$86m for eight drought resilience research hubs

$86m for eight drought resilience research hubs

Environment
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The eight hubs will be based in regional areas that reflect the key agricultural and climatic zones across the country.

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THE federal government will spend $86 million establishing research hubs across the nation, focused on practical ways to build drought resilience.

The eight hubs will be based in regional areas that reflect the key agricultural and climatic zones across the country, and are part of the government's Future Drought Fund.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the hubs would support networks of researchers, farmers, agricultural businesses and community groups to enhance drought resilience practice, tools and technology.

"The hubs will also break down silos and provide a physical location where researchers and the community can come together to develop ideas that build drought resilience," Mr Littleproud said.

"The end result will see a range of enduring institutions that cement partnerships among key organisations."

Read more: First wave of Future Drought Fund released

The hubs will provide a direct link between research providers - such as Research and Development Corporations - and farmers, by providing a way for farmers to co-design solutions that deliver real on-farm outcomes.

The target areas for the hubs are southern NSW, southern Queensland/northern NSW, far north Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, the Top End and south-west WA.

A competitive process to appoint the hubs and a regional university to lead the program will open in October.

In addition to the drought innovation hubs, a Digital Foundations for Agriculture Strategy will be developed, which will set the foundations for the widespread uptake of digital technologies across the ag sector.

"We know that digital technologies and agtech will drive the next wave of growth for the sector," Mr Littleproud said.

"In fact, the Australian Farm Institute estimates full adoption of digital tools by the agriculture sector could boost productivity by around $20.3 billion each year."

Andrew Coppin, managing director of Australian agtech company Farmbot, threw his weight behind the strategy, which was "crucial" to the development and growth of the ag sector.

"Farmbot is a firm believer in the importance of having a national, agriculture-wide digital strategy which brings together skills, technology, policy and adoption," Mr Coppin said.

"The establishment of regional adoption hubs and the development of a digital agriculture strategy needs to incorporate feedback from the pioneering start-ups and scale-ups that are already having success with proven technology.

"We believe agtech is a team game and this announcement certainly has the potential to turbocharge the broader adoption of all technology in the bush."

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