Darwin plans to be an important link in the world’s future food supply chain, hosting an event for the next generation of Australia’s agricultural innovators.

The city, in Australia’s Northern Territory, hosted the Nuffield Australia National Conference in September. More than 300 primary producers, investors and industry experts met at the Darwin Convention Centre to discuss the development of the agriculture industry through more efficient and sustainable food production. In addition to the two-day conference, delegates spent time on regional tours seeing first-hand primary production in Northern Australia and the advancements and opportunities in beef, barramundi, tropical fruit and crocodile farming.

Australia is considered a premium food supplier with a reputation of clean water and air, quality products and strong biosecurity measures. The Northern Territory in particular is in a position to be a key player in the global food supply chain, especially in the fast-growing economies in China and India. The research being undertaken by Nuffield scholars in the farming, food, horticulture or rural sectors is recognised as a vital part in developing Australia’s agricultural economy.

Luke Bowen, General Manager of Northern Australia Development and Trade, said: “Darwin is the capital of the north of Australia and has strategic role to play in the expansion of our export industry into the fast-growing Asian economies. Investment and development in the north are fundamental to the prosperity of Australia with over 50 per cent of Australian exports coming from the region.”

The potential importance of the north for the agriculture industry is being safeguarded by a new $8 million biosecurity hub being built in Darwin to protect against foreign pests and diseases, a joint project by the Australian and Northern Territory Governments. The Northern Territory Government also recently funded a project to map soil and water of potentially productive land to identify key areas for agricultural development. Changes to the Pastoral Land Act in 2014 now allow leaseholders and investors to develop land for non-pastoral use such as horticulture and aquaculture.

Jodie Dean, CEO of Nuffield Australia, added: “Nuffield scholarships provide unique opportunities to the new pioneers of agriculture to investigate technological advances around the world. The scholarship in itself is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but the benefits continue beyond the tour with a shift in the approach to learning, sharing and leading for the broader development of the industry.”

Guest speaker Gina Rinehart, Executive Chairman of the Hancock Prospecting Group and S. Kidman and Co, spoke on the conference theme of ‘New Horizons’, and the need for new research and the integration of new technologies into the agriculture industry to improve efficiencies, safety and cost competitiveness. Within the Hancock Group, for example, drones are being used to monitor dams, fences, troughs and stock, as well as being tested to carry tools, medical equipment
and emergency supplies to far reaching areas of cattle stations. Walkover weighing stations have also been developed that support self-mustering and can direct livestock to either further feed or to yards if they are ready to be sold. This reduces human resources and the stress on the livestock.

Fellow presenter Dan Richards, General Manager of Northern Territory company Humpty Doo Barramundi, was a 2016 Nuffield Scholar. His tour took him to more than 20 countries, including exploring the large-scale production of salmon in Norway, barramundi farming in Saudi Arabia, and industry-driven research in the USA. Richards said: “Since returning, Humpty Doo Barramundi have been able to adopt and adapt a wide range of technologies and innovations from across the globe to enable our operation to grow to become the largest producer of barramundi in Australia. We have now doubled the capacity of our farm and are launching a world first barramundi sashimi product into the Australian premium seafood market.”

(via Darwin Convention Centre)

Featured image: Dan Richards, General Manager of Humpty Doo Barramundi