Get To Know: Adam Kay, CEO, Cotton Australia

Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay

What does your role involve?

My role is to provide strategic direction and set policy for the organisation, working with our Board of Directors to advocate for our growers on behalf of the industry in order to smooth the way for cotton production right through to trade and market access.

I oversee a wonderful team that is educating students and teachers, building trust with our communities and stakeholders, and creating demand for Australian cotton throughout the textile supply chain.

An important part of my role is listening to growers and stakeholders and working to meet their needs through advising research needs to CRDC and the myBMP program. We work hard to ensure the growers’ research needs are well communicated to the CRDC.

How and why did you become involved in the Australian cotton industry?

In 1985, as a NSW Dept of Agriculture District Agronomist, I was fortunate enough to be posted in Warren in the Central West of NSW. I lived on a cotton farm at Nevertire, became immersed in the industry and was hooked from then on! At the time, there was about 10,000 hectares of cotton in the Macquarie, and 11 years later, when I moved to CSD, there was 50,000 hectares. We saw cotton move south and east in the valley during that time.

I also loved living and participating in the Nevertire and Warren communities.

Why is the cotton industry important to Australia, and your local community?

Having lived in Warren and Narrabri myself for 30 years and visiting the vast majority of cotton growing towns in Australia during my cotton career, it didn’t take me long to recognise that cotton is the lifeblood of many of these rural communities. Take water and cotton away and there is a massive detrimental impact on these towns and the people who live in them. Of course, that then translates to an export industry worth $4 billion to the Australian economy each year, so cotton is vitally important to the nation as well.

What are you most proud of regarding the Australia cotton industry?

I have been fortunate enough to witness the incredible and practical impact research has had on our industry over many decades. Researchers and our growers work together to reduce pesticide use dramatically and to drive water use efficiency (doubling it). This type of partnership makes me proud to stand up for our industry and tell our fantastic story.

What are your future hopes for the Australian cotton industry?

For the Australian cotton industry to be recognised at home and globally for its sustainable practices and enormous contribution to regional communities and the Australian economy. The recent move by many brands and retailers to 100% Australian cotton and call it out to their customers is starting to push us in that direction, but we still have plenty of work to do!

If you weren’t working in cotton, what job would you be doing?

Sommelier matching wine and food, but my job in cotton is far safer!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

There are always people at home for a BBQ or dinner party and I love to have my friends and family around me; also driving up the beach, camping and fishing are things I’ve loved since childhood.

What is your ideal holiday destination and why?

The outer Fijian islands have it all, relaxed lifestyle, fishing, swimming and snorkeling, but to be honest, I’d be happy to jump in the car or on a plane to anywhere at the moment after the last few years of lockdowns!

What is your favourite movie/book?

I enjoy biographies the most and am currently reading about Australian explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins.

As far as movies go, I love old films and action – I’m busting to see Top Gun 2 and hope it lives up to the expectations!

What three famous people would you invite to a dinner party, and why?

Winston Churchill, as he had some great quotes – e.g. “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Ash Barty, because she is such a champion and seems to be a wonderful human to boot.

Neil Young, because I love his music and he’s very passionate about the environment so there would be good discussions over dinner.