Going organic: $4m university research centre announced
AFTER years of being sidelined, the organic food revolution has moved beyond its hippy reputation with an innovative approach from Southern Cross University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, who plan to share expertise, research and ideas at the newly created Centre for Organics Research.
With the most recent benchmarking in the Australian Organic Market Report in 2014 valuing the organic industry in Australia at $1.72 billion, this is a timely announcement as the Centre which will be based at the SCU Lismore campus, will assist the region and the country become better recognised for its green, clean, safe and secure food sources.
The University's Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said the interests of the Centre would be broad.
"We expect to attract partners who will have their own research priorities and problems to solve, it is a contemporary field with great potential to innovate," he said.
"Even if you have never walked into a university or buy organic food, everyone wants to know the provenance of food they buy, they want to know where their food comes from."
"The Centre for Organics Research will build on Australia's reputation for food safety, security and export to key markets world-wide. It is also of great relevance to our region," he said.
Prof Shoemaker said the university is also looking attract the best and brightest to lead and undertake research.
He said recruitment for the Director of the Centre will commence shortly and a joint research symposium to launch the Centre is being planned for the first half of next year.
DPI chief scientist Dr Phil Wright was clearly thrilled with the announcement and happily confessed to being a "science nerd".
Dr Wright said this was an exciting opportunity to work in partnership with the University to invest in and conduct the critical science to underpin the future of the organics industry in NSW and Australia.
He said the DPI will contribute $2 million during a five-year funding period to be matched by SCU including through the contribution of staff and facilities.
"The Centre will be important on a national scale and we hope it will be a catalyst to attract further interest and investment in organics research nationally and internationally," he said.
At the announcement of the collaboration, state Member for Lismore The Hon Thomas George highlighted the value of the collaboration between the two organisations to the Northern Rivers.
"The University has a world-leading reputation in plant genetics and related fields," he said.
"There is growing global interest and huge potential in all aspects of organics, so this is a big opportunity for our region."
Southern Cross University Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said the vision for the Centre was to create a world-leading facility for all aspects of organics research.
"Creating this Centre in partnership with the Department is a natural fit," she said.
"We are already working on a number of projects and the Centre represents an exciting extension of the relationship between the two organisations".
University Chancellor Nick Burton Taylor AM, said the Centre will be a profound evolution in organic research.
"This mean old science will be marrying new science," he said.