New research partnership takes aim at Ag issues in South West

Hon. Steve Thomas MLC (Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council; Treasury; Small Business), Professor Cobie Rudd (Deputy Vice-Chancellor Regional Futures and Vice-President Edith Cowan University), Hon. Nola Marino MP (Federal Member for Forrest), Dr Dale Putland (CEO, Shire of Boyup Brook) and Councillor Richard Walker (Shire President, Shire of Boyup Brook). Photo credit: ECU South West

Research using innovative technological solutions for real world agricultural challenges will be the centrepiece of a partnership between Edith Cowan University and the Shire of Boyup Brook.

A 20-year agreement gives ECU researchers and students access to a working farm at the Shire-owned, 650ha Rylington Park property 27km south of Boyup Brook town centre.

The site will become a living laboratory for research, where students and researchers will use a real-world environment to work on projects to solve farming problems

ECU Research Theme Leader (Natural and Built Environments) Professor Kerry Brown said the partnership was an opportunity to conduct applied research that would also support regional development.

“The ability to have access to a single farm is a significant opportunity to develop long term research studies that may solve issues including climate change, livestock and crop management,” she said.

“Evidence-based responses to changing climates and new farming practices are critical to building farm viability and community prosperity.

“ECU will work with the farming community to share the results of the research.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Regional Futures) Cobie Rudd forged an MoU late last year with the Shire for this 20 year partnership.

“The partnership with Rylington Park and the Shire of Boyup Brook is a great start to better understanding the challenges facing the farming community, while also contributing to regional development,” she said.

“ECU’s research will make a lasting contribution to improving the agricultural industry.”

ECU researchers are already in initial discussions around several projects identified by industry, including:

Native seed production in a changing world
ECU is partnering with Greening Australia to investigate establishing a native seed production project at Rylington Park. Having enough good quality native seed is a major limitation in addressing Australia’s challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change. A Seed Production Area will assess how to best produce resilient, good quality native seed for conservation and restoration, especially in a changing climate.

Drones and farm health
Researchers are investigating using drones to better measure carbon sequestration from agricultural areas in the South West. They are hoping to better understand pasture productivity and health as well as the activity of soil microbes across farms using different agricultural management practices from conventional to regenerative.

Using WiFi to build ‘virtual fences’
ECU researchers have established a low power wireless network that will eventually create a ‘virtual fence’ around the entirety of Rylington Park’s 600 hectares. The network will enable the monitoring, detection and repelling objects and animals – particularly foxes. It also allows for research on precision agriculture focussing on the optimisation of movement of livestock, machinery across different areas of the property.

Source: ECU South West