The UWA Institute of Agriculture

Objectives and strategies

Further information

The Institute's objective is to enhance The University of Western Australia's contribution to the advancement of agriculture, and to the management of natural resources in selected international, national and regional settings.

  1. The University Context
  2. Communicating
  3. Resourcing
  4. Integrating
  5. Connecting

The University Context

The University of Western Australia (UWA) is committed to excellence across the spectrum of the scienceswhere UWA has disciplinary strength, world-class staff and infrastructure, and a significant strategic advantage offered by place and time (research.uwa.edu.au/research). The plant, animal and earth sciences that contribute to sustainable food production and environmental stewardship are amongst these areas of strength (‘Plant sciences and sustainable food production’ was identified as one of the University's six key strategicresearch areas in its Operational Priorities Plan 2009-13), and the UWA Institute of Agriculture works within this overarching context to support Australia’s national research priorities related to food and water security and living in a changing environment.

Given these special strengths the key responsibility for the Institute of Agriculture is to mobilizethe intellectual and physical capitalpresent within UWA toward resolution of the issues and opportunities facing agriculture and natural resource management.

Critical is the Institute’s role in developing and facilitating cross-faculty collaboration so that multi-disciplinary approaches can be broughtto bear on agricultural issues.Modern agriculture makes demands on advanced business practicesand risk management, computing, robotics, remote sensing and even the social sciences concerned with human behavior in areas such as technology transfer and change in rural communities, in addition to the traditional fields of plant, animal and soil sciences and resource management.

The Institute works in collaboration with the University’s Faculties, Schools and Centres, and especially with those within the Facultyof Science; and in doing so aims to align its activities with the Integrated Planning Exercise (IPE) Plans of its University partners. This integrative/collaborative approach is critical to the success of the Institute, its partners, and to science at UWA. In particular, the Institute contributes to two of the Faculty of Science’s ‘Big Picture Themes’, namely ‘Feeding the world’ and ‘Restore and maintain balance in the natural environment’.

In education, responsibility for undergraduate education and post-graduate training remains with the University’s faculties.  The Instituteretains a role in communicating, and linking undergraduate students to the opportunities for careers in agriculture and resourcemanagement.  It also plays a role in integrating the opportunities for postgraduate training in Agriculture-related disciplines.

The Institute’s business model is to motivate, facilitate and integrate the productive capacity of the Faculties, Schools and Centres of the University with the objective of bringing the benefits of the University's research and training in the fields of food production and resource management to the community. The Institute’s activities are therefore intentionally cross-faculty, and collaborative with multi-disciplinary Centres and external stakeholders.

An overarching principle of the Institute’s operations is that its impactwill be within Schools and Centres, with all studentsand research grants attracted to the University through the Institute’s activityplaced within, and managed by, a School or Centre(with Institute inputwhere appropriate). As a matterof policy, all research grant, postgraduate research student training and publication-linked income receivedby the University as a result of Institute-sponsored activities flow back to the Institute’s ‘members’1  in their respective Schools. Outputs from scientific research are credited to Schools and Centres with suitable acknowledgement of the Institute.

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The 'value add' the Institute extends to its members is: 

  • Opportunities to leverage the Institute’s relationship with research fundingorganisations. Existing relationships include GRDC, ACIAR, ARC, State and Federal Government agencies, CRCs, RIRDC, MLA, HIA, COGGO, Catchment Councils, Bayer and NPZ;
  • Expediting access to facilities including the UWA Farm Ridgefield;
  • Participating in international research collaborations with universities and other public and private organisations;
  • Access to high calibre, often fully-funded, international postgraduate students, and sourcing of high quality students suitable for prestigious International Postgraduate Research Scholarships and Endeavour Awards;
  • Attraction of visitors to UWA (e.g. Research Fellowsfor 6-12 month visits most undertaking research and publishing with academic staff);
  • Partnerships with nationaland local research organisations - for exampleCSIRO, DAFWA and other Universities;
  • Connecting UWA with local industry for problem identification, and with prospective industry partners for research funding and joint projects;
  • Mentoring the undergraduate and postgraduate studentbody in the Agricultural Science Major of the BSc and the Master of Agricultural Science;
  • Promoting the profileof researchers and the scope of agriculture within UWA, and with the community and research funding organisations through the Institute’s website, media statements, newsletter, annual report, events (e.g. postgraduate showcase), and personal advocacy; an
  • Opportunities to present and discuss ideas and initiatives with the Industry Advisory Board; a panel of highly recognised and respected people in industry.

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Communication

Strengthening communication links with regional industry, farmer groups and the broader regional and scientific communities.

Effective communication of research outcomes and training opportunities at UWA to farmer groups, industry, collaborators (state, national and international), funding bodies and potential students is a core strategy. Equally, the Institute has a role in listening to growers, advisors and agribusiness and bringing back their ideas and perspectives to contribute to the identification of key issues and opportunities.

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The Institute's communication objectives are:

  • To increase the rate of uptake and extent of use of the University’s agricultural research outputs by industry, farmer groups and the community at large.
  • To enhance UWA’s identity and reputation for high quality agricultural research and timely delivery of outcomes. Funders of research will increasingly demand higher standards of research management from their provider organisations, and evidence of efficient and timely research management processes will become important in investment decisions
  • To attract talented undergraduate and postgraduate students to undertake training and research in agriculture at the University.
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Resourcing

Increasing the pool of resources available for investment in critical R D E & A in Western Australia and in relevant national and international issues.

Increasing the overall quantum of research and development applied to regional, national, and international issues will improve outcomes for the agricultural sector. Many studies have shown that investment in agricultural research and development has a high benefit to cost ratio.

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The Institute's resourcing objectives are:

  • To increase UWA’s share of the total funding pool available for agricultural and natural resource management, and tap novel sources of funding for agriculture and NRM research and research training.
  • Maintain a  vigorous  higher  degree  by  research  (HDR)  program  in  agriculture  and  NRM, accessing both Australian and international sources for high quality students and HDR funding.
  • Identify  new  opportunities  for  UWA  research,  teaching  and  training  in  areas  related  to agriculture and NRM
  • Manage the University Farm Ridgefield to maximise its value for research and HDR student training whilst protecting the University’s investment.
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Integrating

Bringing together the University’s agricultural research and communication activities; integrating complementary activities across disciplines and organisational units, and providing a focus for leading-edge research, development, extension and adoption (RDE&A).

The Institute integrates across the broader University community through a ‘Theme Leadership Group’. The group (previously termed a Program Leaders Committee) includes the leaders of the major agricultural and NRM research themes developed through the Institute and supported by the University, representatives of relevant University Centres, plus individuals who can contribute in specific ways when a targeted effort is required. This is a broader and more flexible group than the previous Program Leaders Committee and allows the Institute to draw more widely on the University’s expertisein agriculture, NRM, food science, health, business and other areas.

The roles of the group are to consider and develop research themes, taking into account the strengths of UWA and its research objectives, share information on agricultural (including NRM) and food-related activities across the University community, and act as a communication medium between the relevant Schools and Centres and the Institute.

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Through the group, the Institute's integration objectives are:

  • Draw together the University’s personnel with research, teaching, training and communication interests in agriculture and NRM, under the umbrella of The UWA Institute of Agriculture.
  • Identify and integrate complementary activities across disciplines and organisational units.
  • Identify and develop research themes that are relevant to agriculture and NRM (locally, regionally and internationally), and which draw on the strengths of the University.
  • Provide a focus for leading-edge R&D through a flexible program structure.
  • Respond pro-actively to the changing education and research environment faced by the University, and identify needs and opportunities that this change provides
  • Sound management of the UWA Farm Ridgefield to enable access for multidisciplinary research.
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Connecting

Fostering national and international linkages and alliances that bring new knowledge and expertise for Western Australia, and allow Western Australia to share its knowledge with the world.

State, national and international linkages connect regional agriculture to the world’s leading Centres of agricultural innovation and relevant Government and non-Government organisations. Through these linkages, agriculture can benefit from the transfer of knowledge, expertise, management practices and materials such as germplasm. Exchange of academics and students can bring the best mindsto focus on agricultural problems and opportunities. Equally, UWA and our partners’ innovation and expertise can be transferred to other countries for the benefit of all.

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The Institute's connecting objectives are:

  • Establish formal research, postgraduate teaching and research training relationships between UWA and leading international universities and other research organisations with complementary expertise and interest in agriculture and NRM.
  • Develop stronger and more committed consultative links with WA-basedtertiary institutions and Government agencies to more effectively harness the state’s academic resources in agriculture and NRM.
  • Work with National research, development and extension strategies for agriculture to ensure the capability base of UWA is well understood and remains relevant to such national planning
  • Liaise with Government agencies and funding bodies to showcase UWA’s expertise and resources.
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