veski agtech bears fruit (and wine)

14 February

On Monday 13 February, veski unveiled the fruits of its inaugural investment in the veski sustainable agriculture fellowship grants. The event saw farmer representatives, researchers, industry and government leaders hearing an Innovation Update on the use of sensor technology to determine the perfect pear for Asian markets and a new app to map the ‘pepper’ flavour of Victorian Shiraz.

Mr Sam Trethewey, General Manager of SproutX, a joint initiative of Findex and the National Farmers’ Federation said, “Australia’s biggest natural advantage lies in agriculture and initiatives which help to enable and commercialise agtech innovations are critical"

The Hon Jaala Pulford, Victorian Minister for Agriculture launched the inaugural grants in December 2015. A year on, the Minister assessed that the veski sustainable agriculture fellowships have delivered genuine innovation for Victorian farmers.

“Working with researchers, farmers and communities, the veski sustainable agriculture projects have harnessed emerging technologies to deliver innovation, this approach is critical to pave the way for ongoing agricultural and economic success.”

veski sustainable agriculture selection panel chairman, Professor Snow Barlow, a plant physiologist and agricultural scientist, viticulturist and farmer, said that “the veski projects exemplify the cutting edge innovations occurring in Australia’s regional communities right across the country, and provide knowledge and expertise that can be scaled beyond viticulture and horticulture.”

Researchers and farmers paired to determine perfect pear for Asian markets

Professor Luca Corelli Grappadelli from the University of Bologna in Italy is working intensively with Shepparton pear farmers and the DEDJTR pear field laboratory in Tatura to apply new sensor technology to enhance Deliza and PIQA pears.

The research applies a number of new and innovative technologies, algorithms and methodologies to manage and predict fruit size as well as sensors to improve practices and monitoring in the production and handling chain to ensure maximum yield and quality.

This work has been welcomed by industry, as a perfect pear to match the taste and visual preferences of local and international consumers is required to revitalise the declining Australian pear industry.

Professor Corelli Grappadelli said, “It’s truly satisfying to pioneer the future of Australian horticulture through the use of sensor technology in order to maximise both quality and volume whilst creating a vital tool that will become a life line for the Australian pear industry.”

Peppery flavour, climate and an app are key to selling Victorian Shiraz

Dr Pangzhen Zhang from the University of Melbourne is working closely with the Victorian viticulture industry to develop a ‘pepper’ map with information on how to maximise the ‘peppery’ flavour, known as Rotundone, found in high quality Victorian Shiraz.

Dr Zhang felt compelled to do this project as he was, “keen to use technology to increase the sustainability of viticultural production in Victoria, and maximize wine industry profits under future climate conditions.”

The veski sustainable agriculture fellowship for the first time provides a method to define, quantify and differentiate regional Victorian agricultural products like Shiraz. In addition, the app will provide industry with access to relevant data and information including a Victorian-wide rotundone map to help Victorian grape growers estimate their rotundone concentration at each vintage based in climate data in their region.

The project also provides information for future production by combining the climate-rotundone model and Australian Bureau of Meteorology climate projection to estimate rotundone production over the coming 50 years. Based on this modelling, a specific vineyard management protocol is being designed to maximise rotundone production under different climate scenarios.

Launch of Round Two, veski sustainable agriculture fellowship grants

Chief executive officer, Ms Julia L Page, expressed veski’s delight with the success of its first foray into backing sustainable agriculture and thanked the John T Reid Charitable Trusts for their backing of the initiative. “The program has achieved our objectives in delivering tangible innovation that drives sustainable agriculture. We have seen incredible results through collaboration between community, philanthropic organisations, industry and government to develop innovative solutions to support agriculture industries’ transition to future markets.”

“Based on this success, veski is pleased to invite Expressions of Interest for Round Two of the veski sustainable agriculture fellowship program.”

Grants are for up to $150,000. Expressions of interest close on Thursday 9 March and can be lodged at www.veski.org.au/EOI-agri

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