It's been a tough year for many in Australian agriculture in 2023. Plunging livestock prices, a looming El Nino drought and surging input costs have dominated the headlines for the entire sector. But that has not stopped a new band of agriculture specialists laying the groundwork for an exciting 2024 and beyond. Here we present 24 special individuals and couples to watch in 2024. Each are optimistic, enthusiastic and ready to tackle any challenges ahead. From budding saffron growers to those have made the leap from outback Queensland to Tasmania, these are the stars of agriculture who we expect to shine through 2024 - and beyond. Marionvale Station, Queensland If it is not enough to be full-time graziers on a northern Queensland cattle property, sisters Jessie and Ella Bourke have taken the plunge into fashion. The pair have just launched an online label, By Sisterly, selling their own clothing designs. The sisters were inspired by their love of fashion. "Our mum is an inspiration for our dreams and has embedded strong morals as well as her unique style and gracious presence," Ella and Jessie said. "She taught us to be brave, bold and capable women within both industries." With their fashion journey just starting, the Bourke sisters will be ones to watch in 2024. Yorke Peninsula, South Australia South Australian cropper Lauren Bryani has a bird's-eye view of agriculture. And she is now providing that same view to thousands of others. Since moving to her husband's family, Lauren has taken to the sky with her drone, and now has 55,000 TikTok followers who love her account of farm life. "I first started to learn to use the drone in 2020 and I was just taking videos of the farm and the equipment," she said. "I think it's beautiful and I just posted it to see if anyone was interested. "Turns out they were and my account really just grew from there." Penshurst, Victoria Sam Byrne left school at the age of 15 to pursue an electrical apprenticeship. But it wasn't until he was in his early 20s that he found his passion for agriculture. `Melbourne raised, Sam is now livestock manager for Merrin Agriculture at Penshurst, in eastern Victoria, overseeing 8000 sheep and 800 cows. "I've fallen in love with the industry," Sam said. He is now an advocate of young people taking a gap year after school and exploring agriculture. "Working in ag is a good gig: I get a good house out of it, a place where I hunt, run and train dogs or if I want to ride bikes around the property, I can do it on farm." Colac, Victoria Breeding dogs is as much farming as any commodity. Particularly when the breed is the Kelpie, the ultimate farm working dog. Bree Cudmore's Vera Kelpies is making a name for itself in the yard dog trialling scene. In fact, Bree is the first and only woman to have won the National Kelpie Field Trial championship in its 54-year history. She has worked in agriculture since 2012, and it was her time in shearing sheds that showed her the value of a good working dog. "It helped me a lot, to understand how hard the job is without a good dog, I started off in the sheds penning up sheep without a dog or with an average dog," she said. Her dogs now are far from average, racking up award after award, including winning the National Kelpie Field Trial championship in 2021. Bloomsbury, Queensland Troy Dunn knows a lot about bulls - both riding them and now breeding them. In the 1990s Troy was a world champion bull rider, riding on the US professional circuit. But nowadays he concentrates on breeding bulls, running a Wagyu Brangus cross herd across three EU-accredited blocks. On the two larger blocks, Troy and his wife, Jackie, run up to 700 head while the third block runs about 120 F1 Wagyu cows for breeding F2 Wagyus. But he still has his finger in the riding world. In October he was inducted into the Australian Rodeo Heritage Centre Hall of Fame, and this month will run his first overseas two-day bull riding school, in Canada. Manjimup, Western Australia Any sheep breeder who declares they will "carry on as usual" despite a wicked industry downturn is definitely worth watching in 2024. At their fourth annual Tellarup Brook Poll Dorset sale in October, Kim and Donette Edwards said they would continue to invest in top sires and genetics even as tough times hit. The sale was the first downturn they had experienced in the stud's short life, but a $1200 top priced ra gave them the confidence to power on through. "It is just a year when people are cutting back on sheep numbers and you have to look to the future," Kim Edwards said. South Burnett, Queensland Lease land. Regenerate that land. Offer agistment. It's a three-point plan that has put 26-year old Cameron Griffin well on the way to his dream of running a profitable beef operation. Cameron, like most entering agriculture, always had his sights set on farm ownership. But his business plans could never quite get him to that point. "That's when I heard a quote from a bloke called Greg Duty, and he said "the sole purpose should not be to own the land, but to control it," and that just really changed my thinking." So Cameron and his wife, Tilly, are leasing about 120 hectares across six properties in the South Burnett district, and this year launched a boxed-beef business, Binowee Family Grazing, based on the Dexter cattle breed. Bridgetown, Western Australia Stacking enterprises is the name of the game for West Australian couple Raquel and Murray Johnson. Adopting the concept of US agro-ecologist Jonathan Lundgren, the couple aim to make their 80-hectare property in the state's south-west both self-sufficient, but also allow young people get a foot into agriculture without paying exorbitant land costs. The tracking concept combines intercropping, bringing livestock into cropping systems and using a variety of livestock. In addition to the Johnsons' garlic and prime lamb operation, they lease out parts of the farm to five separate enterprises - two market gardens, a chicken business, an engineer developing a weeding machine and an agritourism business, complete with a tiny house. "We get a range of enterprises on our farm to diversify our system and our revenue, and newcomers to the agricultural industry get a foot in the door without the significant cost of taking up their own property," Raquel said. King Island, Tasmania It is a long way from Queensland's Blackall to King Island. It is possibly even further going from contract mustering to growing superfine wool that sells to Italian Fashion houses. Yet these are monumental shifts made by Johnny MacNamara. After visiting the island for a holiday, he saw its farming potential - mainly the lack of drought. So he bought a 70-hectare block, purchased about 350 superfine Merinos and 30 cows and calves. He's now leasing another 600 hectares and selling ultrafine 15.2 micron wool for Italian suits and life couldn't be further away than western Queensland. "Blackall was where I wanted to buy, but I've learnt to listen to what the country is telling me here - that's all you can do," he said. Korrelocking, Western Australia Avery Maitland had always dreamt of taking over his family's cropping farm. But that chance came much sooner than expected, with the tragic passing of his father, Gill, from motor neurone disease in 2021. Along with his cousin, Reyner Wells, Avery had to jump head first into his first solo harvest, admitting it had been a steep learning curve. But while it was stressful, he said working a few different seasons with his father prior helped shape the farm's direction. "Last year was our first full year by myself to a certain extent, and it was interesting," Avery said. "It was the best year we've ever had on record, but we could have done things a bit differently with a bit more knowledge, but it was very good to see anyway." Cobden, Victoria At the age of 29 Sam Monk is Australia's largest silage contractor. He also owns four dairy farms, milking 1000 cows. Not a bad effort for someone who started out at age 16 doing after-hours baling work on his parents' tractor. "At 18 I went out on my own ... as of today I employ 130 staff at peak of season," Sam said. He now has 70 tractors, eight trucks on the road and multiple earth-moving machines and multiple forage harvesters. Sam is a shining example of the opportunities in agriculture. "The industry is good. There's opportunities for any young person out there at the moment that's willing to listen and learn." Walcha, NSW Lucy Morris always had an interest in agriculture, growing up on a wholesale plant nursery on NSW's central coast. But her dream of living on a large property eventually saw her find work on the beef and wool operation, Wirribilla, at Walcha. "I'm not just a worker here, I'm part of the family and it has shown me that it doesn't matter how old you are or where you're from, you can be successful in the ag industry," Lucy said. "I'd never considered a farm management role. I'm still unsure as to what my future entails but I'm excited to see where the industry can take me." Avenel, Victoria OK, so we will probably be watching this one for the next 24 years - and beyond. At just 12 years of age, Lachlan O'Brien ventured to the Longwood Poll Merino stud in September and laid down a cool $2750 for a ram. Longwood stud principal Kevin Hynam earlier had to warn the auctioneer of the potential young bidder. "He is bidding, he's got the card and it's legitimate," was the message. Lachlan said he liked the ram's wool quality, its feet, body structure and teeth. Next stop: Yanco Agricultural High School in 2024. Then beyond that? "The eventual aim is to own quite a large farm, hopefully, whether it's up north or here," Lachlan said. Mount Magnificent, South Australia Annie Palmer always knew from an early age she wanted a career in the beef industry. And that dream has become a reality, with Annie and her husband, Jordan, now running their business Limitless Cattle Company. And as part of a partnership that bought and runs her family's BoonARKM Angus stud, Annie should have enough on her plate. But she also has established the Limitless Show Supplies, a reflection of her love of the cattle show ring. In 2023 Annie was awarded an Angus Australia Foundation scholarship, a further sign she is not standing still. She-Oak Log, South Australia Young cropper Dylan Panagiotou is a man on the move. Earth moving, that is, which is his current full-time job. But he hopes to one day become a full-time farmer. To kickstart the dream he leases 162 hectares across half a dozen blocks, where last season he grew Spartacus barley. Leasing is his response to rising land and machinery prices. He is also building relationships with others in the same boat, and cutting costs. "You've just got to make do and work longer hours," Dylan said. Gloucester, NSW From dancing to dairy, Celina Pellett has taken centre stage in agriculture. The Gloucester dairy farmer was recently named the NSW Women in Trades Recipient for 2023, such has been her impact in her newly chosen field. It is a long way from her original path, as an elite ballerina performing around the world. But after injury cruelled that career, a job opportunity at a local dairy farm saw Celina take a chance two years ago. "I'd never been around cows before, I had no experience at all in farming. I was frankly quite terrified, but I jumped at the opportunity and gave it a go," she said. "It didn't take long to quickly love the lifestyle, while there's always going to be challenges, the day is never the same and it's rewarding." Moree, NSW The sky's the limit for Laura Penfold - literally. Laura works for ag aviation specialists Statewide Aviation, based in Moree, and has fallen in love with the sector. Her dream now is to become a pilot and stay in agriculture. "Ever since I was little, my love for ag came from Dad," she said of her late father, Lindsay. "At first I wanted to be an agronomist but after having a taste of ag aviation, I just want to learn more." Allora, Queensland It is not common to find a sheep feedlot in Queensland's Darling Downs. It is even rarer to find a sheep feedlot that mainly caters to Aussie Whites. But that is what Carla and Jim Pidgeon are doing on their Allora property. "The meat yield of the Aussie White is as good as any breed, but when you factor in the fact they shed so you don't have to shear them and their ability for multiple birthings, it just makes sense," Jim said. The couple also run Wagyu cattle and crop more than 400 hectares. The feedlot is due to be operational in 2024, which makes this dynamo couple one to watch in the next 12 months. Mount Egerton, Victoria Rachael and Jesse Sherman have jumped into farming boots and all, tackling one of the world's most expensive spices. The first-generation farmers near Ballarat are turning their eight-hectare farm to growing saffron, and hopefully make inroads into the roughly 10kg of the spice produced in Australia each year. "A lot of growers within Australia will grow less than two hectares worth of the crop, so we knew that with our 20 acres, we could grow a sufficient amount, have enough room to rotate it and not overwork the property and still keep a true agricultural use of this land," said Jesse. Initial trials have been promising, with 500 flowers yielding just over 2.5 grams of saffron. And it means they are on their way. "Rachael was 18 when I met her and I was 20... and from the start our dream was this, and we're almost there," said Jesse. Rudall, South Australia From plumbing to pigs. It may not seem a logical step, but to Ben Shultz it definitely was. Ben this year took on the pig-management of Boston Bay Smallgoods after owner Jason Stephenson stepped back to focus on marketing of the Eyre Peninsula business. "Everything is set up for success and the pigs have been easy for me to get my head around, so my focus now is just making sure I can fill Jason's shoes and keep the quality as high as he has for the past seven years," said Ben. And so taken has he been with his change in career direction, he has also moved into ducks, running a breeding flock of 100 birds. At this pace, he'll have the entire gourmet experience covered by the end of 2024. Dubbo, NSW Jorgia Scott has had beef in her blood for generations. So when it came time to choose a career, it was no surprise to see her head for a paddock. Albeit, not as a farmer, but as a stock and station agent with Nutrien at Dubbo. At 22 years of age, Jorgia travels across the Central West as the stud stock administration officer, as well as processing private and stud sales for the company's Nyngan branch. "People say agriculture is a male dominated industry and that you can't make it as a woman, but times are changing," she said. "We're starting to see more female livestock agents come through and the perception that girls sit behind the desk while the boys auctioneer is starting to change." Dorrigo, NSW Their share-farmed dairy property's name may be Misery Mountain, but don't let that fool you. Jesse and Tahnee Tosh see a bright future in dairy and have hit a deal with farm owner Heath Cook that sees them owning half the dairy herd and earning half the income from milking. Mr Cook believed share-farming offered a new generation of landless producers a bite of the agricultural cherry. The Toshs have taken that bite and are looking at a bright future in ag. Willunga, South Australia Sarah Truran is one of the most important people in agriculture - the ag teacher. And she is very good at it, last month winning the Ag Teachers Association of SA Award of Excellence at the Educators SA World Teachers Day. She also knows her stuff, running the Savannah Simmental and Simbrah studs with her partner Vaughan Campagnolo and their daughter Keira. For Sarah, teaching is a passion. "It is also important that everyone within the education system has an awareness of how big a support agriculture is to the state and the country but secondly it is about supporting the next group who will play a massive role in agriculture into the future," she said. Long may she continue her important role. Boonah, Queensland At the age of just 14, castle breeder Alex Wilson is hurtling towards a career in agriculture. At the Santa Gertrudis National Youth Camp this year, Alex was awarded champion herdsperson and took home a heifer donated by Andrew and Angela Doering, Spring Creek Santa Gertrudis stud. "It was a really great thing. It's something that can really help someone out a lot," Alex said. Alex is already well-versed in the cattle game, hailing from commercially-focused operation, Duganview Santa Gertrudis. After he finishes high school, Alex plans to enter agriculture or get an apprenticeship.