With the winter solstice having just passed, I was surprised last week to find a near-ripe plum on one of the trees in my backyard! With the drought, heatwaves and hail events having limited fruit production during the summer, my favorite plum tree decided to take advantage of a wet late summer and autumn to grow new leaves and new fruit. A reminder of the dynamic ways in which food production systems can respond to disruption.
In addition to being the winter solstice, last week was also when the H2O Hack event took place. Over 50 participants from 12 teams came together to develop technological solutions to improve agricultural water use efficiency. While the solutions in themselves were fantastic, the value of the hackathon was also in the journey that each team went through, and the networks that were forged through the event. Look out for articles on the CEAT website and social media for details on the winning teams and how the event changed the mindsets of participants. You can view my introduction to the Hackathon here.
Over the last year, CEAT has been privileged to have Petr Adámek (CEO of the Canberra Innovation Network) as interim Chair of our Governance Committee; Petr’s appointment ends this month. Petr has been a wonderful advocate for CEAT, with the Governance Committee benefiting from his extensive experience of innovation ecosystems and governance. I would like to thank Petr for his contribution to the establishment and growth of CEAT.
Thankfully, we have been able to identify a fantastic replacement for Petr: Victoria Taylor (GAICD). Victoria has had a long career in agricultural policy, representation and governance. She is Deputy Chair of the Rice Marketing Board, Independent Director for Australian Dairy Farmers Ltd, Director at Flourish Communication, was until recently EO at the National Horticulture Research Network. Over the past year, Victoria was based in Boston, USA, where she explored the local agri-technology scene. I look forward to working with Victoria as we seek to expand the range of programs offered by CEAT, and to ensure that those programs have maximum impact, both within the ANU-CSIRO Precinct and in connecting the Precinct with industry.
Talking about expansion, I am pleased to announce that the ANU has recently decided to elevate CEAT to the status of an ANU Innovation Institute (along with other Institutes, such as InSpace, 3Ai and WearOptimo). Collaboration with CSIRO will remain central to the CEAT Innovation Institute, as will our ongoing partnership with the ACT Government. As an ANU Innovation Institute, CEAT will invest in sub-programs that: (1) develop the ANU-CSIRO Precinct’s agri-tech research and infrastructure capabilities; and, (2) enhance the university’s reputation as a trusted partner for the agri-tech industry. Our vision is for the CEAT Innovation Institute to be a driver of cultural and social change within the Precinct, and in doing so, place Canberra at the forefront of developing national and global trans-disciplinary agri-technology solutions.
The last few months – while challenging due to COVID-19 – have been exciting for the CEAT team. I invite you to join us in helping build partnerships between researchers, industry, government and end-users to target real agricultural challenges, independent of traditional disciplinary boundaries.
Owen Atkin, Director, CEAT.