Environmental science

New USQ school to advance ag study, research

USQ Vice-Chancellor Geraldine Mackenzie, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development, Fisheries & Rural Communities Mark Furner, and Head of School (Agriculture and Environmental Science) Craig Baillie.

THE UNIVERSITY of Southern Queensland (USQ) has unveiled a new school dedicated to the study of agriculture and environmental science.

Officially opened by Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development, Fisheries & Rural Communities Mark Furner on Thursday, the school will bring together research and teaching aspects of the university to provide new opportunities for students looking to join the agriculture industry.

Study disciplines include: agricultural engineering; agricultural technology and management; agricultural science; environmental science; horticulture; animal science; wildlife management; wine science, and food science.

A new program, Bachelor of Agriculture Technology and Management, which has already been launched, and will be the first undergraduate degree in Queensland to focus on agriculture technology as applied on-farm.

Head of School (Agriculture and Environmental Science) Craig Baillie the school was established to help develop strong research expertise and capabilities in agricultural productivity and environment management, both in Australia and internationally.

“From on-farm automation to artificial intelligence-guided agricultural modeling through to management of biosecurity risks, we’re proud to deliver thinking that works,” Professor Baillie said.

“It’s all about employing world-leading research to help create world-changing results, focusing on issues that are locally relevant, have national significance and a global impact.”

USQ Institute of Life Sciences and the Environment executive director Gavin Ash said the school will draw interest from young people wanting to work on the land, as well as budding researchers.

“Undergraduate students come in thinking they are going to become a farmer or a consultant, and many of them do, but then a lot of them see the opportunities to do research to solve problems in the longer term,” Professor Ash said.

Technology-focused study

The program will have a major focus on new technologies and looking at how they can be integrated on farms.

“Agriculture is not what it used to be; there is a lot of tech and other aspects that students need to know.

“For example, we have a center for Sustainable Agriculture Systems, where we look at things like integrating digital agriculture with on-the-ground agriculture so we can produce the right sort of products at the right time for the right market and be able to track it through the system.

“We are also looking at applied climate sciences, where we look at satellite imagery in northern Australia to decide when you should be building your herds back up based on the grass cover and the forecast for long-term rainfall.”

Professor Ash said alongside government, the school will work with industry to further research and development, as well as learning opportunities for students.

“We are working with governments – state, federal and local – and also business.

“We are talking with Advanta Seeds or Pacific Seeds about their farm that they have at Allora and how we can get involved.

“Some of the technology businesses are also interested are what we are doing, like those working with drone technology, satellites and robotic glasshouses.”

USQ’s founding campus is located at Toowoomba, with other sites at Springfield, Ipswich and Stanthorpe.

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