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Top Agribusiness Talents Shine – Zanda McDonald Award Shortlist Unveiled

Australasia’s agricultural badge of honour, The Zanda McDonald Award, has revealed their shortlist of ten young professionals from Australia and New Zealand for the 2024 Award.

The coveted award recognises future leaders working in agriculture and provides an impressive prize package centred around tailored mentoring and education. Next year marks the awards’ 10th anniversary of inspiring and nurturing agricultural leadership. The shortlist of ten - five from Australia and five from New Zealand - have been selected for their leadership skills, passion, and the contribution they’re making within the primary sector.

The Australian finalists are Caitlin McConnel, 33, Agribusiness Lawyer at Clayton Utz, Chair of the Future Farmer Network and farmer based in South East Queensland; Nick Dunsdon, 33, Manager of Coban Pastoral Co and Rural Property Agent at GDL based in Cunnamulla, Southwest Queensland; Sam Fryer, 33, Regional Area Manager for the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority and founder of “A Place To Call Home” podcast, a guide to agricultural land ownership; Tessa Chartres, 32, General Manager Business Development for Murray Irrigation Ltd and Chair of the South West Music Regional Conservatorium, based in Deniliquin New South Wales; and Xavier McCluskey, 29, Processing Specialist for Greenstock, based in Tamworth NSW.

The New Zealand finalists are Carla Muller, 31, Agricultural Economist and Principal Consultant for Perrin Ag and former Director of NZIPIM, based in Whakatane; Jordi Hoult, 29, vet and Senior Advisor at the Ministry for Primary Industries, based in Manawatu; Nancy Crawshaw, 27, Extension Officer for Angus Australia based in Nuhaka Northern Hawkes Bay; Richard Dawkins, 34, sheep and beef farmer and Vice President of Marlborough Federated Farmers, based in Blenheim; and Tim Dangen, 31, beef farmer in Muriwai West Auckland, and 2022 recipient of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Award.

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Shane McManaway, award Chairman, says the judges were elated with the calibre of the latest crop of applicants, as they approach the awards’ 10-year anniversary.

“It’s wonderful that this award has been helping grow future leaders in agriculture for a decade now, providing unique opportunities to connect, collaborate and foster learnings from industry mentors who have walked the path.

Yet again we’ve been blown away by the people who have applied, and it’s encouraging to see the immense talent coming through from the next generation. We’re thrilled with our shortlist, and looking forward to meeting everyone in person for interviews next month to get to know them better,” he said.

The ten shortlisted applicants will be interviewed next month, with three finalists selected from each country. They will head to Queenstown in March 2024 for the Zanda McDonald Award Impact Summit, where an Australian and a New Zealand winner will be crowned at a celebratory evening with industry leaders and award partners.

The winners will each pick up an impressive personal development package, including a fully personalised mentoring trip in both countries by private jet, $10,000 worth of tailored education or further training, media coaching and ongoing networking opportunities.

For images of the ten shortlisted applicants, click here

To find out more, visit



Note to Editors:

Zanda McDonald was a prominent identity in the Australian beef and livestock industry and was proud to be a farmer who worked tirelessly to encourage young people to work in the industry that he loved. He died in April 2013 at the age of 41, following a tragic accident on his Queensland cattle property.


Out of mate-ship and respect for Zanda, one of agriculture's natural leaders, this trans-Tasman award was born in 2014. It is now run independently by the Zanda McDonald Award Foundation, with directors made up of industry leaders, and backed by a group of supportive businesses and organisations in Australia and New Zealand.


The Zanda Mentoring Group (ZMG) is a collective of over 150 of Australasia's top rural leaders. This impressive network of top industry mentors throughout Australasia provide mentoring and support to the award, its finalists and winners.


The Award recognises young people working in the primary industry sectors in New Zealand and Australia and supports their future career development. It is open to passionate and determined individuals aged 21 - 35 years who are working in the agri-business sectors of either Australia or New Zealand, and who demonstrate a passion for agriculture and natural leadership ability. Applications are open for the month of October each year.

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