AGRICULTURE and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan has put the Grains Research Institute model back on the table and plans to make headway on the proposal.
She met with representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), leading WA universities and some of WA’s chief scientists to discuss the future direction of agricultural research on Monday.
The minister said while there had been a lot of discussion around the Grains Research Institute in the past, it was the first time universities, scientists and experts had discussed the proposal at length.
“This is the first time the universities and industry research leaders have come together,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“I was determined to make sure this model had the support of industry and made sense to the universities involved in agricultural research,” she said.
“Before I was going to sign off on a proposal like this I needed to ensure it was clearly considered a good model by everyone and that it wasn’t just a response to a lack of funds from DAFWA over the past eight years.”
Discussion centred on future agriculture and research models with a strong focus on keeping local grains research alive.
Ms MacTiernan said it was clear the grain sector was still concerned about WA’s grains research future but believed the Grains Research Institute concept had progressed.
“We needed to look at this from all angles,” she said.
“And we needed to look at a decision that would be really beneficial.”
Ms MacTiernan plans to meet with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) next week to discuss the concept further.
“We will now be looking at this model in principal,” she said.
“We will work out and source some more evidence between the spend and the money tipped in by our grain growers and what we get back.
“There is still work to be done.”
Ms MacTiernan called the high-level meeting to outline changes and partnerships within the industry.
“I wanted to make decisions with the benefit of engagement from other sectors,” she said.
“Not just listening to the department, even though that is very important, it was important to get feedback much more broadly from those people who know about research and how to best manage those things.
“I was not prepared to make decisions without informed feedback.”
Ms MacTiernan said she didn’t believe there was enough collaboration between the universities from WA, particularly within the agricultural faculties.
She said collaboration and feedback was vital to maximise the sector’s potential.
The minister wants to chart a course that maximises research and development, particularly in the grains industry, to create jobs and put WA at the forefront of scientific research.
She said the previous government severely cut DAFWA funding, losing key research and development staff that impacted on its future capabilities.
Ms MacTiernan said a more collaborative approach would avoid repetition in the research sector and deliver better returns on State government investment.
She said a refocus was needed for agriculture.
“In the current environment, it is more important than ever that we ensure we are maximising our return on investment in research and development – we need to be very clear on who does what and how best we can leverage our research and development dollars,” she said.
“WA has a proud history of ground breaking, world-leading research in agriculture, particularly related to grains, and the Department of Agriculture and Food has historically had an important role in this.
“But brutal cuts to the department have left the sector’s research and development capabilities hanging in the balance.
“By bringing together key stakeholders in this space – the Department of Agriculture and Food, the four research universities and the chief scientist – the State government is charting a course for rebuilding our capabilities in research and development.
“If we can get the science right, our agricultural sector will take its rightful place as one of the biggest new job creators in WA.”