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USQ to establish multi-million dollar agriculture research facility

Drawing of buildings
Artist impression of agriculture research facility
The University of Southern Queensland will soon call tenders for the start of an Agricultural Engineering and Technology Precinct (AETP) at its Toowoomba campus.

The project costing almost $10 million will provide a new home for USQ’s Centre for Crop Health, and includes an expansion of field trial and laboratory facilities for its National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture.

Funded by USQ with significant co-investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the new precinct will allow the University to build on its internationally acclaimed achievements into crop health.

USQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Jan Thomas said Stage 1 of the project will include environmentally-controlled glasshouses, laboratories, outdoor trial sites and a centre for the study of biopesticides. Stage 1 also includes $2m investment from GRDC to support ongoing research and development for the GRDC’s northern cropping region.

Stage 2 will incorporate new road access, lighting and the construction of an artificial lake to help with water retention and long term irrigation supply.

To be built on USQ land, the precinct covers approximately 6 hectares between Handley and Baker streets, and will include a repurposing of the Cedar Centre into a research and education hub for scientists and postgraduate students.

Professor Thomas said the AETP will undertake specialist activities that will help supplement current research into crop production, harvesting, and yield outputs and will provide farmers with more accurate information for improved crop returns on their farming methods.

“With the world heavily dependent on growing new foods and harnessing more efficient and effective cropping to meet global demands it was vital that ongoing research be undertaken into disease and drought resistant crops,” Professor Thomas said.

“The AETP will give our researchers the ability to undertake trials using new technologies involving machine-vision sensing and robotics that will put us at the cutting edge of agriculture in Australia and beyond.”

“The precinct will also enable us to better deliver research for crops not grown on the Darling Downs, including rice, sugarcane and even coconuts.”

Professor Thomas said that the building of the AETP will complete the move to USQ of a number of research and support staff and projects from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries under the Broadacre Agriculture Initiative between the Queensland Government and the university.

“The AETP infrastructure investment by USQ is part of the University’s push to be a national leader in crop protection, plant pathology and biotechnology research,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

Professor Thomas said the AETP will cement USQ’s position as a major research organisation for the GRDC’s northern cropping region in summer and winter cereals, coarse grains, pulses and oilseeds.