August update from Prof. Owen Atkin, Director, CEAT

A major feature of CEAT is its focus on helping Canberra-based agri-tech businesses grow, with that growth providing employment and training opportunities for our students and early career researchers. It was with this in mind that we established the CEAT Innovation Hub in the Gould Building – a building that is ideally placed on the ANU campus adjacent to CSIRO.  Hub members co-locate in the Gould Building to benefit from proximity to the world-leading infrastructure and expertise at the ANU and CSIRO.   In addition to having access to offices, laboratory space and meeting rooms in the Hub, Hub members also can make use of the ANU Makerspace workshop, ANU libraries, and wider infrastructure/expertise of the ANU/CSIRO Precinct. While the Hub is at near capacity, there are some spaces still available – thus, if you or your company is interested growing your agri-tech business in Canberra, please send an enquiry to join the hub

Talking of the Hub, I am pleased to announce that Quantum Brilliance has just joined the Hub. Quantum Brilliance is a start-up company building quantum computers that work at room temperature, with the ultimate goal of developing ‘QPUs’ that are the size of an accelerator card. Many of you might wonder, however, where there is a link between quantum computing and agriculture. The answer lays in the need for modern agriculture to rapidly process large amounts of data – particularly in areas where the computational power required for a task is beyond the capacity of conventional computers. Examples include our ability to ‘replicate’ the natural world through highly complex models that predict future climate regimes, as well as running complex simulations to optimise production efficiency of agricultural systems. Quantum computing also has the potential to power and improve the capacity for remote sensing and high-speed imaging from space; acquiring long range high resolution, 3D images; and, increased connectivity in agriculture. We look forward to supporting Quantum Brilliance as they grow.  

Late last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Olympia Yarger at her business – Goterra – in the New West Industry Park in Hume. Olympia has been a supporter of CEAT from the start, giving her time to participate in an industry consultation process that we used to develop the CEAT concept.  Goterra is a start-up that uses black soldier fly larvae, robotics and controlled environments to process tonnes of food waste each day, with the larvae then being turned into livestock feed that can be sold to farmers.  The system also produces organic, nutrient-rich soil fertiliser (Frass) as a by-product. Key to their system has been the progressive development of the robotic systems and optimisation of the modular controlled environments to ensure the system is running at peak efficiency. Recently, Goterra raised $8 million in venture capital investment – a fantastic result that sets up a bright future for Olympia and her team as they grow their business.   

As I mentioned in last month’s Director letter, the CEAT team has been working with the InSpace InstituteResearch School of Earth Sciences and Research School of Electrical, Energy and Materials Engineering to develop an AgriFutures report on how space-based technologies can be used to improve Australia’s farming, fisheries and forestry industries. As part of that project, we recently ran an industry consultation workshop to assess the future of space technologies in the rural sector. Delivered over four sequential sessions, the workshop: defined the needs and challenges in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors; discussed current and emerging Earth observation and communication technologies of relevance to industry challenges; brainstormed the value proposition of different combinations of technologies and business models to solve industry challenges; and, addressed barriers to adopting technological applications that solve existing and future industry challenges. The workshop was a great success, with over 60 people giving their time to participate in the workshop sessions. The report will be made available later this year – keep an eye on the CEAT website for when it comes out. Also, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter for updates on a range of new initiatives and programs.  

Thank you. 

Owen Atkin, Director, CEAT.

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