Around 150 people from across the Waite and beyond attended the inaugural Waite in the Spotlight event on Friday 29 July. The afternoon comprised a series of TEDx-style presentations celebrating the diversity of research at the Waite and exploring how microbes can transform the future of agriculture.

The four speakers were drawn from across the Campus partner organisations and the wide range of research disciplines that are based here. Despite their differences, they also shared common themes around the interactions of plants and the ‘invisible’ organisms that populate our world, our bodies, and the soil. Their talks described how they are harnessing science to provide solutions to the big global challenge of future food security for a growing population in a changing climate.

Dr Caitlin Byrt (University of Adelaide School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology) got things started with an explanation of why biology is the naughty, rule-breaking science.

Dr Gupta Vadakattu (CSIRO Agriculture) then explored the unseen world of soil microbes and how they can be harnessed to help crops thrive in adverse conditions, fight disease and drought. Also from CSIRO Agriculture, Dr Laura Davies gave us in insight into the battle between plants and parasites and how science can help plants come out on top.

The last research speaker on the program was Dr Anthony Borneman who had a rollicking good tale to tell about how the Australian Wine Research Institute got involved in bringing a beer salvaged from a 220 year old shipwreck back to life.

Dr Melanie Bagg from the Australian Science Media Centre was the MC for the event and Professor Göran Roos from the Economic Development Board of SA was a special guest speaker. He gave a great presentation on maximising the economic benefit from agriculture. The afternoon concluded with a chance for the audience to ask all the speakers some questions.

The audience also got involved online with the hashtag #WaiteSpotlight trending on twitter throughout the afternoon. A Storify archive is available at:

Waite in the Spotlight highlighted a small cross-section of the diverse research that happens here at the Waite, presented in an entertaining and informative way. Videos of the presentations will be uploaded to this website in the near future so watch this space!

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