Go to top of page

Arena 2 - National Challenges and Opportunities

National Challenges and Opportunities

Goal

To identify and nurture research and innovation opportunities that are synergistic across rural sectors.

Australian rural industries are faced with challenges and opportunities that are both industry-specific and common across rural sectors. Beyond the commodity level, our rural industries require leadership to identify and respond to national rural issues and enhance shared benefits.

Unlike other RDCs that represent one or a few similar industries, AgriFutures Australia manages RD&E for a diverse portfolio of plant and animal industries. As such, it is uniquely placed to assist Australian rural industries to prioritise and drive cross-sectoral RD&E.

AgriFutures Australia brokers partnerships, facilitates priority setting and provides advice to strengthen the national agricultural research and innovation effort. It also complements individual industry RD&E by investing in research of cross-sectoral value, in areas such as climate change, natural resource management, and safety and welfare.

Outcome

Challenges and opportunities that are common across rural industries are identified and addressed.
Research programs

National Rural Issues:
evokeAG.
growAG.
extensionAUS
Farmers2Farmers
Bridge Hub
Nationally coordinated initiatives:

  The Climate Research Strategy for Primary Industries
  The Rural Health and Safety Alliance
  Improved seasonal forecasting
  Biocontrol of weeds
  Securing pollination
  Australian biomass and bioenergy assessment

Total program expenses 2017-18: $1,488,438

Total program expenses 2018-19: $1,539,643

Total program expenses 2019-20: $2,293,001

National Rural Issues

Highlights and achievements

1. The Changing Landscape of Protein Production: Opportunities and challenges for Australian agriculture study was instrumental in providing industry and government with credible information on the implications for Australian agriculture in response to opportunities and challenges of an emerging market for alternative proteins in the coming decade.

2. Farmers2Founders (F2F): AgriFutures partnered in a pilot F2F program which aimed to attract and develop proactive, innovative Australian primary producers looking to grow and transform their businesses through cutting edge innovation and adoption of new technologies. Key initiatives delivered through the program included: 16 workshops (400 participants), two Pre-Accelerator Program (24 participants), Business Growth Bootcamp Program (8 producer-led teams) and the Early Adopter Program (10 businesses engaged). This partnership has supported producer-led innovations, increased digital literacy across the sector and supported businesses to deliver quality new products to market.

3. Agriculture – a $100b sector by 2030? In 2017, the National Farmers’ Federation announced a bold vision for the industry to achieve $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030. This report provided an estimate of the current growth trajectory of Australia’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries and identified the growth opportunities and downside risks to achieve the target. It informed the prioritisation of investment decisions that will have the greatest impact. It was led by AgriFutures Australia in partnership with Rural Research and Development Corporations.

Summary of program

The National Rural Issues Program invests in research to inform national policy development and debate on issues important to rural industries. This includes taking leadership on research where there may be cross-sectoral and national interests. The Program delivered a range of research supporting policy and national decision making by government and industry. These included engagement with groups such as the National Farmers’ Federation, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, state governments and other Rural Research Development Corporations. Strong stakeholder engagement and involvement in these research projects has helped identify key policy knowledge gaps and ensure that research outputs are relevant, practical and able to be used by decision makers.

Priorities

1. Informing debate on issues of importance to rural industries

The Program delivered projects and reports across a range of cross-sectoral issues including freight, trade, health and safety, emerging technologies and agricultural technology. The Program also delivered collaborative research corporation activities and initiatives in agricultural and veterinary chemicals, community trust and rural health and safety.

The results from research reports and other projects undertaken as part of the National Rural Issues Program have contributed to industry and government policy discussion and debate on cross-sectoral issues influencing the sustainability and profitability of Australia’s agricultural sector.

This work has also informed the future development of the sector, particularly in projects that have identified opportunities for continued growth as well as horizon scans, which have been key to spotting emerging industry and technology trends early and evaluating the potential impact and benefits for Australian agriculture.

2. Adapting new technologies for use across rural industries

Emerging technologies are changing the way agricultural products are made, marketed and transported. Advances in genetics, sensory systems, the Internet of Things, device connectivity and remote sensing, automation, and food traceability all disrupt the supply chain. In 2019-20 AgriFutures Australia is realising the benefits these new technologies present. Refer to evokeAG., growAG. and Bridge Hub.

3. Working collaboratively on issues common across rural sectors

Many issues impact more than one rural industry. For example, succession planning, climate forecasting and managing the impact of climate; pollination services; extension and adoption; biosecurity; and animal welfare are all issues that impact more than one sector. Collaboration and information sharing is essential.

In 2019-20 AgriFutures Australia has continued to partner, facilitate priority setting and provide advice to strengthen the national agricultural research and innovation effort. Refer to Farmers2Founders and extensionAUS.

Deliverables for 2019-20

In 2019-20, AgriFutures Australia delivered:

  Twelve studies on issues of national significance to rural industries and distributed to key stakeholders through media releases and publications.

  Positive collaboration between Research and Development Corporations, Government, industry and the commercial sector in cross-sectoral investment initiatives that positively impact the rural sector.

  Delivered evokeAG. an international agricultural technology forum to lift the prosperity of Australian agrifood industries that engaged people and business to share ideas and connect.

Studies of national significance

Of the 12 studies, two were collaboratively funded during 2019-20 with engagement from eight RDCs and the National Farmers’ Federation. A further four of the 12 were developed with significant in-kind RDC contributions. Cross-sectoral work was initiated through the Emerging National Rural Issues Forum, a meeting of all the RDCs, the National Farmers’ Federation and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to identify and discuss cross-sectoral projects for collaborative action.

Now in its third year, 69 project ideas have been raised through the Forum of which 44 projects and initiatives have been delivered. The Forum is also a useful vehicle for supporting direction setting for the sector in helping identify cross-sectoral opportunities and threats. Examples of collaborative projects initiated through the forum process and delivered in 2019-20 include: Agriculture – A $100bn sector by 2030, Improving carbon markets to increase farmers participation, the changing landscape of protein production and the Joint-RDC Community Trust Program.

Positive collaboration

In 2019-20, AgriFutures Australia engaged with all 15 RDCs, including the Council of Research and Development Corporations, to deliver five projects, conduct three and cofund an additional three Rural R&D for Profit Program projects.

In 2019-20, the Rural Safety and Health Alliance (RSHA) continued to deliver improved health and safety outcomes for the rural sector in partnership with nine participating RDCs. The Alliance began to develop activities and investments in a range of initiatives that benefit Australia’s health and safety record for agriculture and fishing industries. An example of three projects initiated throughout the year include in communications, data and cross-industry death and injury risk comparisons.

Year one of the three-year Joint-RDC Community Trust program was delivered. Over 200 industry members were consulted on the results and many industry conversations have been initiated. In total, 6461 people participated in the national trust survey, which provides a roadmap for industry to develop capability across the sector to monitor, anticipate and respond to shifts in the levels of trust, build a common language and collective national narrative around the community trust challenge and identify common best practice approaches, strategies and interventions for building, rebuilding and maintaining community trust.

While AgriFutures Australia leads and supports a number of cross-sectoral, joint-RDC projects and programs, including three Rural Research and Development for Profit (RR&D4P) programs, it participates in other RDC initiatives including the Forewarned is Forearmed RR&D4P project led by Meat and Livestock Australia, and the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative managed by Horticulture Australia Limited.

In 2019-20, AgriFutures Australia also partnered with other organisations, including the Food Agility CRC, Farmers2Founders and Bridge Hub, on projects outside of the RDCs.

Informing debate on issues of importance to rural issues

Projects completed in 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

PRJ-012020

International agricultural subsidies and their impact on Australian agriculture

This work provides an understanding of the current state of play with regard to agricultural subsidies paid by major agricultural exporting countries to their domestic producers and provides an analysis of the extent to which those subsidies are impacting Australian agricultural producers. This information will arm industries with information to inform their input into trade policy debate and discussions.

PRJ-011998

Provenance

Storytelling Guidebook

This is a decision-making guide to assist small to medium businesses to determine how and where to tell their provenance stories, taking into account their target market and audiences as well as their level of expertise and available resources.

Consumer trends, technologies and platforms

This resource was developed to help producers understand why consumers are interested in provenance stories and the technologies and platforms that are available to help communicate them. Short case studies help illustrate how the technologies have been used by producers to support their provenance stories.

Provenance and Storytelling case studies

  Case study 1: Candy Abalone

  Case study 2: Pure Gold Pineapples

  Case study 3: OBE Organics

  Case study 4: Australian Wool Network

  Case study 5: Paris Creek Farms

  Case study 6: Tasmanian Truffles

This is a tool kit of templates for individual businesses to construct their provenance stories and determine impact from communications. Often producers get overwhelmed with the options available, the templates help businesses plan and deliver on their provenance story.

PRJ-012063

The Changing Landscape of Protein Production: Opportunities and challenges for Australian agriculture

This study focuses on the implications for Australian agriculture of the opportunities and challenges of an emerging market for alternative (i.e. non-traditional) proteins in the coming decade.

PRJ-011297

Best practice land

use planning

The project examined various challenges that arise from the current land use planning frameworks to inform a more comprehensive discussion across Australian jurisdictions on best practice approaches that recognise the long-term strategic value of agriculture. The aim being to inform future improvements to land use planning that caters for future food and fibre production.

PRJ-011482

Agriculture – a $100b sector by 2030?

This analysis showed an estimated shortfall of $15.7b based on the current growth trajectory of the sector. This report was used to help inform and prioritise investment decisions in areas that will likely have the greatest impact.

Adapting new technologies for use across rural industries

Projects completed in 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

PRJ-011108

Horizon Scanning Opportunities for New Technologies and Industries

This report is the culmination of two years’ work by the Queensland University of Technology, uncovering 39 unique emerging technologies with potential for game-changing impact on Australia’s rural industries. Many of the emerging technologies showcased have been identified by industry experts as having significant commercial impact and transferability from overseas or non-agricultural domains for use on Australian farms or within the agricultural value chain.

PRJ-011294

Improving Carbon Markets to Increase Farmer Participation

This report presents an analysis of the opportunities for Australian agricultural producers to participate in carbon markets and the barriers that are preventing these opportunities from being realised. The report also provides recommendations on the policy measures that can be used to mitigate these barriers so as to increase and diversify agricultural participation in carbon markets.

PRJ-011666

Farmers2Founders

The pilot year of the program concluded in 2019-20. The aim of the initiative is to attract and develop proactive, innovative Australian primary producers looking to grow and transform their businesses through cutting edge innovation and adoption of new technologies.

Working collaboratively on issues common across rural sectors

Projects completed in 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

PRJ-012006

Non-intentional Farm Related Incidents in Australia 2019

This work traces the non-intentional death and injury statistics over the 12 months from January to December 2019. The report highlights the greatest risk areas and tracks changes over time. This information is critical to understanding where the risks for Australian farmers lie and whether efforts to ameliorate these risks are working.

PRJ-012006

Non-intentional Farm Related Incidents in Australia 2019

mid-year report

This six-monthly update provides a snapshot of the on-farm death and injury statistics from 1 January to 30 June 2019.

PRJ-011336

Integrating NRM with Industry-Led Sustainability

This report examines and builds the evidence base on the integration of the activities of the NRM regional bodies with industry-led sustainability initiatives and identifies those areas of common value. The report also aimed to identify potential policy and program settings to facilitate and encourage greater collaboration and integration for those common values.

Rural Safety and Health Alliance

The Rural Safety and Health Alliance is a partnership of nine Rural Research and Development Corporations and aims to generate positive change in Australia’s rural industry’s work health and safety performance.

Joint-RDC Community Trust Program: Trust

AgriFutures Australia works with 11 RDCs, the National Farmers’ Federation and NSW Department of Primary Industries on a program to build, rebuild and maintain community trust in the Australian agriculture sector. This work contributes to a national narrative around community trust at a whole-of-sector scale. The Program will provide industry with access to a suite of practical tools and products designed to facilitate understanding of, and engagement in, monitoring, anticipating and responding to shifts in the levels of trust the community has in Australia’s rural industries. The first round of reporting was undertaken in 2019-20 with over 200 industry stakeholders consulted on the findings.

PRJ-010722

AgVet Chemical Projects

23 agvet chemical projects in 2019-20 are being managed on behalf of AgriFutures’ levied and emerging industries, including truffles, ginger, plantago, chicken meat, pasture seed, hemp, quinoa, rice, lucerne seed, cocoa, green tea, hazelnuts and tea tree. Over a four-year period, data will be generated to support a permit or label registration of chemicals to address industry priority pests and diseases.

Bridge Hub

Bridge Hub was established in 2018 and is an agrifood tech innovation hub that is passionate about the positive and sustainable impact research and technology can have on the Australian agricultural and food sectors. Bridge Hub has developed global linkages to help drive the development of the Australian agrifood tech sector. It partners with Australian agrifood researchers and startups to commercialise their activities in order to scale globally (Launch Pad) and connects global agrifood tech startups to Australian testbed opportunities (Landing Pad).

2019-20 has been an extremely busy year, notwithstanding COVID-19 as the Australian agrifood tech sector continues to gain traction. Here is a brief summary of the key Bridge Hub activities.

Launch Pad Activities:

Bridge Hub has conducted due diligence on more than fifty investment opportunities during 2019-20. In February “we” welcomed Agronomeye (www.agronomeye.com.au) as the first company to join the Bridge Hub Launch Pad. Agronomeye is developing water mapping technology which will provide material benefits to farmers and the environment. We have been working closely with the Agronomeye team to help build traction in Australia, the development of their business model and supporting them with their capital raising activities.

Landing Pad activities:

Throughout 2019/20 Bridge Hub continued to undertake trials in Australia of a number of Israeli agrifood tech companies. Some of these technologies were water related, including CropX, N Drip and Tal Ya. These companies are all doing groundbreaking work in their quest to reduce the amount of water we need to use in our food production.

Water Challenge:

The Bridge Hub Water Challenge was launched during the year and its purpose is to uncover the best and brightest research, the most innovative ideas and the best startups that positively impact water sustainability within our agrisystem. It has the bold aim of trying to drought proof our agrisystem by being smarter with our water.

The Challenge was introduced during evokeAG. 2020 via the Bridge Hub Challenge Wall which was used to identify and gather all of the water related problems we are faced with across the agri system. Prizes and investment opportunities for the best solutions to our water problems are on offer to Australian, New Zealand and Israeli researchers, startups and students and winners will be announced in September/October 2020.

Ecosystem Development:

Bridge Hub is playing an active role in the development of the Australian agrifood tech sector. The approach is focused on growing the size of the market and the deal flow. Part of that engagement included Bridge Hub being involved in the creation of AusAgritech (www.ausagritech.org) in February 2020 and the establishment of the ANZ Agritech Council (https://www.anzagritech.org/) in September 2019.

evokeAG

The activities of Bridge Hub closely align with the goals of evokeAG.. As such, Bridge Hub continued its active involvement in evokeAG. during 2019/20. It hosted the International Delegate Reception in collaboration with Callaghan Innovations and AgriFutures Australia. In addition to the Water Challenge Wall, Bridge Hub assisted AgriFutures Australia in designing and hosting the evokeAG. startup program and assisted with the identification of appropriate speakers and investors to invite to the event.

evokeAG. and growAG.

Highlights and achievements

1. Doubling the size of Startup Alley in 2020 and focusing on attracting both investors and farmers to the event, resulted in a platform for local and international innovators to showcase their ideas in front of a global audience. 100% of startups who participated in the event rated the overall experience as very high (94%) or high.

2. Across the two days and 29 sessions, there were 113 speakers including 23 international speakers from nine countries. This speaker figure also includes eight Future Young Leaders and the 10 startups that participated in Local and International Showcases. Top speakers included John Hartnett (SVG Ventures/THRIVE), Rachael Neumann (AWS), Mike Lee (Alpha Food Labs) and Jack Cowin (Hungry Jacks).

3. The size and diversity of attendees meant that we had strong representation from all areas of the ecosystem. By offering a primary producer discounted ticket we doubled the primary producers in the room from 2019 to over 300 farmers, which was a core objective of the event and made it more valuable for other delegates to connect with the end user of much upstream innovation.

4. growAG. is in the final stages of construction and will provide transparency across Australia’s agricultural innovation system, encourage collaboration, attract investment, and find commercial partners from within Australia and around the world. growAG. is being developed in partnership with the other RDCs.

Summary of program
In November 2017, AgriFutures Australia formed a Steering Committee made up of agrifood tech leaders in Australia to further scope and develop a concept paper and brief around hosting an international agrifood tech event in Australia.

AgriFutures Australia committed to leading this event. In late January 2018, the AgriFutures Board approved for work to commence on the event.
In February 2018, AgriFutures Australia announced that evokeAG. would take place in Melbourne at the Royal Exhibition Building on Tuesday, 19 and Wednesday, 20 February 2019.
After the resounding success of the inaugural event, the AgriFutures Board approved the event to go ahead on 18–19 February 2020 at the same location.

Deliverables for 2019-20

  To position AgriFutures Australia as a thought leader in the innovation and agrifood tech space

  To build collaboration and partnerships between AgriFutures Australia and the private sector

  To create an event that will drive growth across the agrifood tech sectors to benefit Australian agriculture

  To position AgriFutures as a reputable conduit and centre of knowledge for agrifood tech and innovation in Australia

  To create deal flow between investors and startups.

Total program expenses 2019-20: $2,226,786

Total program income 2091-20: $1,618,288

Steering Committee:

  Arianna Sippel, Austrade
  Christine Pitt, Food Futures
  Ethy Levy, Bridge Hub
  Michael Dean, AgFunder
  Peter Wren-Hilton, AgriTech NZ
  Sarah Nolet, Agthentic
  Ben van Delden, KPMG
  Michael Robertson, CSIRO
  Spencer Maughan, Finistere Ventures
  John Harvey, AgriFutures Australia
  Belinda Allitt, AgriFutures Australia
  Pip Grant, AgriFutures Australia

Startup Steering Committee:

  George Peppou, VOW
  Tash Ayers, AgriStart
  Cass Mao, Tenacious Ventures
  Dianna Somerville, Bridge Hub
  Dallas Pearce, AgriFutures Australia

Investor Working Group:

  Matthew Pryor, Agthentic
  Spencer Maughan, Finistere Ventures
  Arianna Sippel, Austrade
  Jon Sandbrook, WNT Ventures
  Stu Bradbury, Sprout Agritech
  Jeremy Colless, Artesian
  Craig Shapiro, Bridge Hub
  Robert Williams, Artesian
  Mark Callanan, Hummingbird
  Michael Macolino, BDO
  Andrew Coppin, Affirmative Financial Services
  John Harvey, AgriFutures Australia
  Michael Beer, AgriFutures Australia
  Pip Grant, AgriFutures Australia

Plan for 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

Receive 75 applications for Startup Alley, with a minimum of five international applications

81 applications were received, including eight international applications.

Host five international delegations

Hosted:

  New Zealand (NZTE and Callaghan Innovation)

  United Kingdom (Innovate UK / Global Business Innovation Programme)

  Canada (High Commission of Canada)

  Singapore (A*Star and CSIRO)

  United States (SVG Ventures).

Host 70 speakers across the entire program, including 12 international speakers

113 speakers, including eight Future Young Leaders and 10 speakers from the Startup Program.

23 international speakers from nine countries.

Receive 25 applications for Future Young Leaders with at least one international application

43 applications including six international applicants.

Delegate numbers reach / exceed 1,300

1,478 delegates, including speakers and media.

Connect 200 delegates through the event app

99.8% of delegates downloaded the event app.

2,045 messages sent between delegates.

158 meetings set between delegates.

Total evokeAG. income and expenditure to be within 15% of budget

Income: achieved 88% of income target,

falling within 15% of budget.

Expenditure: 96% of expense budget was used, falling within 15% of budget.

85% of partners / sponsors rate their experience and value of the contribution of evokeAG. as high or extremely high

Experience: 100% of partners / sponsors / exhibitors rated their experience of evokeAG. as high or very high (very high 71%, high 29%).

Value: 100% of partners / sponsors / exhibitors rated their investment in evokeAG. as very or extremely valuable (extremely valuable 28.6%,

very valuable 71%).

Develop an International Investor Working Group to help shape elements of the 2020 program

International Investor Working Group that co-developed a program that included an international investor network dinner.

Increase evokeAG. social media following by 15% across all channels

Facebook followers: increased by 206%.

Twitter followers: increased by 112%.

Instagram followers: increased by 207%.

Newsletter reach: increased by 1,529%.

evokeAG. media mentions: Increase of 136%.

Scope out growAG. platform and establish if there are any solutions already in the market

Identified that there were no suitable platforms

in existence.

Climate Research Strategy for Primary Industries

Highlights and achievements

1. Carbon in Agriculture Industry Workshop December 2019.
2. Pathways for Australian Primary Industries Climate Research Strategy Review March 2020.
3. Future Drought Fund Submission December 2019.

Summary of program

The program is in its final year of a three-year research strategy. This is the third phase of CRSPI which has been operating since 2000. The goal of the Climate Research Strategy for Primary Industries (CRSPI) is to prepare primary industries for adaptation to our changing and variable climate and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from the sector through collaborative investment and coordinated response in primary industries RD&E. CRSPI has 20 partners who are federal, state and territory governments, rural Research and Development Corporations and CSIRO. The role of CRSPI is to coordinate and communicate the RD&E effort across partners and to stimulate and assist collaboration and co-investment to achieve cross-sectoral outcomes in climate risk, adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation.

CRSPI has three focus areas: adaptation to a changing and variable climate; emission intensity and markets; and climate change in business and policy.

Deliverables for 2019-20

Coordination and management of collaborative activities for the primary industries in climate change and greenhouse house gas mitigation.

Plan for 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

Partner Forums May and September 2019

Priorities for collaborative research in climate adaptation, risk and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions identified for the agricultural sector.

Carbon in Agriculture Industry Workshop December 2019

Support to advance high priority greenhouse gas emissions accounting and reporting collaborative research which will better position Australian agriculture for a trajectory toward lowering its emissions.

Australian Farm Institute Independent Assessment: Pathways for Australian Primary Industries Climate Research Strategy March 2020

The importance and benefits of taking a collaborative approach to RD&E to assist in the preparedness of Australian agriculture for our changing climate confirmed. New opportunities to extend and build on current partnerships identified.

Rebuild and relaunch of CRSPI website

Increased access by stakeholders to current knowledge on climate adaptation and emissions mitigation.

Development of a collaborative proposal for a Common Methodology in Greenhouse Gas Accounting for the agriculture sector

Significant progress toward harmonising the accounting and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions across the agricultural sector. A common method will assist Australia’s agricultural export industries’ credentials on international markets.

CRSPI Conference March 2020

Nil outcome as the conference was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia Biomass and Bioenergy Assessment (ABBA)

Highlights and achievements

1. Queensland University of Technology (QUT) developed an analytic tool to aggregate biomass availability by radius from specified locations in Australia and to develop and demonstrate approaches for the use of AREMI data tools to evaluate optimal combinations of biomass from multiple feedstocks for potential biomass energy plants.

2. Partnering with the Australian Bureau of Statistics to make current and future data gathering easier. This involved engagement with the ABS Statistical Collections group who manage the Agricultural Census and REACS survey. Focus on data formatting and future automation requirements.

3. Showcasing the ABBA program at the International Tropical Agriculture Conference in Brisbane: “Value adding opportunities for agriculture through Biofutures”.

Summary of program

Australian farms and land managers produce biomass that can be used for production of bioproducts or energy. Making the most of this resource involves understanding where it is and developing integrated regional solutions.

AgriFutures Australia manages a project with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to map where the biomass resources in Australia are on the Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure (AREMI). AgriFutures Australia also funds the Biomass Producer website to showcase how regional solutions are developing to make the most of these available resources.

The purpose of the Australian Biomass for Bioenergy Assessment (ABBA) project is to catalyse investment in the renewable energy sector through the provision of detailed information about biomass resources across Australia. This project delivers a national database of biomass resources for the potential production of bioenergy across Australia.

Project outputs will include detailed analysis of the types, volumes and locations of potential bioenergy feed-stocks in each state and land use capability for future biomass production.
This information is collated and presented spatially through the Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure (AREMI) interface.

Data collected and uploaded will include:
  The types, locations and volumes of existing biomass resources and and bioenergy industries.
  Identification of other relevant spatially based information in communication with commercial participants in the renewable energy sector.
  Land capability for future biomass.

Deliverables for 2019-20

The project delivered numerous reports Australia-wide including:

  Modelling approach to identify land capability for dedicated bioenergy crops in Queensland.

  Developing general machine productivity predicting model for thinning operations in Australia.

  Large-scale feasibility of locating biomass-to-bioenergy conversion facilities using spatial information technologies: a case study on forest biomass in Queensland.

Analytic tool to aggregate biomass availability by radius

ABBA made significant progress in the development and demonstration of the first online analytics tool for the biomass data in AREMI. The tool allows users to select or enter a location on the AREMI platform and specify a radius around which to aggregate biomass availability data reading from the information contained in the state-based data files. The system has been demonstrated with many of the states now operational in the development system including NSW, WA and SA.

The Program also supported a PhD related to studies to understand to evaluate the optimal configuration and the optimal combination of multi-biomass approaches for the selected biomass energy plants with known production capacity. Three multi-biomass approaches were examined including Sugarcane waste (Bagasse and Cane trash, Forest waste (Sawmill residues) and Forest harvest residues; and Sugarcane waste and Forest waste.

Total program expenses 2017-18: $648,381

Total program expenses 2018-29: $546,114

Total program expenses 2019-20: $484,076

Projects completed in 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

A core purpose of ABBA is to support the development of industries, many activities were conducted in 2019-20

Department Environment and Science (DES) sustainability policy team have commissioned external consultant, Ricardo, to undertake a materials flow analysis for organic wastes and residues in Queensland

Argus Media – organiser of Argus Biomass Asia conference. Discussions to develop the potential for Australian companies to participate in this conference in 2020 and also Altus Renewables in Queensland and another company looking at pelletising sugar cane trash – Burdekin Renewable Fuels.

Discussion and provision of ABBA data to Advanced Energies Group scoping the re-development of the Rocky Point sugar mill.

Provided information/data to a New Zealand based company looking at developing a pellet business in south east Queensland.

Discussions between Ricardo and the Queensland ABBA team are ongoing. The report has used ABBA information and will be completed in June 2020.

  International Conference on Biomass Materials and Handling, Surfers Paradise (July 2019)

  Victorian substrates testing regime in collaboration with C-Loop Power and Thermal and RMIT

  Investigated the potential for a bioeconomy based industry in the Collie area, WA.

Q Fever

Summary of program

Q Fever is a disease of humans and livestock caused by Coxiella burnetii bacterial infection. The research project will develop a better understanding of factors influencing the risk of Q Fever spread within and between Australian ruminant livestock enterprises, and develop national guidelines for an emergency response plan to be used in the event of Q Fever outbreak in humans.

Specifically, the work will provide a better understanding of the drivers of Q Fever spread in farmed ruminants, including understanding the Q Fever reservoirs, amplification and transmission pathways to help direct biosecurity resources more efficiently. In turn, this will reduce the burden of an extremely debilitating disease in rural communities. This project will also provide knowledge that can be used to develop policies that will limit the likelihood of a large and prolonged Q Fever outbreak in Australia. This will help to maintain Australia’s position as an exporter of premium agricultural produce.

Deliverables for 2019-20

The project aims to develop a better understanding of the risk of Q Fever spread within and between Australian ruminant livestock enterprises; and develop national guidelines for an emergency response plan to be used in the event of Q Fever outbreak in humans.

Plan for 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

Biannual meeting

Research collbaorators met for a biannual face to face meeting at the University of Melbourne in February 2020.

Literature reviews

Literature reviews were progressed, and sampling techniques refined.

Macropod pilot project

The macropod pilot project testing was completed, and comprehensive macropod and livestock sampling protocols have been developed.

Online workshops

Hosted an online workshop for Tasmanian-based expert stakeholders, continued workshop qualitative data analysis and drafted a knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) questionnaire for Q Fever patients.

Scientific publications

Project team members contributed to a paper, now published, investigating how Q Fever notifications are associated with variation in patient occupations and lifestyles.

Grant application

Submitted a grant application to Agriculture Victoria, for a Q Fever focused project which would enhance and extend the existing project’s outcomes, and have another application in development, which proposes to investigate the human-animal interface in hotspots of non-traditional animal exposure/contact.

Securing Pollination

Highlights and achievements

1. Field work for the project is complete.

2. Pollinator fact sheets and guides to bees in crops in the final stages of development by all partners and for all focus crops.

3. Relationships established between native and honeybee visitation and crop yield and quality.
Summary of program

This program aims to provide detailed scientific information on pollinator effectiveness and densities, bee movements and pollination distances. It is hoped the assessment of pollinator habitats, particularly foraging and nesting plants, will also assist in developing strategies against the Varroa mite.

Australian agriculture and horticulture rely on pollination from honey bees. It’s estimated that 65% of horticultural and agricultural crops produced in Australia require pollination services. Some of the most important questions and concerns currently facing pollination-dependent industries will be answered in an Australian first multi-million-dollar research project.

This program involves collaboration between Australia’s most knowledgeable bee and pollination researchers to assess the contribution of pollinators to nine Australian crops (apples, pears, Lucerne, almonds, canola, melons, blueberries, raspberries and mangoes), investigate re-establishing native vegetation to support pollinator food and nesting resources, and use new technologies to communicate the findings to farmers.

Deliverables for 2019-20

Field research activities for the project concluded during 2019-20 with analysis and writing of these activities becoming the focus.

Key deliverables for the year included:

  Information booklet produced for growers of various crops across the project. This booklet lists the native bees collectively observed visiting a range of crops across eastern Australia, and describes basic biological characteristics and identifying features of these bees

  Pollinator plant selector tool nearing completion. This tool assists growers to generate site specific planting guides for their farms that selects appropriate plants for revegetation that also support pollination outcomes.

  Findings that demonstrate the relationship between native and honeybee visitation and fruit quality in blackberry and apple, and crop yield in Lucerne.

  The presence of native vegetation has a positive impact on crop yields and quality in a number of crops.

Grant funding $5,255,000

Partner cash contributions $3,409,447

In-kind contributions $5,135,457

Total program expenses 2017-18: $2,800,906

Total program expenses 2018-19: $1,977,543

Total program expenses 2019-20: $1,363,468

Promoting the Importance of Bees

Summary of program

AgriFutures Australia received a grant from the Australian Government to promote the role of bees and their impact on the entire food chain, to help protect bees and reduce their decline.

Deliverables for 2019-20

Key deliverables for 2019-20 included:

  Provide support to the Australian Honey Bee Council (AHBIC) and state associations to develop resources and build capacity.

  Provide support for the development of a virtual resource library for beekeepers.

  Provide support for research to develop methods for hive health assessment; understand floral resource management; and identify opportunities to coordinate access to feed sources for bees.

Outcomes for 2019-20

  Development of an industry communications plan for promoting bees based on an extensive industry and community scoping survey.

  Prioritised research projects and commenced investigation into legume pasture species as a floral resource.

  Identified research opportunities of non-obtrusive techniques for hive health monitoring for American Foulbrood disease.

Total project resources $1,500,000

Total program expenses 2019-20: $183,575

extensionAUS

Highlight and achievement

Six new Communities of Practice joined the extensionAUS platform in 2019-20:

  Urban Plant Health Network

  Peri-urban Environmental Biosecurity Network

  Botanic Gardens Biosecurity Network

  Soil Moisture Monitoring

  Victorian Field Crop Diseases

  Sustainable Energy

Summary of program

Through a web based digital platform, extensionAUS consolidates and organises existing knowledge, tools and resources for extension delivery by public and private providers.

It is led by three partner organisations: AgriFutures Australia, NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and Agriculture Victoria. The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment also supports the platform via Agriculture Victoria who coordinate three biosecurity focused Communities of Practice.

In 2019-20, these communities focused on a diverse range of themes including biosecurity, crop diseases, soil, energy, dairy, poultry, irrigation, bees, food innovation, extension practice, rural women, precision agriculture and young farmers.

The platform has grown to incorporate a total of 16 communities of practice, highlighting the program’s success and contribution to extension delivery and engagement across Australia’s rural industries.

A number of rural industries are also represented on the digital platform, including chicken meat.

Deliverables for 2019-20

In 2019-20, extensionAUS delivered:

  56 people from four new Communities of Practice attended a two and a half day bootcamp induction to extensionAUS in Melbourne during September 2019.

  Six new Communities of Practice joined extensionAUS in 2019-20: Urban Plant Health Network, Peri-urban Environmental Biosecurity Network, Botanic Gardens Biosecurity Network, Soil Moisture Monitoring, Victorian Field Crop Diseases and Sustainable Energy, bringing the total to 16 communities of practice.

Underpinning Agricultural Productivity and Biosecurity by Weed Biological Control (Rural R&D for Profit)

Summary of program

This project will undertake foundational and applied research to integrated management of important weeds that affect Australian agriculture and water resources. The project will focus on 11 major weeds and complete risk assessments of promising biocontrol agents identified, undertake large-scale releases of approved agents and understand interactions between control methods, as well as progressing biocontrol research into new weed targets towards delivery. Field surveys will be used to validate a quantitative risk analysis approach to determining candidate agents’ suitability for release, providing more certainty around risk assessment data. The project will extend beyond the current project on weed biocontrol funded by the Rural R&D for Profit to increase speed to impact.

AgriFutures Australia has been awarded a grant through the Rural RD&E for Profit program to deliver the project. AgriFutures Australia has contracted research agencies including: CSIRO, NSW DPI, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, with a further 21 organisations engaged as funding partners.

The project will focus on 11 weeds of importance to many different agricultural industries in Australia: African Boxthorn, Cabomba, Grains weeds (Fleabane, Sowthistle), Navua Sedge, Hudson Pear, African Lovegrass, Silverleaf Nightshade, Prickly Acacia, Endemic Giant Rat’s Tail, Clidemia Hirta and Sporobolus spp.

Total program expenses 2019-20: $2,932,538

Deliverables for 2019-20

Key deliverables for 2019-20 included:

  Project Activity Plan

  Monitoring, Evaluation & Reporting Plan

  Communications & Extension Plan

Outcomes for 2019-20

Permits for importation and research on new candidate agents for African boxthorn into Australia were secured by CSIRO, and permit paperwork for importation of new candidate agents for fleabane into Australia were submitted.

NSW DPI initiated novel image analysis methodologies using high resolution for identification of Hudson pear. NSW DPI developed a nomination for African Lovegrass to the Environmental Impact Committee (EIC).

QDAF and their collaborators have commenced a range of activities associated with obtaining plant materials, establishing international collaborations and identifying host specificity. The preferred biological control agent for Clidemia has been identified as well as potential collaborators in three countries who could provide samples.

An application seeking approval of Navua sedge as a biological control target has been prepared for submission to the EIC. Native range surveys in Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria have identified a new smut fungus (Cintractia sp. nov.) attacking flower heads and seeds as a promising biological control agent.

VIC DJPR has sourced an important potato cultivar ‘Nadine’ from the USA for field experiments with silverleaf nightshade. They have also completed an important milestone in the Biocontrol Risk Model through the drafting of risk criteria with national researchers and the regulatory body.

Total project resources: $15,644,579

In-kind contributions $4,399,617

Grant funding $7,492,034

Partner cash contributions $3,752,928

New Biocontrol Solutions for Sustainable Management of Weed Impacts to Agricultural Profitability (Rural R&D for Profit)

Summary of program

This project aimed to develop biocontrol agents for the control of ten weeds of importance in Australia. Five of these weeds are Weeds of National Significance (WoNS): cabomba, sagittaria, prickly acacia, silverleaf nightshade and African boxthorn. Fleabane and sowthistle have become major weeds of cropping land while mother of millions and giant rat’s tail grass impact on grazing land. Ox-eye daisy is becoming a serious environmental weed in crown land.
Biocontrol agents, when released and established in the Australian environment, will benefit primary producers through the general landscape level reduction in weed pressures on rangelands, croplands and water assets, thereby enabling better integrated weed management outcomes. Farmers directly affected by the weeds targeted with these new biocontrol agents will see a gradual reduction in their control costs, as the released agents build-up their populations and cause increasing damage on the weeds.

The methods used:

  Stakeholder engagement to identify management goals for the targeted weeds and opportunities for integrated weed management.

  Literature reviews to identify prospective biocontrol agents.

  Molecular characterisation of the weeds and bioclimatic models to select most appropriate region(s) to survey in the native range.

  Native range field surveys to characterise the diversity of pathogens and insects that may be potential agents and prioritised their further study.

  Investigations on the biology and host range of prioritised agents in the native range and in quarantine facilities in Australia to determine if they are safe for release into the Australian environment.

Deliverables for 2019-20

Key deliverables for 2019-20 included:

  Application to release the sagittaria fruit feeding weevil.

  Hosting tests on bio-agents for prickly acacia, cabomba, mother-of-millions, and ox-eye daisy.

  Hosting specificity testing for agents on cabomba, fleabane, sowthistle (France), African boxthorn, ox-eye daisy (Switzerland), mother-of-millions (Madagascar), giant rat’s tail grass (South Africa) and prickly acacia (Australia and South Africa).

  A preliminary study of agents for silverleaf nightshade in the US, prickly acacia in India and novel fungi in giant rat’s tail grass.

Project resources

AgriFutures Australia has been awarded a grant through the second round of the Rural R&D for Profit program to deliver the project called ‘New Biocontrol Solutions for Sustainable Management of Weed Impacts to Agricultural Profitability’.

Total project resources $13,013,890

Grant funding $6,230,437

In-kind contributions $3,603,635

Partner cash contributions $3,179,818

Total program costs 2017-18: $2,160,407

Total program costs 2018-19: $1,869,639

Total program costs 2019-20: $1,838,856

Plan for 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

The project identified the following potential biocontrol agents

  African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum): the rust, (Puccinia rapipes) two leaf-chewing beetles, (Cassida distinguenda and Cleta eckloni) and a leaf-mining weevil (Neoplatygaster serietuberculata).

  Cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana): the cabomba weevil (Hydrotimetes natans.).

  Fleabane (Conyza bonariensis):- the rust (Puccinia cnici-oleraceiI) and a stem gall forming tephritid fly.

  Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare):-a rhizome-feeding moth (Dichrorampha aeratana) and a root-feeding beetle (Cyphocleonus trisulcatus).

  Silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium):- a tingid (Gargaphia arizonica) and a mite (Aceria sp.).

  Sagittaria (S platyphylla and S. calycina):- a fruit-feeding weevil (Listronotus appendiculatus), a crown-boring weevil (L. sordidus) and the tuber-feeding weevil (L. frontalis)

  Giant rat’s tail grass (Sporobolus pyramidalis and S. natalens): - the fungus Ustilago sporoboli-indici and a wasp (Tetramesa sp.).

  Prickly acacia (Gall thrips (Acaciothrips ebneri), a gall mite (Aceria sp.) and a gall fly (Notomma mutilum).

Despite extensive surveys and testing, no suitable agents for sowthistle or mother of millions were identified during this project, due to lack of host specificity.

Applications have been submitted or are in preparation to release agents for sagittaria, cabomba, ox-eye daisy, African boxthorn, fleabane and prickly acacia. These agents will be imported into Australian quarantine during 2020.

This project brought together a network of international collaborators spanning Australia, Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and North America. As well, there were significant resources committed from industry project partners both financially and in-kind.

The contributors to each weed project are as follows:-

  African boxthorn: Primary Industries Research South Australia (PIRSA), and rangelands and pastoral stakeholders and land managers, Ravensthorpe Shire

  Cabomba: SEQwater, Sun Water and other rural water asset managers

  Fleabane: Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)

  Sowthistle: Grains Research and Development Corporation

  Mother of Millions: Northwest LLS, QDAF

  Ox-eye daisy: Central Coast Shire, NSW Biocontrol Taskforce

  Giant rat’s tail grasses: (QDAF, NSWDPI NSW Weed Biocontrol Taskforce (via Rous County Council), Bundaberg Regional Council, Gladstone Regional Council and HQPlantations Pty Ltd.)

  Sagittaria: Goulburn Murray Water, Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Coleambally Irrigation, Goulburn Broken CMA, NQ dry tropics, Central Coast Council, Central Murray Council NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Wyong Shire, Murray LLS

  Silverleaf nightshade: PIRSA, GRDC, Bland Shire Council, NSW DPI, Murrumbidgee Landcare

  Prickly acacia: (Vachellia nilotica)

Despite extensive surveys and testing, no suitable agents for sowthistle or mother of millions were identified during this project, due to lack of host specificity.

Applications have been submitted or are in preparation to release agents for sagittaria, cabomba, ox-eye daisy, African boxthorn, fleabane and prickly acacia. These agents will be imported into Australian quarantine during 2020.

New Biocontrol Solutions for Sustainable Management of Weed Impacts to Agricultural Profitability (Rural R&D for Profit)

Plan for 2019-20

Outcomes for 2019-20

This project brought together a network of international collaborators spanning Australia, Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and North America. As well, there were significant resources committed from industry project partners both financially and in-kind.

The contributors to each weed project are as follows:-

  African boxthorn: Primary Industries Research South Australia (PIRSA), and rangelands and pastoral stakeholders and land managers, Ravensthorpe Shire.

  Cabomba: SEQwater, Sun Water and other rural water asset managers.

  Fleabane: Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

  Sowthistle: Grains Research and Development Corporation.

  Mother of Millions: Northwest LLS, QDAF.

  Ox-eye daisy: Central Coast Shire, NSW Biocontrol Taskforce.

 Giant rat’s tail grasses: (QDAF, NSWDPI NSW Weed Biocontrol Taskforce (via Rous County Council), Bundaberg Regional Council, Gladstone Regional Council and HQPlantations Pty Ltd.).

  Sagittaria: Goulburn Murray Water, Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Coleambally Irrigation, Goulburn Broken CMA, NQ dry tropics, Central Coast Council, Central Murray Council NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Wyong Shire, Murray LLS.

  Silverleaf nightshade: PIRSA, GRDC, Bland Shire Council, NSW DPI, Murrumbidgee Landcare.

  Prickly acacia: (Vachellia nilotica).

Project resources

AgriFutures Australia has been awarded a grant through the second round of the Rural R&D for Profit program to deliver the project called ‘New Biocontrol Solutions for Sustainable Management of Weed Impacts to Agricultural Profitability’.

Total project resources: $13,013,890

Grant funding: $6,230,437

Partner cash contributions: $3,179,818

In-kind contributions: $3,603,635

Total program expenses 2017-18: $2,160,407

Total program expenses 2018-19: $1,869,639

Total program expenses 2019-20: $1,838,856