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The Agricultural Business Research Institute

The Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) is located at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW, Australia. 

ABRI is proudly recognised as a leading provider of innovative agribusiness products, services, and technology solutions on a global scale.

With over 50 years’ experience specialising in services for the domestic and international livestock industries, the highly skilled team use their experience and expertise to provide industry specific products and services to their global clients.

Our staff have the capacity, ability, and desire to service clients where there is rapid change or high demand for agribusiness technology solutions, which will deliver benefits to stakeholders, business and industry.


Our Board of Directors

Ian Locke
Brett Coombe
Kris Kauffmann
Chris Armstrong

Felicity Coventry
Birgit Loch
Justin Boshammer
Angela Schuster

ABRI Management

Our dedicated management team


Hugh Nivison

Managing Director
Hugh Nivison was appointed Managing Director of ABRI in October 2015. A sheep and cattle producer from Walcha NSW, Hugh has most recently been working as an advisor in the Agricultural Investments industry, with operations in Australia and overseas.

Hugh has a Veterinary Science degree from Sydney University and is Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland. He has a high level of corporate experience as a Director of Australian Wool Innovation, a board member of the Australian Sheep Industry Co-operative Research Centre, Chairman of UNE Rural Properties, Director and CEO of Australasian Rural Investments Pty Ltd and Hugh remains Chairman of Australian Farmers Fighting Fund (AFFF).

Hugh’s focus at ABRI is to ensure the connection between ABRI and the end users of our services, primarily breeders and breed societies, remains strong. Hugh is also keen to explore how the expertise and experience developed by ABRI over the last 50 years can be further used to help livestock industries throughout the world.

Steven Skinner

Chief Operating Officer (Currently on Extended Leave)
Steve’s honours degree in Agricultural Economics led him to a seven-year appointment in applied agricultural economic research. He then managed a sheep and cattle property for five years before joining ABRI’s BREEDPLAN team in 1993. He soon became manager of the ABRI support team for servicing associations which use BREEDPLAN.

In 2011 Steve was promoted to manager of ABRI’s flagship division, the International Beef Recording Scheme and in 2015 he was appointed Chief Operating Officer. For nine years from 2009, Steve was Executive Director of the Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association.

Steve’s primary role at ABRI is responsibility for ABRI’s services with beef breed associations and other corporate breeding groups from within Australia and overseas. His primary objective is ensuring the provision of efficient and effective service delivery to clients. The role includes developing contractual and financial arrangements and the management of the personnel delivering the BREEDPLAN service and associated extension activities.
Mark Christian

Mark Christian

Chief Product and Innovation Officer
Mark Christian relocated to Armidale from the United Kingdom in 2023 to undertake the exciting new role of Chief Product and Innovation Officer for ABRI. Mark has led large product transformation projects on three continents in various industries and led several AR/VR tech ventures in the UK. During the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mark founded a start-up business supporting the UK National Health Service (NHS) to fill large gaps in the training of healthcare students. Mark was the founder and Global Director of Immersive Learning at Pearson Education and led the spin out of this organisation to a venture-backed start-up in 2019. Prior to living in the UK Mark founded a technology-focused agency in Canberra and worked in the University sector in both New Zealand and Australia. A native of the US, Mark has a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary as well as several patents in his name. Mark is most excited to be working for ABRI, where he will be overseeing the ABRI products, ensuring they are fit for purpose, innovative, meeting the customer needs and creating value to ABRI and our clients.
Colby Funnell

Colby Funnell

Chief Technical Officer
In 2023, Colby joined ABRI as the inaugural Chief Technical Officer, leveraging his extensive professional experience spanning various roles, from Senior Systems Engineer at Emerging Systems to Head of Engineering at Atlassian. Colby embarked on his career as a Senior Systems Engineer at Emerging Systems, where he successfully designed and implemented systems for over 30 distinct companies, ranging from small office networks to universities and large-scale enterprises. He later progressed to the position of Senior Systems Engineer for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. However, his most significant role prior to joining ABRI was as the Head of Engineering at Atlassian, where he showcased his expertise leading the Observability teams to deliver global scale real time insights across Australia, America and India. Excited about his new endeavour at ABRI, Colby eagerly brings his honed skills and expertise that were refined in a fast-paced chaotic cloud environment to a company dedicated to improving the lives of everyday Australians.
Christy Riley

Christy Riley

Customer Service Manager
Christy Riley has joined the ABRI Team in the newly created position of Customer Service Manager. This exciting role will involve close collaboration with all existing clients while also serving as the primary point of contact for our incoming clients, ensuring a seamless and positive experience for all. Christy has a wealth of experience in customer-focused and procurement roles throughout her career, spanning various industries, with a primary focus on Technology. In her most recent role, Christy served as a procurement professional at the Australian Turf Club. This multifaceted position encompassed responsibilities such as overseeing tenders, managing suppliers, liaising with internal stakeholders, and fostering robust business relationships. Christy is eager to meet our existing clients, establishing strong relationships, and supporting them as valued clients of ABRI.

Trish Faint

Manager, Breed Secretariat, Office & HR
Trish Faint has been with ABRI since 2002. Trish manages the Breed Secretariat team, as well as handling many of ABRI’s office administration and HR duties.

A local New England resident, Trish has valuable rural knowledge from her family's cattle properties to the east of Armidale.

As manager of the Breed Secretariat team, Trish has extensive knowledge of ABRI and it’s clients. In this role, Trish ensures the smooth running of societies and the tasks required by our secretariat teams.

Fiona Brierley

Manager, Dairy Express
Fiona brings to Dairy Express extensive knowledge and on-field experience of the dairy industry. She has held a range of consultancy, farm planning and facilitator roles throughout her career, even starting out as a dairy herd recorder. In these roles, she has provided services for many farming families and businesses including consultancy and farm planning with NORCO CO-OP responsible for the promotion and development of on-farm planning to secure milk supply and meet market demands.

Fiona is passionate about contributing to the improved outcomes of rural communities, businesses, and agricultural industries. Fiona also keeps herself busy as a business partner for a farming enterprise, which currently runs beef cattle.
Praneet Castelino

Praneet Castelino

Manager, IT Systems
Praneet Castelino commenced with ABRI in 2023 with a vision of creating increased awareness of IT/engineering best practices and to improve the underlying performance of our technical stack and increase its reliability. Praneet commenced his career with the New Zealand Defence Force, where he was awarded the Chief of the Army’s Commendation for Excellence in Engineering and Leadership. Since departing the defence force, Praneet has pursued roles in software engineering, cloud architecture and product design throughout various government departments, local tech companies and multinational companies including Software Engineer at Fuji-Xerox and IT Manager at Emirates.
Katrina George

Katrina George

Manager, Communications
Katrina George joined the ARBI team in 2023 as Communications Manager following an extensive career in Tourism and Marketing. Katrina relocated to Armidale in 2003 to establish Petersons Armidale Winery and more recently as the Manager of Tourism, Marketing & Events for Armidale Regional Council. Katrina’s previous careers ranged from managing 5-star hotels in Sydney, golf resorts in the Hunter Valley and teaching at TAFE New England. Katrina’s vision at ABRI is to assist the company to achieve the 5-year strategic plan goals, build on the ABRI reputation, create brand awareness, and elevate the company profile with our national and international clients.

Nik Sreedhar

Breed Registry Product Manager
ABRI are excited to introduce Nikhil (NIk) who brings with him a wealth of experience to drive the transformation of the breed registry software. Based in Sydney, Nik boasts a diverse background spanning investment banking, technology and entrepreneurship. In his most recent role as a Venture Architect at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Nik advised ASX200 corporates on launching and scaling new technology ventures, including the successful launch of two agritech software ventures. One of these ventures, based in ABRI’s hometown of Armidale, ignited his keen intertest in the agricultural sector. Nik is thrilled to be managing the breed registry project and building a world-class platform for cattle breeders.

Our History

ABRI’s humble beginnings date back to July of 1970, with ABRI’s founder, the late Dr Arthur Rickards OAM, and his colleagues setting out to establish a technology transfer unit at UNE. At the time this was considered an ambitious move, but with the pioneering spirit of Dr Rickards, ABRI was established.

Dr Rickards had initially worked as officer in charge at the UNE Farm Management Service Centre (FMSC), which was run between 1965 and 1970. The FMSC provided comparative analysis services of farm records to farm management and consulting professions. Dr Rickards was instrumental in extending the centre’s work of forward planning using linear programming techniques.

Dr Rickards’ mission for ABRI was to establish a national agribusiness service which would facilitate a connection between the technological advancements being developed by the university and the technology being used within agricultural and rural industries. Over 50 years later, this ambitious mission has led to ABRI’s position as a world leader in agricultural software solutions.

One of the first major software advancements by ABRI in 1985, involved using an advanced system of genetic evaluation of beef cattle that was developed by UNE’s Animal Genetics Breeding Unit (AGBU). ABRI gave the technique the product name of BREEDPLAN, and together with AGBU, developed a BREEDPLAN suite of genetic evaluation software.

In the early days of BREEDPLAN’s development Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) acknowledged its potential and began providing considerable support and investment for its growth. The ongoing support from MLA is a testament to BREEDPLAN’s continued success and importance in the industry.

Currently BREEDPLAN provides approximately 63 separate genetic evaluations for 40 beef cattle breeds and 14 million animals, across 14 countries. In addition to this, ABRI also have an expansive range of custom software solutions for other livestock, including dairy cattle, sheep, goats, and horses.

ABRI’s current managing director, Mr Hugh Nivison, was appointed to the role in 2015. His vision for ABRI is to ensure that the knowledge and expertise of the past continues to move forward with new technological advancements which will benefit ABRI's clients and the wider livestock industries.