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New food and agriculture not as we know it

27 September 2017
Sydney Institute of Agriculture merges food science, engineering

The National Farmers’ Federation launched the Sydney Institute of Agriculture with director Professor Alex McBratney, calling for a New Agriculture to address noble and global challenges while giving consumers what they want.

To be a productive and profitable farmer – you must be a sustainable one!
NFF CEO and alumnus Tony Mahar
Tony Mahar standing in for National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson, with University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence, Sydney Institute of Agriculture Professor Alex McBratney and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Reserach) Professor Duncan Ivison at the launch.

Tony Mahar standing in for National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson, with University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence, Sydney Institute of Agriculture director, Prof Alex McBratney, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Reserach) Professor Duncan Ivison at the launch.

National Farmers’ Federation CEO Tony Mahar today launched the Sydney Institute of Agriculture – taking a roots to shoots approach, from the soil science of climate change to robots engineered in concert with farmers and a focus on value-added products tailored to individual shopper’s needs.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence commented ahead of the launch: “This is the latest University-wide centre formed to solve grand challenges that cross disciplinary divides.”

The Institute encompasses areas and projects such as:

Sydney Institute of Agriculture director Professor Alex McBratney said to continue to be productive as well as profitable in a changing environment, rather than “incremental change”, Australia needs to develop a “new agriculture”.

“The Sydney Institute of Agriculture … is here to provide solutions and rigorous planning for future food and fibre, assisting farmers to produce the clean, green products Australia is renowned for,” Professor McBratney said in his speech launching the Institute.

“…we are firm believers in the benefits that will come from thinking small and thinking finer – working out how to get to the detail of separating our food into individualised aliquots and sending these parcels to consumers on demand.”

Future-proofing is enabled by developing models based on farmers’ data: “We are building locally, meaningful seasonal forecasting models for rainfall and temperature,” Professor McBratney says in his speech, referring to technology that could be available in two years.

“Agriculture in particular is being changed by the Internet, mobile technology and big data analytics … we are marrying the research of agronomists, engineers, economists and IT specialists with the needs of farmers to develop a new digital agriculture.

“The Sydney Institute of Agriculture is unique in that it brings all these seemingly disparate parts together… our focus is on ensuring we can continue to feed ourselves and a growing population,” Professor McBratney said.

The official launch was immediately followed by a research showcase. This will be followed the next day by a joint symposium with the University of Sydney’s Business School: Growing the Business of Agriculture

Vivienne Reiner

Media and PR Adviser (Science, Veterinary Science, Agriculture)
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