While the past 12 months has presented many challenges to those in agriculture, as well as in industries further afield, the importance of agriculture and the food sector in Tasmania post COVID-19, can't be underestimated.
With the certainty of a very different economy once the pandemic is behind us, the agricultural sector has a major role to play in Tasmania's economic recovery, following the impact to industries such as tourism.
While Tasmania has made good progress over recent years in achieving the state government's agricultural growth plan for a farmgate value of $10 billion by 2050, the effect of the highly unusual 2020 has yet to be seen.
Nevertheless, an important ingredient of the further growth we need will be innovative and practical agricultural and food sector research, applicable directly to farms and enterprises - particularly as we address climate change and other future challenges.
This requires research projects that are relevant to Tasmanian agriculture and which have a pathway to ready adoption by the industry. As a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government, the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture enjoys close involvement with both industry and agricultural research.
TIA's researchers work across agricultural systems, food safety and innovation, horticulture and livestock production systems and global partnerships, to uncover sustainable agriculture and food sector science and initiatives, to provide high impact research, education, development and benefits directly to industry.
TIA's recent $6.5 million research partnership with Dairy Australia to deliver a national research and industry development program focusing on feedbase research, is a prime example of this.
This research will help dairy farmers maintain profitable and sustainable pasture based dairy sytems into the future,
The investment of $7.4 million into TIA's Northern research farms, thanks to a partnership with the state government, will also be an important contribution to industry development in Tasmania.
The funding is aimed at making TIA's Forthside Vegetable Research Facility and Elliot Dairy Research Facility into centres of excellence, to maximise their potential and further strengthen outcomes.
The farms will also be a part of an exciting Smartfarm project that will allow farmers to see new technologies in action that can be adopted to their own properties.
Much research is also focused on addressing climate change and its many challenges. A major legume trial for example, is providing insights directly to farmers to help improve pasture resilience. The trial, focused on East Coast dryland pastures, has already reaped promising results with many commercially available legumes used in the trial already persisting, despite drought conditions in recent years.
Water management capacity and irrigation are also a major focus, with TIA's research projects already facilitating direct training for farmers around water use.
Masterclasses qualifications in dairy farm management and horticultural business are also providing valuable training and support to those on the ground and working in the industry.
The relocation of TIA's headquarters to Launceston in 2024 as a base for conducting research and industry based initiatives around the entire state, is also an important part of sector development and growth.
The plan will bring better access to the industry, strong investment in research as well as top grade facilities to develop research and industry initiatives in Tasmania.