nuffield Scholars – leading organics farmer Nathan Free and executive director of Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs Jan Vydra.

During Jim Geltch’s time as CEO of Nuffield Australia, from 2005 to 2016, Mr Knoblanche said, he had been instrumental in guiding the program through a significant growth period, with the number of scholarships – awarded in partnership with industry and the public sector – growing from 10 to 25 per year.

“It was recognition of his successful stewardship at the helm of Nuffield Australia that Jim was chosen in 2016 to become the first-ever CEO of Nuffield International, the global body encompassing all Nuffield Farming Scholarship organisations around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe as well as associate countries Brazil and the US,” he said.  “And in this role, it is Jim’s mission to continue to expand the scholarship program into a growing number of countries.”

In a testament to his own leadership style, Mr Knoblanche said, Jim Geltch had demonstrated enormous generosity in mentoring emerging young agricultural leaders in his own time, providing guidance and encouragement to help them succeed.  “And for this and his impressive contribution to Nuffield, Jim is highly regarded and widely respected within the agricultural sector – in Australia and around the world,” he said.

Mr Knoblanche said it was particularly impressive that Mr Geltch – a farmer himself, based in Moama in the New South Wales Riverina – had contributed so much to developing others in the sector, while simultaneously operating, with his family, an operation growing 30,000 tonnes annually of processing tomatoes.

Also a Nuffield Scholar in his own right, Mr Geltch was awarded his scholarship in 1986 to explore farmer education, advances in irrigation technology and computer-based crop modelling in Europe and Israel.

In 2001, he was awarded the Order of Australia for service to primary industry in the field of irrigated agriculture and promotion of agricultural research and education.

Accepting his award by video, Mr Geltch said one of the most rewarding aspects of his role heading Nuffield was witnessing the growth and development of the young people coming through the scholarship program, and the impact it was making.

“I’ve always said travel is the best educator you can have.  And one of the great pleasures of managing the Nuffield program has been seeing the growth of, in some respects, naïve young men and women who come through the selection process and come back in two years’ time after undertaking their scholarships – seeing the self-confidence they’ve developed and the global view they’ve built about agriculture,” he said.

“When you get out of bed in the morning, if you’re enjoying the job, when you get up you’ll do some constructive things, but to actually see that on a day-to-day basis is just one of the greatest pleasures I get out of being involved in Nuffield.”

Mr Geltch said he believed good leadership was about building relationships. “The key is about having empathy and relating to people that you’re dealing with. That manifests itself in many different ways, but I think that you need to be able to have people’s trust so that when you’re working with them, they don’t see you as a leader as such, but that they understand the direction that you are taking is the right direction and they’re willing to follow you,” he said.

The peer-nominated and judged Rabobank Leadership Award is presented annually to individuals who create sustainable growth and prosperity at both a corporate and industry level in the food and agribusiness industries, while demonstrating wider commitment to society.  Other previous recipients include Australian and New Zealand food and agri corporate leaders Sir Graeme Harrison, Barry Irvin, Sir Henry van der Heyden, John Watson, Max Ould, John McLean, Nick Burton-Taylor, Robert Hill-Smith, and Sir George Fistonich, Australian industry organisation leaders David Crombie (last year’s award winner) and Mick Keogh, as well as leading food scientists Dr Bruce Lee and Dr Jim Peacock.

Mr Geltch’s son Mark accepted the award on behalf of his father, who was travelling overseas for Nuffield International.

The 2018 Rabobank Leadership Dinner was held at the Sydney Town Hall. Keynote speaker was former chairman and CEO of Kellogg Company, Australian John Bryant.


Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has nearly 120 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 38 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.4 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is one of Australasia’s leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand.

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