Food for the Soil - breakfast in Newcastle

7:30am Thursday, 21 September 2023
10:00am Thursday, 21 September 2023
Hunter Multicultural Communities Centre
2a Platt St
Waratah, New South Wales 2298


Thursday 21 September 7.30am – 10.00am

Hunter Multicultural Communities Centre - 2a Platt Street, Waratah New South Wales 2298


Presented in partnership with the NSW EPA, AORA NSW’s Food for the Soil breakfast event aims to educate attendees about the existing and growing markets for the increasing supply of recycled organics products.

 With food and garden organics waste collection ramping up across NSW  and biochar markets in development,  an increasing number of new opportunities are being identified for different recycled organics products to be included in procurement strategies across both the government and commercial sectors to improve sustainability ratings and meet recycled content targets.

Building upon the information already available on the EPA/Circular Australia Cool Compost platform,  Food for the Soil will feature a keynote presentation showcasing the effective use of recycled organics to remediate various landscapes from  SESL’s Agronomist  Simon Leake, as well as an interactive panel discussion facilitated by AORA NSW Chair, Charlie Emery and including representatives from the viticulture, biochar, local government and mining sectors. 

This event provides an excellent opportunity for AORA members and non-members to network and ‘grow’ the conversation as we consider the ever-increasing role that recycled organics can play within the broader circular economy.


Keynote:  Simon Leake, Director of Science & Founder of SESL Australia.

A Certified Practicing Soil Scientist, Simon Leake is an expert in soil/vegetation rehabilitation such as mine sites and urban renewal projects. Simon was integral in pioneering organic waste-to-land application; and an expert in soil, waste and composting science – frequently providing expert witness on such matters in legal proceedings. Simons most recent and noteworthy project is the construction of King Salman Park in Saudi Arabia. Simons extensive knowledge has contributed towards converting an arid, brownfield airport into one of the worlds largest urban green parks. 

Simon is a frequent lecturer to various universities including University of Technology Sydney, University of NSW, University of Sydney, and TAFE. He has been published multiple times via the CSIRO including developing, “Soils for Landscape Development”, a practical guide for future development of landscape soil technology and the specification of soil and growing media which received the 2015 Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Literature for publications from the Australian Institute of Horticulture Inc. (AIH).

Simon’s work has been recognised through numerous industry awards Horticulturist of the Year for soil works at Barangaroo – 2016 (AIH), the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) 2021 Award for the Glenugie Bypass landscape rehabilitation works and  the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Professional Award for Soil Engineering in 2019.


Interactive Panel Discussion:

Bill Baxter, Environmental Specialist Rehabilitation, Yancoal

Bill began his career as a  Civil/Mining Engineer working across various aspects of open cut coal mine design and scheduling for over 10 years, before  completing post graduate studies in Natural Resource Management and making the switch to environmental roles in open cut mines in 2003. Since 2007, Bill has been based in the Hunter Valley in a specialist role involved with mined land rehabilitation and management of biodiversity offset areas. He has been using compost products in rehabilitation activities for more than 10 years’, using a number of different types of compost from different producers in rehabilitation aimed at both agricultural and native vegetation outcomes.

Elfi Blackburn , Organics Delivery Manager, City of Newcastle.

Elfi has more than 25 years’ experience in developing and implementing large scale waste and recycling contracts for a range of regional and metropolitan Councils. She has project managed the delivery of major capital works and infrastructure programs including construction of waste and recycling transfer facilities, community recycling centres, landfill cells and ancillary infrastructure. Elfi was instrumental in establishing organics collection and processing businesses for Central Coast and Hunter Councils. She is currently working with the City of Newcastle (CN) in the capacity of Organics Delivery Manager with a focus on establishing a FOGO Processing Business for the City. CN is constructing an Organics Processing Facility based on tunnel composting at its Summerhill Waste Management Centre. The fully enclosed facility will be capable of processing up to 50,000 tonnes of FOGO into compost that meets AS4454. Determining the most appropriate business model and establishing markets for the compost is a key component of Elfi's work. In line with Circular Economy principles, she is working with key staff responsible for managing parks and sporting fields with the view of creating demand for the compost within Council.

Martin Gransden, Group Viticulturalist, Tamburlaine Organic Wines

With more than 25 years’ experience in the wine industry, Martin currently is the Group Viticulturalist for Tamburlaine Organic Wines.  Established in 1966, Tamburlaine is one of  Australia’s largest producers of organic wines with vineyards in the Hunter Valley and Orange region. Their winemaking philosophy is based around Contemporary Organic practices in the vineyard and the winery. Their Environment Management System (EMS) includes strategies for water and solid-waste management, energy saving, efficiency programs and environmental purchasing. This includes composting winery outputs (grapes and stems) for spreading in their vineyards to help increase organic matter. Prior to joining Tamburlaine in 2021, Martin spent 15 years as Group Viticulturalist for Cumulus Estate Wines. His previous experience includes managing regions of vineyards in both SA and NSW.  He holds a Bachelor of Viticultural Management from the University of Sydney.

Craig Bagnall, ANZ Biochar Industry Group, Director of Environment and Regulatory with SEATA Group

Craig is a Certified Environmental Practitioner with advanced accreditation for Impact Assessment, and an experienced environmental engineer who has worked across multiple sectors of industry and government since the early 1990s including mining and waste management.  His role with SEATA Group involves environmental approvals for the development of an advanced thermal technology for biochar and carbon-negative hydrogen. Craig is also Principal Consultant with Catalyst Environmental Management based in Newcastle, which recently led a consortium assessing biochar markets for a Victorian water utility. Craig is a member of the Executive and Technical Advisory Boards of the ANZ Biochar Industry Group (ANZBIG), assisting the team developing the recently launched Australian Biochar Industry 2030 Roadmap, the industry Code of Practice (2021) and government engagement for proposed new methods for carbon credits under the Emissions Reduction Fund.

Russ Martin, Director, MS2

MS2 Director Russ Martin has over 30 years’ experience in public policy development and sustainability in the US, Australia and Middle East. This includes roles in government and as an advisor to governments and industry. Russ led the development of the  Australian Biochar Industry 2030 Roadmap. The Roadmap shows how a range of potential co-feedstocks, including biosolids, forestry residues and agricultural residues, can be treated through pyrolysis and gasification to produce a vast array of products suitable for agriculture, construction, water treatment and other industries. Russ is also Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of the Global Product Stewardship Council. In 2015, Russ won the Global Green Future Leadership Award from the World CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Congress.


Please note that  breakfast will be served from 7.30am, and presentations will commence at 8.00am .

Parking is available on site.

Ticket prices include a breakfast roll and hot beverage. Please advise of dietary requirements when booking your tickets.



$24.50 per ticket or $40 per double for Members (incl. AIEN members- please email Alex for an invoice -

$35 each or $50 per double for Non -Members

Please read this carefully - if you would like to purchase a double ticket, you must do so via this page -     If you would like make a mixed purchase, ie. one double and a single, please add the single to your cart first, and then add the double afterwards - they will combine at checkout.  


BOOKING INSTRUCTIONS (PLEASE READ CAREFULLY)  - our system works best on Chrome Browsers.   

How to use our booking system  (can be paid by credit card or invoice - payment must be received in our account prior to the event)



Our booking system uses your email address to identify whether you are a member or not, therefore the system defaults to 1 ticket at a time (you will not be able to select more than one in the basket) 

To book your ticket, type in your email and click lookup.  If the system identifies you as a member, it will auto-populate your information and you can just add any dietary requirements.   If you need to purchase another ticket for another member, there is the option to add another in at the bottom of the box (do this as many times as you need for your booking and you can use your email to simplify the process.)  Then you will be able to go to the cart and proceed through the checkout as one bulk purchase.


If you are a member, but it doesn't recognise your email address it means you are not linked to your business membership (and it will not apply member pricing to this ticket.)

To solve this you have two options  -1)  go to and click the button that says sign up for an account to connect.  Put your email in here and click look up, find your business name (it may be listed as the registered trading name of the business) and click connect.  Your membership account administrator will need to approve your connection.  They simply need to login into their account and approve you.  

Option 2)  Send an email to Alex (  with the subject  Membership Connection Needed.  In the email please include the full name of the staff member, their email address and the registered/trading name of your business. Alex will endeavour to get your staff member linked as quickly as possible. 



For non-members, your email will not be found during lookup.  All you have to do is fill out your info and when you get to the checkout, you will be able to create a website user account to enable your transaction to take place in the secure payment portal. Our systems adds one person to a cart at a time, so if you need to purchase a second ticket,  the option will pop up.   

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Contact Information

Lisa Lepore

For event enquiries, contact Lisa 

For ticketing enquiries, please contact Alex via

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