News and Views

Learning your hays, bees and seas

The Federal Government is backing a new generation of ag innovators with grant funding.

Eleven young innovators across Australia’s primary industries, including one young researcher whose ideas could have a global impact on honeybee populations, each received a share in grant funding to help them continue their cutting edge work.

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, said the 2017 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry recognised talented researchers and scientists, with grants of up to $22,000 each.

“The Federal Government is committed to investing in research and development because we genuinely believe it is critical for productive, sustainable and profitable industries and the future competitiveness of Australian agriculture in global markets,” Minister Joyce said.

“This annual awards and grant program is designed to support and celebrate young people working or studying in an agriculture, fisheries or forestry-related industry, to encourage industry innovation, and to help advance the careers of future agriculture leaders.

Emily Remnant

Emily Remnant

“The special Minister’s Award has gone to a very deserving young researcher originally from Wangaratta, Victoria, Dr Emily Remnant, for her innovative work into ways to protect honeybee populations in Australia and across the globe.”

Minister Ruston represented Minister Joyce to present the special Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Award to Dr Remnant, who is investigating the use of bacteria to immunise bees against deadly viruses.

“As colony collapses are devastating honeybee populations in other parts of the world, Emily’s research couldn’t come at a more important time to protect populations here in Australia,” Minister Ruston said.

“This ground-breaking research is vital to our horticulture industries that rely on bee colonies for pollination. Conservative estimates put the value of pollination for Australia’s fruit, vegetable and seed production at four to six billion dollars.”

Dr Remnant said the symbiotic bacteria, known as Wolbachia Pipientis, has already been shown to give virus resistance to flies and prevent mosquitoes transmitting dengue fever.

“This bacteria helps other insects fighting viruses but it hasn’t been examined in honeybees yet. So I’ll test the bacteria in bees and see if it helps them survive damaging viruses,” she said. “It is innovative because it’s using a natural chemical to prevent the viruses themselves.”

Minister Joyce said he had been impressed by the diverse range of winning projects, which ranged from research into magnesium supplementation to boost cattle growth rates, to research into the innovative use of the biogas from pig manure as fuel for farm vehicles.

The awards were presented at the gala evening of the ABARES Outlook 2017 conference, Australia’s pre-eminent agricultural and economic conference.

awards

Fast facts
• The Federal Government has delivered on an election commitment to increase R&D funding, with the $180.5 million for the Rural R&D for Profit programme.
• Grant funding of $79 million has been awarded to 29 projects over the first two rounds of the programme, and is matched by more than $109 million of cash and in-kind contributions by RDCs and their partners.
• This programme is on top of around $700 million the Australian Government already invests in rural R&D each year.

Feature Image: Emily Remnant is investigating the use of bacteria to immunise bees.

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