$30m in rural R&D for Profit funding up for grabs

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The Australian Centre for Field Robotics' RIPPA ag-bot in action.
The Australian Centre for Field Robotics' RIPPA ag-bot in action.
Australian Centre for Field Robotics

On 6 October 2016, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce announced the opening of the third round of the Australian Government’s Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit program

Minister Joyce urged Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) nationwide to apply for up to $30 million in new government funding.

The funds will be allocated to cutting-edge research projects aimed at increasing productivity and profits across Australia’s agricultural, fishery and forestry industries.

“The Coalition Government knows how critical R&D is to productive and profitable industries, and with new opportunities opening up in global agriculture through the Coalition’s various free trade agreements, producing high-quality food to match consumer tastes and preferences is paramount,” Minister Joyce said.

Rural R&D for Profit program: already helping farmers

To date, $79 million has been awarded to 29 projects in the first two rounds of the program, matched by more than $109m in cash and in-kind contributions by RDCs and their partners.

A previous project funded under the program – the Multi-scale monitoring tools for managing Australian tree crops project, led by Horticulture Innovation Australia – deployed “the latest imaging and robotics” to help mango, avocado and macadamia growers monitor tree health and predict fruit quality and yield more accurately and efficiently.

Another, the Smarter irrigation for profit project, helmed by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (Cotton RDC), “aims to boost the profits of 3,000 cotton, dairy, rice and sugar irrigators by achieving a 10 to 20 percent improvement in water-use efficiency”, Minister Joyce said.

Meanwhile, a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) project funded under the program is using “advanced measurement technologies such as x-ray and 3-D digital imaging to more accurately determine meat yield and eating quality across the beef, sheep and pork industries”, he said.

The Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper provided additional funding and extended the program to 2021-22.

Google Earth images of the National Tree Project, funded under the Rural R&D for Profit program with support from Horticulture Innovation Australia and UNE.
Google Earth images of the National Tree Project, funded under the Rural R&D for Profit program with support from Horticulture Innovation Australia and UNE.
University of New England (UNE)

What are the funding priorities?

Rural RDCs applying for Round 3 funding will need to put forward projects that address one or more of the government’s “R&D priority areas” under the program:

•    the development of technology “to enhance the innovation of products, processes and practices across the supply chain”;

•    the development of biosecurity measures that help “improve understanding of pest and disease pathways”;

•    the development of better management practices regarding soil, water and natural resources that help improve soil health, water-use efficiency and sustainability; and of new, sustainable production areas with greater resilience to environmental stressors;

•    the adoption of R&D focused on “flexible delivery of extension services that meet producers' needs”. 

Agricultural researcher in action: the federal government's Rural R&D for Profit program has already delivered several projects to aid Australia's primary producers.
Agricultural researcher in action: the federal government's Rural R&D for Profit program has already delivered several projects to aid Australia's primary producers.
Australian National Audit Office

Collaboration a key focus of Rural R&D for Profit program

 In 2014 the Coalition Government made an election commitment to provide $100 million for the Rural R&D for Profit program, to encourage R&D in the primary-production sector aimed at boosting productivity and profits across the sector.

Fostering industry and research collaboration is a key focus of the program, noted Minister Joyce – meaning that RDCs applying for funding “must team up with one or more RDC, research or industry partner”.

“Strong collaboration across sectors will promote innovation and growth for the industry as a whole,” he said.

Fruit and vegetable retailer: rural R&D benefits producers and consumers, says the Hon. Barnaby Joyce.
Fruit and vegetable retailer: rural R&D benefits producers and consumers, says the Hon. Barnaby Joyce.
Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA)

Rural R&D a win-win for producers and consumers

The benefits of investing in rural R&D are felt all along the food supply chain, from paddock to plate, Minister Joyce noted.

“Consumers are benefitting at the supermarket, with a selection of avocados with less bruising, the perfect head of broccoli for your family, sweeter oranges with less acidity and juicy mangoes for your summer salad – just some of the results achieved through rural research and development,” he said.

“Advances made in the agricultural sector are great examples of how RDCs, researchers and producers getting together and identifying common challenges and areas of research produces tangible results for the producer as well as the consumer.”

Applying for Round 3 funding

For more information on how to apply and key dates for applicants, visit the Rural R&D for Profit section of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources' site

Applications for funding close 6 December 2016.

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