Terms of reference released for Murray Darling Basin water market

The Coalition Government has today released terms of reference for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) inquiry into the Murray Darling Basin water market.

The inquiry, which delivers on a Coalition Government election promise, will look at options to improve the transparency and efficiency of the water market.

It will also examine changes in water use, carryover water, trade between water valleys and systems and the effect of water speculators on the market.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that water was the lifeblood of communities in the Murray Darling Basin and it was important that the market operated in a transparent and effective manner.

“As with any market it is important to take a look at how it is performing and whether it is operating as intended and to the benefit of communities who rely on the Basin.”

Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the Government had listened to the concerns of farmers in delivering on this election commitment.

“I promised this thorough inquiry after hearing from farmers as I travelled up and down the Basin,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Farmers told me they had concerns around changes in water use, trade between valleys and the effect speculators have on the water market.

“It’s important to make sure the market is operating as intended – our regional communities depend on it. We need a transparent market in which farmers have timely access to accurate information.

“I invite farmers to participate in this inquiry.”

The Government has asked for an interim report to be delivered early in 2020 with a final report by the end of 2020.

An outline of the terms of reference for the inquiry can be found via the Treasury website.

Drought-induced destocking of beef reaches record levels

Cow turnoff has reached record levels as severe water shortages across many key beef production regions have accelerated the pace of drought-induced destocking, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Cattle Industry Projections August Update.

Cow and heifer slaughter reached 58 per cent of total adult cattle slaughter for three consecutive months from March to May, as many beef producers continue to destock or manage significantly depleted breeding herds.

MLA Senior Market Analyst, Adam Cheetham, said total Australian adult cattle slaughter for 2019 is now forecast to increase three per cent year-on-year to 8.1 million head.

“Elevated female slaughter and poor conditions have combined to drive average carcase weights lower so far this year to 282.5kg/head,” Cheetham said.

“Despite national slaughter being revised higher, the lower carcase weights have underpinned unchanged production levels at an estimated 2.3 million tonnes carcase weight (cwt), two per cent below the five-year average.

“The lot feeding sector continues to support national beef production and has been a critical link in the supply chain during the prolonged dry period. The number of cattle on feed reached a new record in the March 2019 quarter and has remained above the 1.1 million head mark for the fourth consecutive quarter.

“This number is expected to remain high, given the challenges of finishing cattle on limited pasture reserves.”

Cheetham said the national herd is estimated to have declined 7.3 per cent, to 26 million head for the year ending June 2019, while estimated branding rates have also fallen, reducing the number of calves on the ground this season.

“On the upside, prices for finished cattle have improved this year and are likely to find continued support given an expected tightening of supply during the remainder of the year,” Mr Cheetham said.

“This year has seen the largest premium between the heavy steer indicator and the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) in the last decade.

“Young cattle prices have been reasonably subdued and, until seasonal conditions allow restockers to re-enter the market with confidence, the store market is unlikely to see any significant price corrections. However, if a solid break in conditions were to materialise, there is the potential for young cattle and productive female prices to experience significant increases.”

Cheetham said demand for Australian beef has remained robust this year, supported by a depreciating Australian dollar and rising demand from China.

“In the first half of the year, Australia’s total beef exports increased six per cent and grainfed shipments reached record levels. However, coming up against some supply constraints in the second half of the year, 2019 exports are expected to finish the year steady at 1.13 million tonnes shipped weight (swt),” said Cheetham.

“Dry conditions have also supported cattle exports, with total shipments up 19 per cent in the first half of 2019. Cattle shipments are forecast to finish 2019 at 1.15 million head, up six per cent year-on-year.

“Beyond the weather, factors such as exchange rates, production in the United States and cattle price movements, trade developments and demand from China will remain important price drivers for Australian beef.”

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Cattle company serves up carbon neutral beef
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Cattle company serves up carbon neutral beef

One of Australia’s largest and oldest cattle producers has launched one of Australia’s first carbon-neutral beefs.

Five Founders is the first branded beef product to be launched by the North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCo) and has been officially accredited as carbon neutral after meeting the Australian Federal Government’s strict criteria.

NAPCo, which was founded in 1877 and manages approximately 200,000 head of cattle across Queensland and the Northern Territory, undertook a 12-month accreditation process as part of its journey to provide consumers with a unique beef product.

Five Founders will initially be sold in NAPCo’s current markets of Australia, China and Singapore before a staged and measured expansion to other markets.

NAPCo CEO Phil Cummins said the company’s decision to pursue carbon neutrality in its first foray into selling its own cuts was to meet the desires of the modern consumer.

“When we decided to launch our own branded beef product, we studied the market and quickly realised that people increasingly want produce that not only delivers the highest quality eating experience but respects their affinity for environmental and animal care,” he said.

“Consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever and this is especially the case among younger generations such as Millennials, who want confidence they are buying sustainable products.

“NAPCo has always prioritised our animal welfare and environmental practices and embracing carbon neutrality has been a natural progression of this. NAPCo’s care for animals is also demonstrated in our ‘whole-of-life’ advantage as we breed and raise our own cattle, ensuring good health and full traceability within our supply chain.
“Creating such a ground-breaking beef product has been an eye-opening and incredibly rewarding experience for our staff.”

Cummins said the company engaged an independent national carbon and energy management consultancy company to help guide its bid to produce Australia’s first carbon-neutral beef.

“Pangolin and Integrity Ag Consultants were engaged to calculate our carbon footprint through a hybrid lifecycle assessment (LCA) of our herd, which was then combined with estimation of energy-related emissions from the properties and feedlot,” he said.

“A range of improvements on our properties and in our herds has subsequently allowed us to reduce our footprint, including genetic improvements that allow our cattle to breed and be processed at a younger age and thus emit less methane.

“Having made these efforts to reduce our overall footprint, we then purchased carbon credits approved by the Federal Government to offset the remainder.”

Cummins said NAPCo was also committed to conservation activities such as securing land for nature refuge programs and performing carbon sequestration trials.

“We are also looking to trial feed additives that will reduce the amount of methane emitted directly from our cattle,” he said.

“This is the beginning of our carbon journey, not the end, and we will be working to further reduce our footprint.

“NAPCo has prioritised animal welfare and environmental practices for almost 150 years and see it as our duty to find innovative ways to tackle this global challenge.”

Prior to launching Five Founders, NAPCo spent more than a century solely focused on breeding, growing and finishing cattle for both domestic and export markets.

The company manages more than 6.1 million hectares in Queensland and the Northern Territory, along with the award-winning Wainui Feedlot and Farm on the Darling Downs. About 180 people are employed across all aspects of its operations.

NAPCo is owned by a variety of shareholders, including the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) which bought an 80 percent stake in the company in 2016.

Solution for vegan- and plant-based beverages of business

DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences announces the debut of naturally sourced Grindsted Gellan Veg 200 stabiliser, enabling high performance results of plant-based and vegan beverages.

Since 2014, the number of new vegan products increased by 35 per cent, with beverages as one of the highest growing categories globally. With 6 out of 10 U.S. consumers increasing their consumption of plant-based foods and beverages in their daily diet, so called “alternatives” are becoming mainstream.

Dietary preferences shifting towards plant-based options is becoming more prevalent, and personal health is the key driver of change. In the DuPont-sponsored study conducted by HealthFocus, 42 per cent of respondents said that they prefer more plant-based foods in their daily diet and more than half of all consumers said that it “makes me feel healthier.” Also, the environmental component of this dietary shift is not negligible, as three out of four Millennials are willing to spend more on ethical products.

Grindsted Gellan Veg 200 advances plant-based and vegan beverages to fit consumer expectations. Plant-based/vegan claim, health profile, clean label, premium taste and texture are the most desired features of innovative products in this category.

“Produced by bacteria during fermentation of renewable, bio-based raw materials, Gellan VEG 200 is a purely natural solution. It provides excellent stability and particle suspension and minimal contribution to mouthfeel,” said Lise Stouby, senior scientist, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences.

Grindsted Gellan Veg 200 is suitable for a range of plant-sourced raw materials, has low protein reactivity and high performance across a broad pH range. Added directly into the mix, Gellan VEG 200 delivers a stabilizing network throughout the shelf life to maintain a homogenous and stable final product.

“We are proud to launch a product that answers critical manufacturers’ needs ease of formulation and production. Starting today, it’s available worldwide,” said Kirsten Braüner Nygaard, business development manager, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences.

Dept of Agriculture releases webs series on biosecurity

The Department of Agriculture has released ‘Country–Handle with Care’, a biosecurity web series that calls on locals and visitors to do their part to protect Australia from the biosecurity risk of pest and disease.

Speaking at Cairns ECOFiesta, Head of Biosecurity, Lyn O’Connell, said the series features well-known television personalities who share the department’s commitment to biosecurity.

“Biosecurity is everyone’s business and now, more than ever, we must all learn to recognise the key threats as they occur and take action to stop them in their tracks,” O’Connell said.

“Country–Handle with Care shows that we all have a role to play.

“The seven-part series features biosecurity officers, scientists, and our Indigenous Rangers who work on the frontline to help safeguard Australia’s environment, plant, animal and human health against pest and disease risks.

“Our biosecurity champions are supported by family favourites, Costa the Garden Gnome, dirtgirl and scrapboy. It also features horticulturists, farmers, fishers and tourism operators.

“The series tackles a wide range of pest and disease risks, including Asian honey bees, Queensland fruit fly and Asian green mussel, which all pose a significant risk for Australia.

“More importantly it highlights what visitors and locals can do to be better biosecurity aware, such as keeping an eye out and reporting potential biosecurity risks.

“I encourage everyone to get involved and view the web series so we can all do our part to keep Australia healthy and clean.”

Food and agriculture technology and products market – global forecast to 2023

Increase in demand and consumption of livestock-based products and seafood, the rise in consumer awareness about food safety, and demand for agricultural production due to the increasing population are projected to drive the overall growth of the food and agriculture technology and products market, according to the Food & Agriculture Technology and Products Market by Industry And Region – Global Forecast to 2023 report just released.

The global food and agriculture technology and products market size is projected to grow from $708 billion in 2018 to $1.044 trillion by 2023, at a CAGR of 8.1 per cent during the forecast period. The food and agriculture technology and products market is driven by various factors such as an increase in demand and consumption of livestock-based products and seafood, rise in consumer awareness about food safety, governments’ support to adopt modern agricultural techniques, increase in demand for convenience, packaged, and processed food products, and demand for agricultural production due to the increasing population. However, the overall fragmented agriculture industry, lack of coordination between market stakeholders, and improper enforcement of regulatory laws and supporting infrastructure in developing countries are projected to hinder the growth of the market.

The food and beverage processing equipment segment is projected to hold the largest market share in the food and beverage industry for the food and agriculture technology and products market.

The food and beverage processing equipment market is projected to grow, due to the rise in the number of investments by manufacturers in this market, growing food demand, and the growing support by governments. Further, increasing demand for bakery and dairy products and the growth of the beverage industry are also expected to drive the demand for food & beverage processing equipment for faster and more efficient processing.

The aquaculture products segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period in the animal industry for the food and agriculture technology and products market.

The global aquaculture production has grown rapidly during the past decades.The rise in the demand for seafood has led to the expansion of the aquaculture industry.

Several products are being introduced in the market to widen the companies’ consumer base and ensure food security. Innovations in aquaculture technology and the introduction of new species contribute significantly to the growth of the global aquaculture segment.

The Asia Pacific is projected to be the fastest-growing region in the cold chain subindustry for the food and agriculture technology and products market.

The market in Asia Pacific is projected to be fastest-growing, due to the increasing demand for perishable foods in the region.Countries such as India and China lack access to these cold chain requirements and are, therefore, unable to maintain cold chain integrity.

Increasing awareness about the prevention of food wastage before consumption, the growth of the organized retail sector, rising consumer demand for perishable foods, and government support and initiatives indicate the significant growth potential for the cold chain industry in the region. Furthermore, the increasing number of food companies and the introduction of favorable policies by the government across countries are contributing to the development of the refrigerated transport market in the Asia Pacific region by creating their own distribution networks with capable refrigerated transport facilities.

In-depth interviews were conducted with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), marketing directors, food & beverage companies, agricultural products & equipment companies, and executives from various key organizations operating in the food & agriculture technology and products market.
• By Company Type: Tier 1: 18 per cent, Tier 2: 36 per cent, and Tier 3: 46 per cent
• By Designation: C-level: 30 per cent, D-level: 20 per cent, and Managers: 50 per cent
• By Region: North America: 23per cent, Europe: 16 per cent, Asia Pacific: 46 per cent, and RoW: 15 per cent

Research Coverage
The study covers the food & agriculture technology and products market across segments.It aims at estimating the market size and its growth potential across different industries such as animal, agriculture, cold chain, food & beverages, and cannabis, and region.

The study also includes an in-depth competitive analysis of key players in the market, along with their company profiles, key observations related to product and business offerings, recent developments, and key market strategies.ß

Strengthening agricultural innovation

The Coalition Government has begun work to implement the Ernst & Young (EY) report and help agriculture become a $100 billion sector by 2030.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said a roundtable was held last week to engage with government and industry on the report findings and discuss next steps.

“EY examined whether our existing agricultural innovation system was fit for the future and would continue boosting productivity,” Minister Littleproud said.

“The report has been released in full and outlines our strengths and shortcomings, and a vision for the future so we can hit that $100 billion target.

“I commissioned the report and now is the time for action and that’s why we held this roundtable, to get key R&D and innovation leaders to the table and get things moving.

“Participants at the roundtable will take action on the key recommendations from the report.

“This will include concentrating on ground work in the regions to have more farmers adopt AgTech and FoodTech innovations.

“This could help more farmers use all available agricultural data when they make decisions.

“There is agreement we need to improve our innovation system and increase returns on our R&D investment.

“If we keep doing the same thing while our competitors improve then we’re going backwards.

“If we want Australia’s agricultural sector to continue to grow, we need to keep innovating and encourage farmers to adopt all available technology and innovation.”

Agribusiness precinct seen as a game changer

RDA Sydney has welcomed the release of the NSW Government’s Western Sydney Airport Agribusiness Precinct Feasibility Study as a potential game changer for farming in the region.

RDA Chair Dr Rob Lang said the study showed there was enormous potential to capitalise on Western Sydney’s existing world-class peri-urban agriculture sector and to leverage the opportunities arising from the Aerotropolis at Badgerys Creek.

“Western Sydney already produces around $169 million worth of agricultural produce annually and the study shows this could increase to bring in around $2.8 billion and create 14,500 jobs over 10 years,” Lang said.

RDA Sydney has worked closely with both the State and Federal Governments to develop opportunities for agribusiness in greater Sydney.

“Our 2017 study showed the enormous potential of this industry to boost jobs and investment in Western Sydney and to capitalise on the opportunities arising from the Aerotropolis,” Lang said.

“A high-tech agribusiness precinct, adjoining the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, would generate new investment opportunities and deliver long term benefits to businesses seeking to take advantage of the new facilities and proximity to international freight services.”

Primary producers across NSW also welcomed the prospect of an integrated transport system and centralised post-harvest services that would result in better efficiencies and streamlined biosecurity arrangements.

“The proposed 500-hectare greenfield site presents a once in a life time opportunity to construct purpose-built infrastructure, adopt innovative business models and embrace the circular economy,” Lang said “A shift to shared services and commercial collaborations would ensure the sustainable use and reuse of precious resources including water and energy.”

“Centralised data centres and automated climate-controlled environments, key elements of urban intensive food production systems, will require a highly skilled workforce and the whole region will benefit from the creation of an additional 2,500 new high tech jobs and 12, 000 indirect jobs as a result of this precinct, ” Lang said.

Anchor tenants committed to the agribusiness precinct have already been announced and include Sydney Markets Limited and The University of Sydney.  The study notes that new curricula and on the job experience will be needed to ensure the delivery of a flexible multi-disciplinary workforce.

“With Sydney’s second airport due to open in 2026 and construction well underway now is the right time to hit the accelerator and start planning and allocating resources to this important project,” Lang said.

“We would urge the government to expedite the feasibility study and ensure that the Western City and Aerotropolis Authority has the resources required to finalise this study and start implementation as soon as possible.”


Research partnership established for WA grains industry

Western Australia’s grains industry is set to benefit from a $48 million scientific research partnership between the Western Australian government and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

A major new research program will attempt to unlock the potential of WA’s grainbelt soils and exploratory projects to boost oat, canola, lupin and pulse production and value for WA growers.

The WA government has committed $25 million over five years for the WA-based projects led by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s research arm.

The funding commitment includes $22 million to overcome soil constraints and develop transformational soil technologies.

A further $3 million will help examine new opportunities for the WA grains industry, including a fresh approach to matching genetics for early sowing opportunities for oats, canola and lupins in key environments.

“Scientific research is key to helping our growers change and adapt to produce better crops, increase productivity and export competitiveness, and in turn support our regional economies and communities,” said Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan.

“This industry is hungry for technology to address Western Australia’s unique conditions and market challenges while striving for record growth like this season’s impressive 17.9 million tonne harvest – our second biggest crop ever.”

The six projects include:

  • Re-engineering soils to improve water and nutrient flow to crops;
  • Increasing farming system profitability and the longevity of benefits following soil amelioration;
  • Increased grower profitability on soils with sodicity or transient salinity in the eastern grainbelt;
  • Optimising yield and expanding the area of high-value pulses – lentil, faba bean and chickpea – in Western Australia;
  • Evaluating milling oat varieties and optimising profitability from early-sown oats; and
  • Expanding the sowing window for canola and lupins.

Western Australia’s grains industry is estimated to have injected $7 billion into the WA economy this season, by far the state’s biggest agricultural export and underpinning many rural and regional communities.

Innovative ideas to boost regional economies recognised

Three Victorian finalists have been announced for the 2019 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, which is to be announced in March in recognition of ideas to support Australia’s rural and regional communities.

The award recognises Australian women that use and develop their skills to benefit their industries and communities, including Victoria’s $14 billion agriculture sector.

This year’s finalists include:

  • Carly Jordan, from south west Victoria, who wants to continue developing a migrant resettlement model that assists regional towns to boost their populations and economies.
  • Claire Moore, from Kyneton, who wants to breed a genetically diverse range of queen bees that are healthy and adaptable in a variety of climates to address declining bee colony numbers.
  • Odette Suitor, from Sunbury, who wants to continue developing a grains storage concept to improve the efficiency of grain harvest by taking the concept to industry.

The Victorian winner will be announced at an upcoming ceremony and will receive a bursary of $10,000 to implement her project. The national winner will be announced at an award ceremony in Canberra held on 11 September 2019.

“Victorian rural women are at the forefront of innovation and I congratulate our three finalists who I know will do our state proud,” said state agriculture minister, Jaclyn Symes.

“The Andrews Labor Government is focused on the positive future of women in rural communities and we’re getting on with driving growth in agriculture, creating jobs and supporting the health and wellbeing of our overall regional and rural communities.”

Australian walnuts to be sold into India

Australian walnut farmers will now be able to sell into the Indian market following the signing of a market access agreement between the two countries.
Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said he was thrilled Australia’s walnut growers now had access to India and its 1.4 billion people.
“Many Australians don’t realise a scientific market access agreement is often the hardest part of getting access to a new market,” Littleproud said.
“Getting scientists from two countries to agree on how to stop any threat of diseases or pests being exported from one country to another can be very difficult.”
Littleproud said that the government spoke to industry through the Hort Innovation Australia prioritisation process. Walnut market access was nominated as a key priority.
“Since then our agriculture counsellor in India has worked with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the walnut industry to get this access,” Littleproud said.
“Agricultural counsellors win trade outcomes and that is why we boosted the number of counsellors we have in key markets in the 2017-18 budget.”
The minister said that, with India already a large export market for Australian almonds, there was huge potential for our other nuts to be exported there also. Australia exported over $22.5 million worth of walnuts around the world in 2017-18.
“Around 1.4 billion people live in India – more than 50 times the number of people in Australia – so it’s a huge market we’ve accessed for our walnut growers.”
Trade can formally commence once the import conditions are officially gazetted by India. In the interim, 10 trial shipments of walnuts can be sent to India.

Study establishes new method of developing disease-resistance in crops

Researchers have pioneered a new method to rapidly recruit disease-resistance genes from wild plants for transfer into domestic crops, a technique which could revolutionise the development of disease-resistant varieties for the global food supply.

The technique called AgRenSeq was developed by scientists at the John Innes Centre in Britain working with colleagues in Australia and the US. The research has been published in Nature Biotechnology.

The result speeds up the fight against pathogens that threaten global food crops, including wheat, soyabean, maize, rice and potato, which form the vast bulk of cereals in the human diet.

Professor Harbans Bariana from the Sydney Institute of Agriculture and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences is a global expert in cereal rust genetics and a co-author of the paper.

“This technology will underpin fast-tracked discovery and characterization of new sources of disease resistance in plants,” Bariana said.

The current research builds on previous collaborative work done by Professor Bariana with the CSIRO and the John Innes Centre. It used two wheat genes cloned by this international team as controls and Professor Bariana conducted the phenotype assessments for the study.

AgRenSeq lets researchers search a library of resistance genes discovered in wild relatives of modern crops so they can rapidly identify sequences associated with disease fighting capability.

From there researchers can use laboratory techniques to clone the genes and introduce them into elite varieties of domestic crops to protect them against pathogens and pests such as rusts, powdery mildew and Hessian fly.

Dr Brande Wulff, a crop genetics project leader at the John Innes Centre and a lead author of the study, said they had found a way to scan the genome of a wild relative of a crop plant and pick out the resistance genes needed in record time.

“This used to be a process that took 10 or 15 years and was like searching for a needle in a haystack,” Wulff said.

“We have perfected the method so that we can clone these genes in a matter of months and for just thousands of dollars instead of millions.”

The research reveals that AgRenSeq has been successfully trialled in a wild relative of wheat – with researchers identifying and cloning four resistance genes for the devastating stem rust pathogen in the space of months. This process would easily take a decade using conventional means.

The work in wild wheat is being used as a proof of concept, preparing the way for the method to be utilised in protecting many crops which have wild relatives including, soyabean, pea, cotton, maize, potato, wheat, barley, rice, banana and cocoa.

Modern elite crops have, in the search for higher yields and other desirable agronomic traits, lost a lot of genetic diversity especially for disease resistance.

Reintroducing disease resistance genes from wild relatives is an economic and environmentally sustainable approach to breeding more resilient crops. However, introgression of these genes into crops is a laborious process using traditional breeding methods.

The new method combines high-throughput DNA sequencing with state-of-the-art bioinformatics.

“What we have now is a library of disease resistance genes and we have developed an algorithm that enables researchers to quickly scan that library and find functional resistance genes,” said Dr Sanu Arora, the first author of the paper from the John Innes Centre.

Wulff said that the study’s results demonstrate that AgRenSeq is a robust protocol for rapidly discovering resistance genes from a genetically diverse panel of a wild crop relative.

“If we have an epidemic, we can go to our library and inoculate that pathogen across our diversity panel and pick out the resistance genes,” he said.

“Using speed cloning and speed breeding we could deliver resistance genes into elite varieties within a couple of years, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.”

Support workshops to help with flash flood recovery for Victorian farms

A series of Agriculture Victoria workshops will be held in March, targeted at supporting producers recovering from the December flash flooding and ongoing dry conditions.

Two workshops will be held in March in collaboration with the North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA).

In addition, farmers can contact Agriculture Victoria if they would like to engage in a free one on one consultation to assist in planning for the months ahead.

State agriculture minister Jaclyn Symes said that the Victorian government was encouraging farmers to attend.

“We recognise the significant impact the December flood had on many landholders in Northern Victoria and that’s why Agriculture Victoria has been on the ground from day one, supporting farmers and the community to recover from the flooding,” Symes said.

“In addition to these workshops, Agriculture Victoria is also offering affected farm businesses a one-on-one consultation to assist them to manage the impacts of the flash flooding and continuing dry seasonal conditions.”

Topic experts will present at the workshops on farm water planning and management, planning on-farm fodder production, livestock nutritional requirements and feed budgeting through 2019.

The first workshop will focus on options for farm water management and will be held at Rutherglen on Monday 4 March.

The second workshop will focus on options for fodder production, livestock nutritional requirements, feed budgeting and planning ahead for the Autumn break.

The second workshop will be held in the flood impacted area at Tarrawingee on Monday 18 March.

The Victorian government is currently offering On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants of up to $5,000 to producers within Northern Victoria, including the shires impacted by the December flooding, to improve drought management and preparedness.

Assistance was made available to flood impacted farmers and the community through a range of mechanisms including Emergency Relief Assistance Payments, which provide up to $540 per adult and $270 per child (up to a maximum of $1,890 per eligible household) to help meet immediate needs, including emergency food, shelter, clothing, and personal items.

ANU research uses satellite data to predict drought

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have used new space technology to predict droughts and increased bushfire risk up to five months in advance.

The ANU researchers used data from multiple satellites to measure water below the Earth’s surface with unprecedented precision, and were able to relate this to drought impacts on the vegetation several months later. The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Siyuan Tian from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences said the team knew they needed to move into space to get closer to understanding the complex nature of drought.

“The way these satellites measure the presence of water on Earth is mind boggling,” Tian said.

“We’ve been able to use them to detect variations in water availability that affect the growth and condition of grazing land, dryland crops and forests, and that can lead to increased fire risk and farming problems several months down the track.”

Co-researcher Professor Albert van Dijk from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society said combining these data with a computer model simulating the water cycle and plant growth enabled the team to build a detailed picture of the water’s distribution below the surface and likely impacts on the vegetation months later.

“We have always looked up at the sky to predict droughts – but not with too much success,” van Dijk said.

“This new approach – by looking down from space and underground – opens up possibilities to prepare for drought with greater certainty. It will increase the amount of time available to manage the dire impacts of drought, such as bushfires and livestock losses.”

The drought forecasts will be combined with the latest satellite maps of vegetation flammability from the Australian Flammability Monitoring System at ANU to predict how the risk of uncontrollable bushfires will change over the coming months.

The team used the GRACE Follow-On satellites, which were developed by American, German and Australian scientists. ANU Professor Daniel Shaddock led the Australian team.

Dr Paul Tregoning from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences said the GRACE space gravity mission provided a measurement of changes in total water storage anywhere on Earth for the first time.

“Combined with measurements of surface water and top soil moisture from other satellites, this provides the ability to know how much water is available at different depths below the soil,” he said.

“What is innovative and exciting about our work is that we have been able to quantify the available water more accurately than ever before. This leads to more accurate forecasts of vegetation state, as much as five months in advance.”

Planning starts for global agricultural science hub in Sydney

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the University of Sydney are building a new alliance to create a global hub for veterinary science, agriculture and soil research, agribusiness and training at the historic Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute in south-west Sydney.

A formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organisations will be signed to guide discussions around options to relocate the University of Sydney’s current facilities at Cobbitty onto land at DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, near Menangle.

DPI’s Director General, Scott Hansen said talks will begin early next year about the prospective alliance that would supercharge the state’s ability to manage agricultural pests and diseases, train students and deepen our world-class understanding of veterinary and agricutlural science.

“The two organisations have an opportunity to cement a research and teaching partnership that would bring together some of the world’s best researchers in plant and animal science,” Mr Hansen said.

“DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute is a world-renowned plant and animal biosecurity facility, serviced by internationally recognised scientists,” Hansen said.

“The University of Sydney’s educational excellence combined with research from the School of Veterinary Science, its animal breeding program and its cereal rust laboratory, are globally renowned.

“An alliance that leverages the combined strengths of these two world-leading organisations has the potential to deliver outcomes with impacts felt not just here in NSW but right around the world.”

The Dean of Science at the University of Sydney, Professor Iain Young, said the partnership would lead to new and sustainable capabilities in animal, soil and plant science, supporting innovative academic activity, enhanced public service delivery and deeper industry links.

“Our agricultural and veterinary scientists are already among the best in the world. Working together with DPI at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute can only help improve and amplify the world-class research we are doing at Camden,” Professor Young said.

“We expect this alliance will allow us to take our science to even higher levels, combining our strengths in agricultural science with the University’s engineering, artificial intelligence and robotics expertise to develop globally significant research to support agribusiness, human health and welfare.”

The relocation would provide enhanced laboratory facilities, improve infrastructure, expand education facilities, provide improved access to public transport and increase availability of experienced staff required to respond to any emergency disease events.

Drone pilots trained for agricultural productivity

Eight pilots have successfully passed their drone flight training in Tunisia following a two-week intensive training period organised by the Ministry of Agriculture of Tunisia, the African Development Bank and Busan Techno Park.

The training  focused on handling, maintenance and the security aspects of flying drones. The eight were the first batch out of 40 candidates selected for the exercise, which envisages training a total of 400 young Tunisians by 2021.

The project will also see the setting up of a training centre equipped with training drones, as well as computer simulation tools for drone control. This centre is expected to be upgraded to a centre of excellence in drone technology. The training also focused on promoting drone-centered activities in Tunisia in view of promoting efficiency and effectiveness.

“It is very good training. I want to share my experience. I would like to participate in this project and contribute for the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in my country Tunisia and my region, Africa,” said Lazhar Meskine, an air traffic management engineer, who was among the trainees.

After accumulating 20 hours of flight time and passing the practical flight, they obtained a “Drone Pilot Certificate” recognised by the Tunisian government. The four best trainees from this first batch will undergo further training for eight weeks to accumulate 100 hours of flight time. This will make them eligible to take the certification examination and qualify as drone pilot trainers.

The participants were enthusiastic about the training.

“I have also learned many things through Tunisian trainees. It gives us a great chance to understand the local situation for further projects by using drone technologies,” their instructor, Yong-ju Seo, added.

The pilot project on the use of drones for agricultural development projects in the Sidi Bouzid regionis financed by a grant from the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation, under the management of the African Development Bank and Busan Techno Park. Busan Techno Park has already tested the drones for efficacy in managing similar urban projects.

Bumper harvest for rural jobs as agriculture sector ploughs ahead

Queensland’s agriculture sector is growing jobs as well as sugar cane, chickpeas and avocados.

Despite the drought affecting large parts of the state, there’s been a rich harvest of new employment opportunities in agriculture, forestry and fishing in the past 12 months.

Agriculture minister Mark Furner said the sector had created 10,500 new jobs between June 2017 and June 2018.

“The latest Labour Force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows primary production in Queensland continues to do much more than put food on our plates,” said Furner.

READ: Sheep and cattle slaughter increases to reduce stock numbers during drought

“The new high growth crop for Queensland’s farms is jobs and that’s because our producers and food sector businesses are working hard to take advantage of new opportunities. It is also because the programs put in place by the Palaszczuk government are working,” he said.

Creating jobs for Queenslanders was the government’s highest priority.

“Our produce has a fantastic reputation for quality and reliability both at home and abroad. That is why it is in demand and our farmers are meeting that demand,” said Furner.

The agriculture industry continued to grow on the back of technological advances and the courting of expanding Asian export markets, he said.

“The Palaszczuk government has invested tens of millions of dollars to ensure the produce we send overseas is not only of the highest quality but is also tailored to specific regional tastes, whether that be in markets in Japan or supermarket shelves in Indonesia,” he said.

“We have also continued to support the Queensland Agriculture Workers Network (QAWN) and Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance to support and facilitate employment opportunities for people in rural and regional parts of the state.

“In this year’s budget more than $3 million was allocated to these programs to continue the good work being done in this area,” said Furner.

Carl Walker, president of Bowen Gumlu Growers Association and owner of Phantom Produce, said QAWN was playing an important role in helping producers to expand their workforces.

It assisted growers in the North Queensland region to connect with the available employment and training initiatives, he said.

“As farmers we are able to go about our core business of growing fruit and vegetables, QAWN provides us with an essential information resource to help us to attract and employ people with the right skills and attributes at all stages of the season,” said Walker.

Workshops across Australia aim to help growers with pest and disease management

A series of free workshops to be held across Australia in August and September will give growers help with pest and disease management.

They will have the opportunity to hear from leading entomologists on how they can use integrated pest and disease management to help maintain orchard health and viability.

The nine workshops will focus on pests and diseases affecting local orchards in each state, including control measures and chemical interactions.

The workshops form part of a pest, disease and weed management program for the Australian apple and pear industry, which is a levy-funded project delivered under the management of Agriculture Victoria entomologist, David Williams.

READ: Hybrid mega-pest threatening global food crops

Williams is recognised nationally and internationally for expertise in integrated pest and disease management development and adoption.

Williams will be the key speaker at the nine workshops being held around Australia in August and September.

He will be joined by Australian experts and fellow entomologist, Christopher Adams, from Michigan State University.

The free workshops start on the 21st of August in Tatura, Victoria and on the 22nd of August in Bundoora.

There will also be workshops in Tasmania, SA, WA, NSW and Queensland.

Orchardists will hear case studies of successful initiatives and be guided through a process of developing their individual integrated pest and disease management plans for the coming season.

Participants will also have an opportunity to identify a local pest or disease management issue for further study.

The workshops are part of a project funded by Hort Innovation using the Apple and Pear research and development levy and funds from the Australian Government.

The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources is delivering the project in collaboration with Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Western Australia Primary Industries and Regional Development, Tasmania’s Institute of Agriculture; and Lenswood Cooperative.

Global search underway for Internet of Things trials in Victoria

 The Victorian government has begun a global search to find cutting-edge AgTech to support its on-farm Internet of Things (IoT) trial.

The search began on the 3rd of August, as part of the government’s $27-million investment in digital agriculture.

It will investigate issues from network connectivity through to on-farm IoT applications.

Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford said AgTech was the next revolution in farming.

READ: Internet of Things changes the way trade services operate

“We’re proud to the lead the way, giving Victorian farmers the best tools available to capitalise on the world stage,” she said.

“Agtech, including IoT, has the capacity to change the agricultural landscape for decades to come – so we’re doing the research on the ground to ensure it can deliver the results it promises for Victorians.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for farmers and agtech providers to get down to the nitty-gritty of what works and what doesn’t, breaking down barriers such as a lack of connectivity, skills and capital to invest,” said Pulford.

The government has asked companies to submit tenders to build IoT networks that will enable farmers to participate in the trial, which will cover Victoria’s major agricultural sectors of dairy, horticulture, meat production and broad-acre cropping.

Tenders are being sought for the establishment of IoT networks for each of the four trial regions – around Maffra, Tatura, Serpentine and Birchip – to provide the connectivity needed to enable the use of on-farm IoT solutions.

Soon, agriculture IoT providers will be able to submit proposals to supply applications and devices for the four farm types included in the trial.

Farmers participating in the trial will be able to select IoT solutions to trial on their farm, with financial support from Agriculture Victoria.

The IoT solutions used in the trial will help farmers make more informed decisions and improve farm performance by providing greater information through monitoring of farm variables.

The trial part of the government’s Connecting Victoria initiative, which is ensuring regional communities are digitally connected through free public WiFi pilots, new towers to fix mobile blackspots and the $45m connecting regional communities program to address regional priorities.


Western Australian government pours money into dairy industry

The government of Western Australia is backing the dairy industry by providing $200,000 to help strengthen and grow WA.

It is hoped funding will attract co-investment in dairy research and development to capture milk processing and export opportunities.

Agriculture and food minister Alannah MacTiernan announced the new funding to support local research and development over the next two years.

“This funding will give our dairy farmers access to targeted technical and scientific support to continue adapting to the ongoing demands of the milk market,” she said.

READ: Corangamite Shire’s agribusiness sector gets funding boost from government

The investment will enable Western Dairy, industry’s independent research and development arm, to build on its achievements since its inception three years ago.

The organisation has successfully established a research, development and extension hub to focus on local production challenges and opportunities, guided by the industry.

The state government’s contribution will enable Western Dairy to attract co-investment from industry partners to add value to projects that increase profitability and build a long-term sustainable industry.

“We’re seeing positive developments in the WA dairy industry in the milk processing and export sectors, and it is important that industry is able to capitalise on these and other opportunities,” said MacTiernan.

“Western Dairy has played a pivotal role in supporting producers with business improvement through its dairy farm monitor program, as well as exploring pasture solutions to address the challenge of the seasonal feed gap.”

The WA dairy industry had demonstrated its resilience and capacity to embrace change and opportunities to provide Australian and international consumers with safe, high quality milk, said MacTiernan.

The Victorian state government also invested $260,000 in the agribusiness sector recently.

Corangamite Shire’s got more funding to boost the productivity farm businesses and their supply chains.

The investment is part of the Local Roads to Market program.