Innovation centre a step closer

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has signed off on a $20 million deal to partner the WA Government in the new Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC).

The GRDC and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) signed a letter of intent to fund the centre at the Dowerin field days. Each will $20 million over five years.

That brings the total funding to $85 million, with $30 million from the State Government and $15 million from other research organisations, including CSIRO.

AEGIC is set to have state-of-the-art laboratories, automated and air-conditioned glass houses and irrigated field plots and is being pitched as a research and business think tank.

It is set to be the national centre of excellence for grains research, taking up the reins as flagship research centre for Australia.

The centre has been on the table for years, originally slated to be built at Murdoch University.

But last budget, the State Government announced AEGIC would now be moved from Murdoch to a South Perth site adjacent to Technology Park and DAFWA.

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman denies the move represents a souring of relations between the universities and DAFWA.

“The location of the rebuild doesn’t have any significance to the relationship we have with universities, which is sound, ” he said.

The first sod is yet to be turned, and there is no time frame for the build, but the first two projects are set to get underway next year.

GRDC chairman Keith Perrett said the centre would go some of the way to filling the void left behind by the demise of the single desk.

“Those customers (under the single desk) fed their information back through AWB to the breeders, ” he said.

“GRDC is now stepping into some of that space, looking at wheat classification and the certain qualities the end users want.”

The first project AEGIC will undertake is looking at the economics of grain supply, to determine what is driving on farm profitability.

“Then we will be going down the path of looking at the quality of grains, ” Mr Perrett said.

“So the internal characteristics of grain — what makes grain suitable for which market and how do you get greater value out of it.”

Research currently undertaken by DAWFA on cereal breeding won’t be scaled back.

“This innovation will be right across the chain and it will be coming up with new technology, ” Mr Perrett said.

“It’s about driving innovation, driving technology and then delivering that back to the growers.”

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