Digital agriculture, heat-tolerant crops and robotic farming are to be given a big boost with the announcement today of the multimillion-dollar International Centre of Crop and Digital Farming.
The new $12 million centre will be based at the 2000-hectare University of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute, just north of Narrabri in central-west NSW.
University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence said: “Global food security and the future of agriculture in NSW and Australia rely on the sort of research done by our scientists in Narrabri. This investment from the NSW Government and industry will ensure our 60-year tradition of world-class research will continue through the century.”
NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro announced $9.45 million in state government funding to support the new centre on site in Narrabri. The University of Sydney with the Wheat Research Foundation is investing $1.5 million and the Grains Research Development Corporation will contribute $1 million.
“We’ve seen the devastating impacts that this record drought has had on farmers and communities across regional NSW and the research that will be undertaken at this new centre will help boost our resilience to future dry spells,” Mr Barilaro said.
“This research will centre around adapting crops for drought tolerance, providing food security solutions and boosting productivity of farmers.”
The new complex will include genetic and agronomy laboratories alongside digital and robotic workplaces and meeting space to support research and industry engagement.
The investment will also support doubling employment on site to 80 staff and attract post-graduate students and researchers from around the world.
The centre will:
- Produce improved and adapted crop varieties and traits for NSW farmers, the national grains industry and international collaborators.
- Develop farming systems with enhanced resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change and agronomic challenges such as drought and heat extremes.
- Promote digital and robotic technologies for use by farmers and agribusiness to make their businesses more productive and profitable.
Joining the Deputy Premier at the Narrabri launch was the Sydney Institute of Agriculture Director, Professor Alex McBratney.
“This investment is a wonderful reaffirmation by the NSW Government of the long-term importance of science and its role in the regeneration of agriculture and regional communities,” Professor of Digital Agriculture Alex McBratney said.
“The University of Sydney has 60 years of scientific effort at Narrabri. The new International Crop and Digital Agricultural Research Centre will ensure a strong and lasting future for cutting-edge agricultural research and industry outreach.”
Professor Iain Young, Dean of Science at the University of Sydney, said: “This funding is evidence of the great success of the University’s partnership program with industry and commitment to regional Australia and agriculture.”
Central research interests at the centre will include wheat, chickpeas, faba beans and other summer crops as well as addressing farming system challenges such as weed management, soil science, emerging crops and field robotics and digital agriculture.