International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture opened at Narrabri

5 September 2023
World-class facility a boost for global food security, research and education
With support from the NSW Government, Australian Grain Technologies, Grains Research and Development Corporation and the NSW Wheat Research Foundation, the University is well set to tackle the challenges of 21st century agriculture.

Crop and Digital Agriculture

Food security, environmental sustainability and economic resilience

The University of Sydney has opened the International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture at Narrabri, a $15.2 million facility at the forefront of global agricultural research, teaching and industry engagement.

Featuring digital, genetic, agronomy and soil laboratories, plus teaching and industry briefing spaces, the research centre has been delivered by the NSW Government in partnership with the University of Sydney, Australian Grain Technologies (AGT), Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and NSW Wheat Research Foundation.

The centre was opened by the NSW Minister for Agriculture, Tara Moriarty, on Tuesday 29 August at a ceremony at the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre, north of Narrabri, adjacent to the to the University’s 2000-hectare research farm.

Ms Moriarty said the centre will enable Australian industry to grow more resilient crops essential for feeding future Australians.

NSW Agriculture Minister, Tara Moriarty, opens the centre in Narrabri.

“The International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture in Narrabri cements NSW’s reputation as a regional, national and international agricultural research hub for ground-breaking grain research,” Ms Moriarty said.

“Using the high-tech facilities, researchers will focus on adapting crops for drought-tolerance, providing food security solutions and boosting the productivity of farmers.

“This facility also enhances collaboration between researchers and growers to progress our knowledge and practical implementation of robotic farming and data-driven agriculture.”

The University of Sydney Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Emma Johnston said the mission of the centre is bold: to help transform global food security, environmental sustainability and economic resilience.

“The research undertaken at the International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture will focus on adapting crops for drought and heat tolerance, providing sustainable food security solutions and boosting the productivity of farmers,” Professor Johnston said.

“We have been leading agricultural innovation at Narrabri for 60 years and we are focused on delivering for the next 60 years and beyond.”

The expanded research and teaching facilities will also benefit students who enrol in the updated Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree.

Dean of Science Professor Marcel Dinger said: “The facilities at this centre will help propel our researchers and students into the bright future of agricultural science.

“Our collaboration with industry in Australia and worldwide is critical for future global food security,” he said.

“The establishment of this centre is a real testament to the strength of our partnerships with the local community and with the agricultural industry,” Professor Dinger said.

“It is fair to take a moment to feel proud of what we’ve achieved here. This is only the beginning. We have big aspirations for this building and how it will support our research.”

Dean of Science, Professor Marcel Dinger.

Dean of Science, Professor Marcel Dinger at the opening in Narrabri.

Chief executive of Australian Grains Technology, Dr Haydn Kuchel, said the expansion of research capacity at Narrabri has highlighted the importance of the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre to agricultural improvement.

“We are proud of our contribution to this investment in northern Australian agriculture, which will help to bring more talented people into the region, working together to find solutions to the challenges that face Australian farmers,” Dr Kuchel said.

“AGT is committed to delivering better varieties for farmers in the north, and our collaboration with other researchers at the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre is a key part of that.”

GRDC Chair John Woods said an additional $1 million had been invested by GRDC, on behalf of Australian grain growers, to improve and expand these vital research facilities.

“We appreciate the NSW Government recognising the need for an industry-led approach to improving and expanding the research capacity in Narrabri, which is one of the state’s oldest, most strategically important and successful centres,” Mr Woods said.

“With our long-standing relationships with each partner, we are pleased to contribute to this opportunity where, on behalf of our growers, we can co-invest in a world-class facility and deliver long-term research outcomes in northern NSW and benefit Australian grain growers.”

NSW Wheat Research Foundation Chair Rob Long said the state-of-the-art labs and offices are a massive boost for grains research in regional Australia.

“Located on WRF’s IA Watson Grains Research Centre, leased to University of Sydney for over 60 years, these new facilities complement the research farm which plants over 40,000 irrigated plots every year on Narrabri’s rich vertosol clay soils,” Mr Long said.

“What an enticement for postgraduate students, national and international researchers and industry leaders to come together in Narrabri for the purpose of improving crop performance for Australian farmers. WRF led this building project and there are plans for additional future collaborative developments.”

The International Centre of Crop and Digital Agriculture was made possible by $10.5 million from the NSW Government, $1.7 million from the University of Sydney, $1.5 million from AGT, $1 million from GRDC and $500,000 from NSW Wheat Research Foundation.

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