Securing global food supply focus of international agriculture conference

Source : The University of Queensland

Feeding the world’s spiralling population amidst the ravages of climate change will be the focus of a major agriculture conference which gets underway in Brisbane today.

More than 1000 delegates from 53 countries have gathered for this year’s TropAg International Conferencebeing hosted by The University of Queensland.

UQ Professor of Protected Cropping Paul PG Gauthier is one of six plenary speakers and will discuss the science of protected farming as a solution to mitigate the impact of climate change and supply chain disruption.

“Building a sustainable and reliable food production system is one of the biggest challenges facing the world,” Professor Gauthier said.

“Climate change, natural disasters, digital disruption, population growth and the pandemic all reinforce the need for innovation in the Agrifood sector in what is a rapidly changing landscape.”

Professor Gauthier said there were huge opportunities for Australia, if for example, it was able to produce out of season tropical and subtropical crops for the rest of the world.

“That’s really exciting and that is what protected cropping and vertical farming can bring,” he said.

“My priority is to empower the next generation of farmers with a focus on tropical and sub-tropical crops, which is an emerging industry with a high growth rate.”

UQ Professor Henrietta Marrie AM will discuss her work on the development of traditional foods through the ARC Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods.

Professor Marrie will tell delegates that while Australia has a growing bushfood industry, not enough has been done to get Indigenous people in this market. 

“In Australia, we need to treasure the knowledge system of Indigenous people and work at how to bring their food to the table in a way that exposes the varieties that we have in Australia and how it can be a part of everyone’s diet,” Professor Marrie said.

“Traditional Australian foods were projected to be a million-dollar market in the 1980s, and while those expectations have been exceeded, primarily non-Indigenous people have benefitted.

Professor Marrie was recently awarded an ARC Discovery grant to study Indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge to help support and promote First Nations economic self-sufficiency and sustainability.

The packed three-day conference program includes 240 presentations across four key themes: agribusiness, value chains and the bioeconomy, predictive agriculture, sustainable agrifood systems, healthy agriculture, and food for healthy communities. 

Conference Chair and Director of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation Professor Matthew Morell said TropAg was a rare chance to hear from world class scientists and industry experts.

“What we are facing is grim, but we have the skill, technology and science to tackle it head on,” Professor Morell said.

“Our scientists are at the forefront of the technologies that are changing the world and are making the most of revolutionary changes in plant breeding, protected environments, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, all of which will be necessary to provide for the changing world and increased demand for food.” 

The University of Queensland is hosting TropAg in partnership with the Queensland Government via the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The conference will run from 31 October to 2 November 2022 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.


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