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Queensland government funds world’s first biosecurity virtual lab

A state government press statement from earlier this month reported that the Queensland is at the forefront of a new project that could change the way biosecurity emergency responses are managed. The region’s Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities stated that the Queensland Government will co-fund an international-first biosecurity virtual laboratory.

He noted that COVID-19 has shown how vital biosecurity data management and modelling is to the economy and way of life. The new biosecurity informatics platform will operationalise data use for research and decision making to model biosecurity risk using best practices.

The Minister said citizen science, geospatial and other data sets will be integrated to enable rapid, complex analysis of:

  • Species distribution models;
  • Biosecurity risk maps;
  • Surveillance design and intelligence;
  • Dispersal models;
  • Impact analysis;
  • Resource allocation; and
  • Proof of freedom models.

The National Biosecurity Committee has identified a biosecurity virtual laboratory as the most strategic priority for development. Until now, Australia’s biosecurity models have mostly been developed for a single purpose, with the use of modelling tools limited to only a handful of people. The new platform aims to move away from bespoke licensed modelling systems to secure cloud-based environments.

The Queensland Government will provide funding of $500,000 over two years under the $5.5 million ‘Digital Transformation in Agribusiness Initiative’ which is part of the Unite and Recover Economic Recovery Plan.

Australian Research Data Commons and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water are co-funding the $1.27 million project.

Queensland’s Griffith University will deliver the Biosecurity Commons informatics platform, building on an existing EcoCommons portal which is used to analyse, model and find solutions to ecological and environmental problems.

The Minister said he was pleased that the primary research capability will be based in Queensland. “This will add to the development of Queensland’s reputation for agri-tech and a critical mass servicing our agriculture supply chains,” he said.

He congratulated Biosecurity Queensland, Griffith University and the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis at the University of Melbourne on their successful funding application and wish them every success for this exciting project.

Other key collaborators include James Cook University, CSIRO, AgResearch NZ, Agriculture Victoria and the Queensland Herbarium.

More on the Digital Transformation in Agribusiness Initiative

In October 2020, the Queensland Government opened applications under a new grant program to help agribusiness recover from COVID-19 through digital transformation. The Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries had stated that $1.2 million is available for industry organisations in round one of the Agribusiness Digital Solutions Grant Program.

He said that the Government knows the significance of agriculture to the State’s economy and recognises the sector is well-positioned to play a leading role as we implement Queensland’s $8 billion plan for economic recovery. Thus, they are providing $5.5 million for the digital transformation of agribusiness as part of stage two economic recovery initiatives.

This initiative aims to enhance digital skills, drive business efficiencies and create regional jobs across Queensland. The Minister said accelerating digital transformation from farm to plate will create a resilient and profitable agribusiness sector.

Technology and innovation have been identified as a key priority to position the Queensland agribusiness and food sector to address challenges and capitalise on opportunities in response to COVID-19, he said.

Adopting digital solutions, such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blockchain, big data and advanced robotics has the ability to transform the sector. These technologies are developing quickly and changing the systems of production, management and governance across agribusiness and food supply chains.

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