On 12-16 November 2018, researchers in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences came together at the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus to celebrate research impact and share lessons on collaborating within and across disciplines at Research Week 2018.
The event was planned and run as a collaboration between the Faculty’s research support team and researchers in the School of Agriculture and Food and the Melbourne Veterinary School, with input from staff at the University’s Parkville, Werribee and Dookie campuses.
Events and presentations followed the theme of impact through collaboration, incorporating perspectives, experiences and successes from researchers and leaders in the Schools, industry and government.
In total, the program of events had 680 attendees. Staff, students and stakeholders explored the breadth of the Faculty’s research, with 120 attending presentations and a poster session at a showcase event, over 220 people learning about pre-colonial agriculture in Australia at a keynote presentation from Indigenous author and anthologist Bruce Pascoe and many Faculty staff and graduate researchers progressing their research careers through development workshops and an informative panel discussion on working in Australia’s innovation system as a veterinary or agricultural science researcher.
You can see the complete program of events on the Research Week 2018 listing and find audio recordings of presentations and a photo gallery from the Research Showcase event below.
The impact and quality of a number projects was recognised with awards.
Recognising and understanding the value of indigenous agricultural practice for modern baking
Dr Kate Howell, a food scientist, received the Best Poster award for her project, “The potential of kangaroo grass for modern food systems.”
The project aims to develop a scientific understanding of the nutritional profile and processing potential of the native grain derived from kangaroo grass, which was cultivated for thousands of years by Indigenous Australians before the continent’s colonisation in 1788.
Dr Howell collaborated with Bruce Pascoe and his son Jack, and with crop scientist Dorin Gupta, agronomist Richard Eckard and geneticist Rudi Appels from the Faculty.
The project could enable kangaroo grass’ inclusion in modern bread by improving technical knowledge of the crop and grain in the food industries and popularising its use among bakers.
Kangaroo grass is particularly interesting in the context of climate change and drought. While it yields lower harvests than present crops, as a perennial plant, it requires less environmental disturbance to cultivate and is better adapted to the Australian climate than northern hemisphere crops like wheat.
Wider use could also lead to more Indigenous agribusiness while also providing a research pathway for Aboriginal students in tertiary education.
Future-proofing Melbourne’s local food production through a long-term multidisciplinary policy approach
Dr Rachel Carey, a food policy expert, received the Best Presentation award. Her project, “Planning a resilient city foodbowl: the Foodprint Melbourne project.”
The project team defines Melbourne’s foodbowl as the many small but highly productive agricultural regions scattered around the fringe of the city. At present the foodbowl supplies 41 per cent of the food needs of Melbourne’s population, but this could drop to 18 per cent if present trends in city planning and land use continue in the context of climate change, making Melbourne more dependent on imports from other regions or nations.
The Foodprint Melbourne project addresses the challenge of securing Melbourne’s fresh food supply from its city foodbowl.
It has influenced state and local approaches to land use planning, including the city’s metropolitan planning strategy and policy platforms for the up-coming state election.
The project involves a collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning and is based on a partnership with local governments, including the City of Melbourne, the Interface Councils and the Peri-Urban Group of Rural Councils. The project has adopted a ‘co-design’ approach to promote collaboration between local government, farmers, industry and state government stakeholders to address the challenge.
This cross-sector collaboration aims to increase the capacity of stakeholders to adopt an integrated ‘food systems’ approach to strengthen the city’s capacity to plan for a more resilient and sustainable food supply.
Presentations and panel events
You can listen to key events from Research Week on the Faculty’s website:
- Panel discussion: How can veterinary and agricultural researchers benefit from Australia’s innovation system?
- Keynote presentation: Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe on Indigenous agriculture in Australia
- 2018 GW Leeper Memorial Lecture: Sustainable cellulosic biofuels: A soils-centric perspective