Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce joined UNE Vice-Chancellor, Professor Annabelle Duncan, in turning the first sod on the new development on Wednesday morning.
Professor Duncan said the new SMART Farm Education Facility will include a working farm, a demonstration farmhouse and a visitor and teaching centre.
“The facility is part of a $46 million expansion in UNE’s agricultural research and teaching capabilities, and ensures our students have hands-on experience with the emerging technologies which are changing farming practice in Australia and around the world,” Professor Duncan said.
Head of the Kirby SMART Farm Project, Professor David Lamb, said the new facility will also provide significant research extension opportunities for demonstration of the latest technologies to farmers and professionals already working in the industry.
“For example we have an ear-tag livestock tracking system, a satellite-based pasture monitoring tool, and even a prototype virtual fence working. Taken together this suggests a future where farmers can observe both their pasture and livestock, and then potentially move livestock around without setting foot in the paddock,” Professor Lamb said.
“By combining the demonstration farm-house with a visitor and teaching centre we open the facility up to the wider community, giving schools and interest groups the opportunity to learn more about new agricultural technologies.”
Minister Barnaby Joyce praised the technology of the SMART Farm, and emphasised the vital importance of farming intelligently into the future to ensure that Australia’s and the world’s populations can be sustained now and into the future.
Construction of the SMART Farm Education Facility is due for completion at the end of 2014.
This project is an initiative of the Australian Government as part of the Education Investment Fund.
*SMART = sustainable, manageable and accessible rural technologies
Image: Head of UNE School of Science & Technology, Prof Aron Murphy; Head of SMART Farm Project, Prof David Lamb; Kirby Farm Manager, Paul Arnott; Federal Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Barnaby Joyce; UNE Vice-Chancellor Professor Annabelle Duncan; Acting UNE Chancellor, Dr Geoff Fox; Head of UNE School of Environmental and Rural Science, Professor Iain Young. (Image from David Elkins)