Monday, March 24, 2014

Engagement, innovation and power of place guides CQUni agricultural research

CQUniversity is a regional university and proud to be so. Even though we have campuses spread far and wide, central Queensland is where our foundation lies. Like many regional universities we face challenges that our counterparts in metropolitan areas do not. However, our geography also delivers many and varied opportunities to engage, give-back to regional, rural and remote communities, and collaborate with stakeholders to understand our unique power of place.

The Central Queensland region – stretching from Hervey Bay to the Whitsundays, is a melting pot of diverse primary industry, the true ‘food bowl of Australia’. This region produces livestock, food crops, forestry and fisheries. In fact did you know that the Bundaberg region in particular produces 90 per cent of Australia’s sweet potatoes? That is a lot of sweet potato! In fact the region produces 21 different crops from vegetables to nuts and even blueberries, and horticulture crop production exceeds $500 million per year.

It is obvious when flying in to Bundaberg and seeing the patchwork landscape beneath that the region is a horticultural powerhouse yet these statistics blew me away. It leaves you to wonder what our supermarkets and refrigerators would look like if such food production wasn't taking place.

That is why our ‘power of place’ in this region is so vital. This engagement and collaboration are key drivers in allowing us to be a university that responds to local demand and informs many of our key research areas. To put the spotlight on our region and showcase the importance of local, smart and sustainable food production for not just the current generations but those to follow.

CQUniversity is not only well placed geographically to do this but also scientifically. Our research is world class and it was confirmed as such in the 2012 Australian Research Council Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) rankings, our agricultural research is rated at a five – meaning it is classed well above world standard.

I firmly believe one of the reasons behind this achievement is the high level of engagement with key stakeholders in this area. Working hand in hand with people who live and breathe agriculture on a daily basis means our researchers better understand the challenges. This thorough understanding means our researchers are well informed about finding the right solutions and conducting research that will bring about answers and deliver tangible long term benefits.

This work will not only help our primary producers but will pave the way for future innovation. Most importantly this research will go a long way to ensuring that agriculture continues to be a strong and enduring industry in Australia – especially when we see so many industries failing because of changed operating conditions and a failure to keep up with innovation and a global marketplace.

More so than ever before universities have an important role to play in the future of Australia’s economy by conducting research that applies to industry, with the specific intention of finding innovative, sustainable and simple solutions to complex economic, social and environmental challenges.

CQUniversity’s research agenda is focusing on exactly that, with agricultural research being completely ahead of the game. I’ll no doubt be bringing you further updates about this exciting area in the months to come but in the meantime why not have a look at some of our research stories just from the beginning of this year.

Poultry to play part in locking up carbon, boosting soil quality

Growers could snap up better harvest data thanks to ute-mounted camera

Squeezing more value out of Aussie fruit and veges

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