February 29, 2024

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University of Sydney’s Digital Crop Research Centre

Image Credits: The University of Sydney, Press Release

The University of Sydney has inaugurated the International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture in Narrabri, an AU$11.1 million facility leading the charge in global agricultural research, education, and industry collaboration.

The research hub boasts state-of-the-art laboratories in digital technology, genetics, agronomy, and soil sciences, in addition to dedicated spaces for teaching and industry briefings. This centre’s establishment is the result of a collaborative effort between the New South Wales (NSW) Government, the University of Sydney, Australian Grain Technologies (AGT), Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), and the NSW Wheat Research Foundation.

The NSW Minister for Agriculture officially opened the centre at a ceremony held at the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre, located north of Narrabri. This site is conveniently situated adjacent to the University’s extensive 2000-hectare research farm.

The Minister underscored the pivotal role of the centre in enhancing the resilience of Australian crops, a vital aspect of ensuring future food security. She stated that the establishment of the International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture in Narrabri solidifies NSW’s standing as a renowned hub for pioneering grain research on regional, national, and global scales.

Using cutting-edge facilities, researchers will focus on adapting crops to withstand drought, thereby offering solutions for food security and improving farmers’ productivity. Moreover, the centre will foster collaboration between researchers and growers, facilitating advancements in robotic farming and data-driven agriculture.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sydney stated that the research conducted by the International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture will focus on improving crops’ ability to withstand drought and heat, offering sustainable solutions for food security, and enhancing the productivity of farmers. The University has a longstanding history of pioneering agricultural innovation in Narrabri over the past sixty years and remains dedicated to carrying forward this legacy for the next sixty years and beyond.

The expanded research and educational facilities will also benefit students enrolled in the updated Bachelor of Agricultural Science programme. The Dean of Science highlighted the importance of industry collaboration for future global food security.

The establishment of this centre serves as a genuine testament to the University’s robust collaborations with the local community and the agricultural industry. It is entirely appropriate to pause and acknowledge the University’s achievements in this endeavour. This marks the inception of a new chapter, with the University harbouring ambitious intentions for how the facility will bolster its research efforts.

The Chief Executive of Australian Grains Technology emphasised the significance of expanding research capacity in Narrabri and the role of the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre in agricultural advancement. He stated the University takes pride in its role in supporting this investment in northern Australian agriculture.

This cooperative effort is poised to discover solutions to the issues confronting Australian farmers. AGT is firmly committed to delivering enhanced crop varieties to benefit northern farmers, and the University’s collaboration with fellow researchers at the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre plays a pivotal role in achieving this objective.

The Chair of GRDC noted an additional AU$550,000 investment from GRDC, representing Australian grain growers’ interests, to enhance and expand these crucial research facilities. He expressed gratitude to the NSW Government for recognising the importance of industry-led efforts to improve research capacity in Narrabri.

The Chair of the NSW Wheat Research Foundation celebrated the cutting-edge labs and offices as a significant boost for grains research in regional Australia. He highlighted the research farm’s role in planting over 40,000 irrigated plots annually on Narrabri’s fertile vertosol clay soils.

This establishment serves as a highly appealing magnet for postgraduate scholars, researchers from both domestic and international spheres, as well as industry leaders, all converging in Narrabri with a shared goal of improving crop performance for Australian farmers. The WRF took the lead in initiating this construction endeavour, and there are strategies in place for further cooperative ventures in the times ahead.

The International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture’s realisation was made possible by contributions from various stakeholders, including AU$7.1 million from the NSW Government, AU$1.2 million from the University of Sydney, AU$1.1 million from AGT, AU$550,000 from GRDC, and AU$275,000 from the NSW Wheat Research Foundation.

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