Agriculture Technology and Adoption Centre (AgTAC) Projects Smart Technologies to improve biosecurity outcomes in horticulture

Smart Technologies to improve biosecurity outcomes in horticulture

Image credit Brett Wedding, Steve Grauf and Luke Pavich of Crop and Food Science, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Image credit: Brett Wedding, Steve Grauf and Luke Pavich of Crop and Food Science, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Associate Professor Bronson Philippa leads the national Smart Technologies component of the $130 million eight-year FASTA program.

The Fresh and Secure Trade Alliance (FASTA) is a $130 million collaborative research initiative designed to protect and grow Australia’s horticultural exports. The program aims to increase horticultural market access, reduce the impact of endemic pests, improve preparedness for exotic biosecurity threats, and build research capacity across Australia.

“FASTA is an exciting program. It is a very large-scale research initiative, which means it can have a transformative impact on the Australian horticultural industries. Within the program, I am the national Component Lead for Smart Technologies, which means I am helping to manage the research strategy for the portfolio of technological projects. At the local level within JCU, our current work involves using near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) for insect identification, NIRS and computer vision for post-harvest quality assessment, and developing automation to amplify the effectiveness of the other FASTA components.”

Associate Professor Bronson Philippa

Bronson Philippa.

FASTA aims to increase domestic and international trade of fresh produce, increase capability to respond to emerging issues more quickly, and provide Australian growers with new tools to manage horticulture pests. The long timeline supports the research pipeline, enabling translation of research from the laboratory towards adoption in industry. The main objectives of the program are to:

  • Increase international and domestic market access,
  • Increase biosecurity preparedness for exotic pests,
  • Reduce the impact of endemic pests on sustainable horticulture crop production, and
  • Build research capacity across Australia.

The program is organised into six components: market access, stress physiology, integrated pest management, surveillance and diagnostics, smart technologies, and building capacity. Of these, JCU is most strongly involved in the smart technologies component. Current projects include developing optical methods for species identification of tephritid fruit flies, ultimately to work towards smart traps for real-time monitoring in the field, and rapid, non-destructive methods for detecting insect damage in horticultural produce.

This eight-year, $130 million program commenced in August 2023.

The Fresh and Secure Trade Alliance is funded through Hort Innovation's Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative, with co-investment from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, Department of Tourism, Industry and Trade, Department of Primary Industries and Regions, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Queensland University of Technology, James Cook University, Western Sydney University, Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association, GreenSkin Avocados, and contributions from the Australian Government and the strawberry and avocado R&D levy.

Contact details