Protected cropping – planning for the future

19 September 2022

Professor Paul PG Gauthier is looking to the future.

Specifically, how to help feeding the world, a problem exercising the brain of scientists globally.

The new Professor of Protected Cropping at The University of Queensland is one of the six plenary speakers at this year’s TropAg International Conference in Brisbane, and will speak on his expert topic, “Farming in the 21st Century: Protected Cropping as a solution to mitigate the impact of Climate Change and supply chain disruption”.

Professor Paul PG Gauthier in the field
Professor Paul PG Gauthier in the field

“Building a sustainable and reliable food production system is one of the biggest challenges we face,” Professor Gauthier said.

“The main question is not necessarily if protected farming and vertical farming are going to feed the world, it’s about should it feed the world and what role does it play in helping to feed the world?  

“I think it’s good for the audience to hear that, and I think a science-first perspective and an economics-first perspective on what is ahead is what is needed.

“Sometimes it is hard for people to project themselves ahead to 2050 which is where really the world is going.”

Professor Gauthier spent the last few years working in industry, at the number one company in the world, Bowery Farming in the United States, leading the R&D New Product and System Innovation group.

Among the many products he delivered was the first strawberry grown at scale indoors.

Prior to that, he conducted research at Princeton University focusing on the understanding of the sustainability of vertical farms, both economically and environmentally.

He also worked at Australian National University (ANU), where he studied the environmental control of plant carbon balance at the leaf, plant and ecosystem levels.

He obtained his PhD in plant physiology from the University of Paris Sud (Now Paris Saclay).

His experience at the interface between Industry and Academia he said had informed his plans for his role at UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), where he began work in July.

“Climate change, natural disasters, digital disruption, population growth and the pandemic all reinforce the need for innovation in the Agrifood sector in what is a rapidly changing landscape,” Professor Gauthier said.

“One of the most fascinating challenges mankind will face in the 21st century and beyond is its ability to feed the population while mitigating the impact of climate change.

“To achieve my goals, I am using my atypical training combined with excellence in science to mentor, train and lead teams, helping them become the next generation of indoor plant scientists and the generation that will defy hunger and climate change.

Professor Gauthier said there was huge opportunity for Australia, if for example, it became the next centre to produce Tropical and Subtropical crops out of season for the rest of the world.

“That’s really exciting and that is what protected cropping and vertical farming can bring.

“I always ask myself, what are people not thinking?, and I bring it on the table and put the scientific analysis there, troubleshoot it and bring new solutions adapted to the size of the problem.

“So I am excited to give this talk,” he said.

“It’s really about science and it’s not necessarily about belief.

“I think Australia is great for that.”

The TropAg conference will be held from Monday 31 October until Wednesday 2 November 2022 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The conference is hosted by The University of Queensland in partnership with the Queensland Government via the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

TropAg is backed by generous sponsors including the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Illumina, Hort Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, AgriFutures, MineARC Systems, Australian Plant Phenomics Facility and many other organisations supporting as symposium sponsors, scholarship sponsors, exhibitors and media partners. View the full list of sponsors on the TropAg website.

Media: Professor Paul PG Gauthier,,au, QAAFI Media, Natalie MacGregor,; +61 (0)409 135 651.

Photos of Prof Paul PG Gauthier are available from Dropbox.

Supporting information:

Global Agriculture Leadership Initiative

TropAg website

TropAg conference program 

TropAg conference registration options