Smart Farm partnership drives Queensland agriculture of the future

A $9 million partnership will transform the Gatton Research Facility into a world-leading “Smart Farm” to accelerate the adoption of AgTech in Queensland’s horticulture sector.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said the Smart Farm would be a centre of innovation where government, industry, commercial providers and researchers would partner to develop, test and adapt innovations to drive the development of high value products, export supply chains and automation.

DAF researcher Julie O’Halloran at crop research trial at Gatton’s Smart Farm.

“Queensland has a global reputation for high quality, safe horticulture products,” Mr Furner said.

“New technology is critical to further expanding markets and solving the challenges of labour management, product quality, climate variability and supply chain wastage.

“The Palaszczuk Government has partnered with Hort Innovation with combined funding of more than $9 million to drive the adoption of new ag technology.

“Together with industry and commercial partners we’ll create an environment that fosters innovation and problem solving.

“With agriculture an essential industry and such an important part of Queensland’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan, we need to lay the foundations of the future of the industry.”

Mr Furner said new infrastructure on the site will include climate-controlled glasshouses, a retractable-roof protected cropping structure and cold rooms with the latest controlled-atmosphere technology.

“This new infrastructure will also boost existing R&D by equipping research staff with the latest tools and technology to manage pests such as Serpentine Leafminer, Fall Armyworm and vegetable diseases,” Mr Furner said.

“All of this is supported by the appointment of additional senior research specialists, a network of industry demonstration trials, and a comprehensive extension and communication program.”

AUSVEG Deputy Chair and Queensland vegetable grower Belinda Frentz said that the centre’s location in the heart of Queensland’s major vegetable producing region ensured its relevance and accessibility to growers.

“The Gatton Smart Farm will be one of Australia’s leading vegetable research centres,” Ms Frentz said.

“It will accelerate the adoption of AgTech and automation, develop climate-resilient, cost-effective protected cropping systems, and harness new post-harvest technologies to develop both domestic and export-ready supply chain systems.

“The work at Gatton will align with a number of flagship industry initiatives, including the revamped VegNET extension program and the industry’s updated export strategy, which recommends working with growers to optimise vegetable quality and to further develop export-ready products, and to consolidate existing export markets while investigating new opportunities for industry.

“Queensland vegetable growers are vital contributors to the national $4.8 billion vegetable industry that supplies high-quality fresh vegetables to families around Australia and across the world.

“It is important that government and industry continue to invest in projects such as this to build the skills and capacity of vegetable growing businesses to encourage adoption of new technologies and innovations.”

All research outcomes will be shared nationally through Hort innovation’s regional extension team and VegNet.

Hort Innovation Head of Extension Jane Wightman said access to new technologies had never been more important.

“Horticulture is the fastest-growing agricultural sector in Australia – with a 27 per cent hike in value over the past five years to $15.1 billion, and our modelling shows that figure could double by 2030,” Ms Wightman said.

“Technology adoption will be key to keeping pace with this rapid growth, however, that can prove a challenge.

“The Gatton Smart Farm will help growers to ‘de-risk’ ag-tech, by enabling them to select and experience the latest technologies firsthand and understand the costs and benefits of adoption.”

Supporting partners in the initiative are Agerris, Cravo, Priva, Rijk Zwaan, Lefroy Valley Seeds, Powerplants, AIS Greenworks, Hitachi Vantara, AUSVEG, and the Australian Sweetpotato Growers Inc. 

Media: Ron Goodman, M: 0427 781 920

The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation is a research institute at The University of Queensland supported by the Queensland Government via the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Last updated:
30 November 2021