The Queensland government has announced plans to transform the Emerald agriculture college it closed in 2019 into an “innovation flagship” research hub, with $16.7 million in funding over five years.
The site of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Emerald Research Facility will be redeveloped into the Central Queensland Smart Cropping Centre, the state government announced on Friday, after setting aside funding in this month’s budget.
The site was chosen for its size and suitable soil types, with research and development work expected to support the grains sector in the Central Queensland region.
“As part of the 2021 State Budget, the Emerald facility will be reborn as an innovation flagship that brings together Research, Development and Extension in areas such as farming systems, agronomy, crop innovation and plant protection, together with the latest innovations in AgTech and data sciences to deliver a world-class research hub for Queensland’s cropping sector,” Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said.
In 2019 the state government closed the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges (QATC) sites at Longreach and Emerald, with control of the facilities handed to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).
DAF retained a research station at the Emerald site west of Rockhampton, which will now be redeveloped into the Central Queensland Smart Cropping Centre.
“DAF is currently in discussions with the Central Highlands Regional Council and Central Highlands Development Corporation on alternative options regarding the tenure and future use of the campus and related areas at the Emerald site,” Mr Furner said.
“The Budget has also allocated ongoing funding to maintain the former QATC properties at Emerald and Longreach for future uses. Negotiations will continue with interested parties to identify suitable repurposing options for the former Longreach Pastoral College.”
The new research hub funding includes $10.9 million over five years and $5.9 million in capital funding over three years to “finalise long-term decisions on the future of assets” of the site formerly held by the QATC. This including the new Central Queensland Smart Cropping Centre at Emerald.
Mr Furner said the state’s economic recovery plan included a strong focus on research and development in the agriculture sector. The plan also includes a grant program for agtech which has so far supported a Bundaberg fruit and vegetable co-op’s digital project and a trial of smart collars for cows.
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