Millions in funding for Drought Hub projects to improve resilience and preparedness

Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 1

“Drought Hub Partners roll up the sleeves on current and new projects that will leave a lasting legacy”

Partners from the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub have come together with the Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud, and Damian Drum MP at the University of Melbourne’s regional campus in Dookie.

The partners discussed new projects the Minister had announced as part of the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund Drought Resilience Innovation Grants, along with the work already underway.

The $6.7 million in new grants for Victorian based institutions will build capacity and deliver innovation across Victoria.

A new project to be led from Dookie Campus – also involving Drought Hub partners Birchip Cropping Group and Riverine Plains – will focus on a whole-system redesign of broadacre farms across south-east Australia, to plan for, cope with, and recover from drought.

Southern Farming Systems, which leads the Hub’s South West Node, will investigate farm dams under a changing climate with other Hub partners. Researchers at Deakin University – another Drought Hub partner – will also run new grant projects in the almond industry in the Riverina, and on aerobic rice production.

Co-Director of the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, Professor Timothy Reeves said it was exciting to see such momentum, reflecting the trust and teamwork between the Victoria Drought Hub nodes and partners.

“We were honoured to host Minister Littleproud and discuss our unique approach to enhancing future drought resilience. The Victorian Hub model – drawing on government, academia, farming systems groups, RD&E leaders and community – is now really bearing fruit, attracting investment across the innovation ecosystem,” Professor Reeves said.

“It’s showing what can be done when farming systems groups and community have the freedom to identify, resource and deliver projects that will make the biggest difference in their region, alongside partners across the state.

“This grassroots approach to innovation is already leaving a lasting legacy across Victoria,” he said.

Farming systems group Riverine Plains Inc. is one of the node partners in the Drought Hubs Program. Its Chief Executive Officer Catherine Marriott – who presented at the meeting – said the Drought Hubs program had already supported a new livestock stream for the region by funding a permanent position and project to understand the barriers to investment in stock containment by growers across the north-east, an important drought resilience tool.

“Stock containment is something our regional farmers wanted to explore, but they’d never had regionally specific information – based around their core questions and gaps – to give them the confidence to invest in this important drought management technique,” Ms Marriott said.

“While we’ve always wanted to tackle this priority, we’d never had the funding to do so. The Drought Hub has changed that – we’ve got the certainty and freedom to invest in this vital issue for our region.

“We’ve invested in our first livestock project and livestock officer Kate Parker, a dedicated team member who will directly address grower questions about barriers for investment in stock containment for drought resilience. We’ll be building a project designed to attract investment with Rural Research and Development Corporations and Government, that’s driven from the ground up, ensuring a permanent legacy through capacity building and drought resilience across our region.

“This model provides a template for tangible action. We’re already collaborating with Southern Farming Systems and other farming systems groups on an array of other projects that will allow us to be creative and innovative, sharing knowledge and advice across the state,” she said.

Professor Reeves said the project was just one of the many ways partners are getting together to deliver on-the-ground outcomes for Victoria’s farmers and communities.

“The rubber is hitting the road on the work of the Drought Hubs. We’ve got projects in place, with input from five nodes, four universities and the State and Australian Government,” Professor Reeves said.

“We’re now looking forward to getting stuck in through the year, developing meaningful solutions to help future proof Victorian farmers from drought.”

The Hub is currently consulting with the agricultural industry through farmers, land managers, Catchment Management Authorities, councils, businesses, health organisations and community groups about how to meet local needs best.

Newly funded Future Drought Fund Innovation projects in Victoria include:

  • Building Capacity for Community-led Drought Resilience Action, The University of Melbourne – $108,874
  • Determining Minimum Irrigation Requirements of Almond Trees in the Riverina, Deakin University – $109,000
  • Irrigation Management Technology and Agronomy Packages for Enabling Aerobic Rice Production in Southern Australia, Deakin University – $933,000
  • Whole-system Redesign of Broadacre Farming of South-Eastern Australia, The University of Melbourne – $1,997,944
  • Assessing the Suitability of Small Farm Dams, Southern Farming Systems Ltd – $1,055,096
  • Develop robust ground cover to enable resilience in low rainfall mixed farms, Mallee Sustainable Farming Inc. – $2,499,913