New crop centre tackles modern agriculture challenges


Developing drought tolerant crops and tackling global food security are among the big issues under the microscope at the new International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture at Narrabri.

International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture Narrabri

Located at the IA Watson Grains Research Centre, scientists from University of Sydney are utilising state-of-the-art digital, genetic, agronomy and soil laboratories to tackle some of the largest challenges facing modern agriculture.

“We have a bold mission: to help transform global food security, environmental sustainability and economic resilience,” said University of Sydney Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Emma Johnston.

The research undertaken at the International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture will focus on adapting crops for drought and heat tolerance, providing sustainable food security solutions and boosting the productivity of farmers.

Research into farm productivity will go hand-in-glove with work currently being undertaken on advancements in digital agriculture.

“We have a bold mission: to help transform global food security, environmental sustainability and economic resilience,”University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Emma Johnston.

NSW Wheat Research Foundation Executive Officer Katrina Swift believes the high-tech nature of the research facility will help decentralise research jobs, benefitting all regional NSW.

“I’m really passionate about providing [high-level] careers in regional NSW,” she said.

Ms Swift said by developing robotic technology in the regions, people can have a fantastic career and be challenged by their research.

“In a regional centre we can directly link back to industry and closely collaborate on the ideas of the future,” she said.

While ground-breaking research is set to revolutionise agriculture both domestically and internationally, it’s the chance to attract new families to towns such as Narrabri that has academics on site excited.

“In general, it will bring a lot more research to Narrabri and Northern NSW,” said Acting Farm Manager, University of Sydney Kieran Shephard.

“A lot of researchers bring their entire families here – their kids go to the local schools, partners will work in town, there is a lot more than just bringing a few staff here.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by researcher Dr Rebecca Thistlethwaite.

“When you study at Sydney at the main campus you are not getting that communication with the local growing community in regard to farm innovation,” she said.

“I would really like to see degrees of agriculture completed here, so a student would do their entire four-year degree here in Narrabri then they would go off into the world of agriculture.

“If you give people options to study locally and further their careers then other things come along with that. “

The centre has been delivered by the NSW Government in partnership with the University of Sydney and leading industry bodies Australian Grain Technologies (AGT), Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and NSW Wheat Research Foundation.

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