Merredin hub to build drought resilience

Merredin hub to build drought resilience

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The Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub will be led by the Grower Group Alliance, with the board comprising Chris Reichstein (left), vice chairwoman Erin Gorter, Graham Smith, Kelly Manton-Pearce, Debbie Gillam, chairman Peter Roberts, Nicole Batten and Nathan Craig.

The Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub will be led by the Grower Group Alliance, with the board comprising Chris Reichstein (left), vice chairwoman Erin Gorter, Graham Smith, Kelly Manton-Pearce, Debbie Gillam, chairman Peter Roberts, Nicole Batten and Nathan Craig.

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The delivery of drought resilience will be led by the Grower Group Alliance

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Merredin will be the home of Western Australia's first Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub.

The Federal government has invested $8 million to establish the hub and additional $12.2m will be contributed by hub members.

Federal Durack MP Melissa Price said the hub would oversee the co-design and delivery of innovative projects and practices aimed at boosting drought resilience and agricultural productivity.

"For the first time, this WA Hub will bring together researchers, farmers, industry, supply chain experts, traditional owners, entrepreneurs, agribusiness and other stakeholders to take on the challenges of drought," Ms Price said.

"Through the hub, they will design and deliver innovative tools and strategies for Western Australian farmers and their communities, boosting drought resilience and future proofing our regional communities."

The delivery of drought resilience will be led by the Grower Group Alliance (GGA).

GGA chairman Peter Roberts said the hub would place WA in a better position within the global agricultural innovation landscape.

"The hub will focus on activities that build business resilience by using innovative technology to transform farming systems," Mr Roberts said.

"It will put farmers and communities at the centre of agri-food innovation and create pathways for producers to input into how research is designed and applied on the ground.

"This will speed up innovation and adoption, making WA agriculture industries more resilient, productive and competitive in the face of future drought."

GGA is a not-for-profit organisation with more than 60 grower group members in WA, representing more than 4000 producers.

In establishing the program, the Federal government commissioned ACIL Allen Consulting to undertake a stocktake of current drought resilience research, development, extension and adoption (RDE&A).

The purpose of this stocktake was to improve the understanding of the current investment in drought resilience RDE&A in Australia and inform the development for this program.

A comparison of the WA agricultural region landscape showing the impact of reduced long-term rainfall. The top Google Earth satellite imagery is from 1984 and the bottom is from 2020.

A comparison of the WA agricultural region landscape showing the impact of reduced long-term rainfall. The top Google Earth satellite imagery is from 1984 and the bottom is from 2020.

The report highlighted the ambiguity in defining 'drought', but defined drought resilience for the purpose of the program as "the ability to adapt, reorganise or transform in response to changing temperatures and increasing variability and scarcity of rainfall, for improved economic, environmental and social wellbeing".

It stated that to influence drought resilience RDE&A, the process will be dynamic and include many interrelated systems, specifically agricultural innovation, and farm and associated community/industry systems - which are closely aligned with the program and the hub's aim.

"Droughts are becoming a more relevant adversity as there appears to be an increase in duration, frequency and severity as a result of changing climate," the report wrote.

As drought varies between farming regions, industries, communities and enterprise type, so too does the meaning of drought resilience and the demand for knowledge on drought resilience.

"Droughts are becoming a more relevant adversity as there appears to be an increase in duration, frequency and severity as a result of changing climate," the report stated.

"The fact that farmers, industries and communities continue to be impacted by drought is seen by many as the need for greater adoption of knowledge generated by R&D (research and development) to improve resilience.

"The fact that not all R&D is currently adopted is seen by many as the need for more extension, R&D or both.

"The expectation that droughts will have a greater impact in the future amplifies this need and signals that reorganisation/ transformation will be required."

The Merredin hub is one of eight across the country that will support development and uptake of innovative technologies and practices.

Federal Agriculture and Drought and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud, said the hubs have come about through the Future Drought Fund - a long-term investment of $100m a year to build drought preparedness.

"Drought is a natural part of the Australian landscape and these hubs will play a critical role in helping farmers and agricultural communities to be better prepared," Mr Littleproud said.

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