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Utilising technology and robotics for the future of food

Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, in Australia, along with more than 50 commercial and research partners, will be involved with the Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre.

As reported, the Federal Government is injecting A$ 35 million in funding over 10 years, together with almost A$ 150 million in support from the Centre’s educational and commercial participants.

The University’s involvement is spread across the Centre’s three research and development programs. These are:

  1. Planning and logistics in linking growers to their markets
  2. Developing smart automated indoor cropping
  3. Creating nutrient-dense foods, hybrid food and medical goods tailored to growing domestic and export markets

The Three Programs

Professor Doug Baker will lead the research program into logistics and urban design that will identify planning policy, design and infrastructure for integrating high-tech growing and processing facilities.

According to him, it is about being smarter with agriculture and infrastructure, and integrating technology and robotics into that.

They will be working with local and state governments as well as logistics partners.

Food hubs around Australia will benefit from their planning templates and freight modelling tools as they develop sustainable production and supply solutions.

An example of a future food system was greenhouses with automated vertical farming used to grow crops on or near airports or port areas.

This would allow the crops to be shipped straight to their markers.

The Centre will look at food hubs around Australia, including the new Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, which will have a surrounding cluster of intensive agribusinesses creating high-value products for target markets in Asia.

Professor Sagadevan Mundree and Dr Chris Lehnert will also lead foundation projects with the CRC.

Researchers would be using smart agricultural technologies to develop enhanced-proteins foods.

They will also develop scientifically-based tools and methods to create unique Australian-made premium food goods for domestic and export markets.

Professor Mundree will be working with a range of commercial partners in projects in robotics and automation, optimisation and development of novel hydroponic vertical systems, and new crop varieties for vertical systems.

Dr Lehnert, meanwhile, will be working on developing robotics and smart technology for vertical and indoor protected cropping.

He shared that the future potential of robotics in indoor protected cropping will be their ability to intelligently sense, think and act in order to reduce production costs and maximise output value in terms of crop yield and quality.

Robotics taking action, such as autonomous harvesting within indoor protected cropping will be a game changer for growers who are struggling to reduce their production costs.

The Centre

The Centre was initiated as part of a broader industry-wide push to increase value-adding capability, product differentiation and responsiveness to consumer preferences.

Sophisticated technology and stronger collaboration across the supply chain was needed for Australia to become a leader in booming export markets for trusted fresh foods and advanced precision nutrition goods.

The strong backing across all sectors is a sign that Australian agri-food is ready to make a leap forward in export readiness and capability.

The next growth phase in the industry demands strategic adoption of advanced science and technology across production, logistics, energy, water, and manufacturing.

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