AGTECH: Vice-Chancellor and president of CQUniversity Australia Professor Nick Klomp, Minister for Water, Resources and Northern Australia and Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt, and Deputy Mayor Bill Trevor at the new Ag-Tech facility in Bargara.
AGTECH: Vice-Chancellor and president of CQUniversity Australia Professor Nick Klomp, Minister for Water, Resources and Northern Australia and Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt, and Deputy Mayor Bill Trevor at the new Ag-Tech facility in Bargara.

Collaboration key to industry growth at new Ag-Tech hub

The new Bundaberg Ag-Tech Hub has officially opened at Bargara to deliver innovative agricultural technologies across the region.

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said the Commonwealth previously committed $5m under the Hinkler Regional Deal towards the Ag-Tech hub in collaboration with CQUniversity and Bundaberg Regional Council.

Within the Ag-Tech hub, CQUniversity is co-locating with organisations such as Greensill Farming and the Burnett Mary Regional Group.

"Future-proofing the region's key agricultural industries through the latest innovative technologies will ensure the region is well positioned to continue to build on its agricultural heritage for decades to come," Mr Pitt said.

"This project, delivered by CQUniversity and its partners, will provide the information, data and knowledge that farmers need to maximise productivity, grow the food we need, and be at the forefront of agricultural innovation.

"This project is already delivering with the rollout of the first technology on farms occurring in September, and now the opening of this new facility will accelerate this work."

Mr Pitt said with COVID-19 pandemic, he was particularly pleased to get the Ag-Tech hub opened.

"My understanding is there'll be more than 20 jobs associated with the Ag-Tech hub here in Bundaberg with CQU and what they're doing with field trials," he said.

"We know that we've got some of the leading researches already based here in Bundaberg, we've got some of the biggest producers for ag; whether it's sugarcane or macadamias, or sweet potatoes … so there's a lot of opportunity right across the board and I'm looking forward to seeing success."

Vice Chancellor and President of CQUniversity Nick Klomp said this Ag-Tech hub provided what he dubbed the "honey pot" effect.

"It brings industry and innovation and the university, all the players together so they can feed off their best ideas," he said.

Prof Klomp said this enabled them chance to provide solutions on the ground.

"Establishing this initiative within one of the richest and most diverse agricultural regions in Australia will enable our researchers to interact directly with industry to develop and implement technology that responds to their needs," he said.

"CQUniversity has a strong track record when it comes to industry engagement, especially on agriculture and our experts are delivering world-leading innovation."

Prof Klomp hopes this initiative would make agricultural science "even more attractive" to students.

"Nowadays a student in agricultural science, who's looking for a career in agricultural science, will know about world markets, artificial intelligence, robotics … it's really an exciting career," he said.

Prof Klomp said fundamental research was one of the primary roles the university would play in this space, along with bringing in technology and collaboration with industry.

The Hinkler Ag-Tech initiative at the hub is expected to facilitate commercial evaluation of AgTech products and services by agribusinesses; analyse the rollout and impact of AgTech across the region; establish a database of agricultural data layers for the region; deploy new regional sensor arrays to better inform agricultural decision-making; and share data and information with farmers, researchers and industry players across the region to inform decision making.

Bundaberg Regional Council Deputy Mayor Bill Trevor also attended the opening yesterday as the council provided the building and other services for the hub.

"It's been an exciting day for agriculture I think here today," he said.

"To get this sort of research and development into our area is something that will only continue to grow.

"Agriculture's something that's very important for us going forward and designing new products, better packaging methods, better growing methods.

"A farmer today is more likely to open up his computer first thing in the morning before he hops on his tractor; that's how technical some of this agriculture's getting."

Cr Trevor said there were a lot of smart farmers in the region and this research would help them get to another level.

Cr Trevor said he believed there was still some vacancy within the hub.

Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey said locating the facility in Bargara would position the region as a key research and development hub for Ag-Tech implementation across Australia.

"We have some of the most diverse agricultural production in Australia and the work being conducted by CQUniversity through their Ag-Tech initiative will establish a key facility to develop, test and implement new technologies," Cr Dempsey said.

"Bundaberg Regional Council is pleased to support CQUniversity through this initiative and bring together a range of key Ag-Tech players in the region to build on our strengths."



DAM DEMAND: How you can voice your future water needs


Business joins fray as council, farmers double down on rates


How funding boost could help our drought-stricken farmers