Inca Lee – Australian Women in Wine Awards Researcher/Innovator of the Year 2019

RD&E News | October 2019
11 Oct 2019
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In a world where time is a luxury, wine has the ability to bring family and friends together and inspire connectedness.

It’s a fact not lost on Inca Lee, who says it’s one of the reasons the wine sector inspires her on a daily basis.

‘We are creating wines and experiences that bring people together. Right across the supply chain there are opportunities to create, craft, explore and innovate – and that’s exciting’, said Inca, who was named Researcher/Innovator of the Year in the Australian Women in Wine Awards, held in September in New York.

Inca Lee was named the Researcher/Innovator of the Year 2019 at the recent Australian Women in Wine Awards

Inca grew up in the Adelaide Hills and, with her father at the helm of the Australian Wine Research Institute, there was always talk of wine, innovation, growth and research at the dinner table.

Inca graduated from university with a Masters of Viticulture in 1996 and went on to a successful career with Orlando Wines and later Pernod Ricard Winemakers. Inca’s roles covered viticulture, research and development and communications.

In early 2015, the then Phylloxera Board, now Vinehealth Australia, approached Inca to do some project work. By early 2016, she was running the organisation.

In the three years since taking the reins, Inca has ramped up projects that deliver practical solutions to growers, and is producing a raft of tools to help growers understand and implement biosecurity.

As an island nation, Inca said, Australia’s borders are challenged on a daily basis by exotic plant and animal pests and diseases.

‘Our challenge is to provide growers and winemakers with innovative and sustainable ways to protect their vines – and their brands – from the devastating impacts of a biosecurity shock. It’s a huge ask, but I think with greater awareness we are making progress’, she said.

Inca said Vinehealth Australia was acutely focused on three things: preventing exotic pests from entering vineyards in Australia; containing phylloxera to current infested areas in Australia; and preparing grape and wine businesses for the potential of a biosecurity shock.

‘Being prepared is critical, because if there was an incursion of an exotic or significant endemic pest or disease growers can minimise the economic and social impact to their business and community.’

‘But to do that, we need to build resilience into the grape and wine supply chain’, Inca said.

Adopting simple farm-gate hygiene practices was an important first step in the process.

Inca said her message to growers and winemakers about the challenges of a biosecurity shock was simple: ‘Be engaged and act now – become informed as to the risks and how to protect your vines, wines, businesses and regional communities.’

‘Don’t think “it won’t happen” or “it will happen in a different region or vineyard”. We need to shift this dynamic and realise that being biosecure is a great competitive advantage for Australia – it is an enabler for sustained prosperity.


Top tips to prepare for a biosecurity shock

  • Do a biosecurity risk assessment for your business and put in place measures to mitigate these risks. For example, are your contractors following the ‘clean in/clean out’ principle?
  • Be prepared – if there was an incursion of a significant endemic or exotic pest, how would your business adapt and respond? For example, what would you do if a quarantine zone was put in place effective immediately and you couldn’t move your grapes out of the zone for processing? Imagine if this happened close to vintage?
  • Don’t underestimate the social impact of an exotic or significant pest or disease incursion – it is profound and distressing. ‘You only need to look at incursions in other plant and animal industries in Australia to understand the social cost.’

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.