The Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda and its implications for agriculture were the focus of the Ag Institute Australia’s South Australian State Conference held at the Waite Campus last week.
Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel was joined by Mr Rowan Ramsey MP, Federal Member for Grey and the Chair of the recent Inquiry into Agricultural Innovation, Professor Mike Keller, Head of the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and Ms Liza Noonan, Executive Manager Innovation at CSIRO as guest speakers in the morning session.
The audience were provided with an overview of some of the opportunities, benefits and barriers to adoption of innovation and technology in Agriculture. Mr Ramsey stressed that agriculture is a ‘sunrise industry’ – one that is growing fast and expected to be an engine of future economic growth in Australia.
“Farmers need to recognise the value of technology and innovation in Agriculture and be encouraged to invest in their own future,” he said. The need to encourage student recruitment and retention in Agriculture and Ag Science degrees was acknowledged.
Dr Finkel said that although there are limits to the amount of land suitable for agricultural production in Australia, the application of innovative technologies provides “boundless plains” of potential for growth through better yield efficiencies, boosting the economic return on investment and “selling what we know as well as what we grow”.
The need for research organisations to collaborate with industry in order to achieve transformational innovation that has a commercial impact was also emphasised.
Professor Keller (pictured right) outlined how the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine is already working with Industry to bring innovative technologies to agricultural research. This is evident from work-integrated learning and industry placements for students in the School, through to the success of research funding frameworks such as ARC Linkage grants, the CRC Program and other programs to connect researchers with business. The co-location of research and industry partners at the Waite Research Precinct provides an ideal environment for collaborative research that can translate to real-world impact.