New ARC Training Centre in Plant Biosecurity
James Cook University is part of a newly funded national initiative to protect Australia from invasive pests and diseases.
JCU’s Associate Professors Lori Lach and Mostafa Rahimi Azghadi will be members of the leadership team of the new Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre – focused on plant biosecurity. The new centre will be funded with nearly $17 million in cash and in-kind contributions from government, industry partners, and universities.
“Our region knows far too well the threat that plant diseases and pests such as Panama TR4, fall armyworm, myrtle rust, and yellow crazy ants pose to our production systems and natural landscapes,” Associate Professor Lori Lach said.
“The Training Centre for plant biosecurity will increase our capacity to address the many biosecurity threats in northern Australia, through research and training.”
The Australian National University (ANU) is leading the Training Centre in collaboration with JCU, the University of Canberra, and more than 20 partners from industry and government.
“JCU’s expertise in AI, remote sensing, data science, and IoT technologies, will be instrumental in the Centre’s training programs around surveillance, diagnostics, and data-driven decision making,” Associate Professor Mostafa Rahimi Azghadi said.
“Working with our partners, we can create smart systems to help protect important industries and fragile environments.”
“It will also create opportunities for PhD candidates and early career researchers working in this critical area.
Professor Peter Solomon, Director of the Training Centre at ANU, said the Centre will boost Australia’s capacity to prevent, respond to and recover from pests and diseases that threaten the economy and environment.
“The Centre will transform the plant biosecurity sector, to protect Australia’s natural and productive ecosystems,” he said.
“Our future leaders in plant biosecurity will need not only technical skills, but the skills to communicate, collaborate and engage with multiple stakeholders.”
The Training Centre will commence in 2024.
Future PhD students with an interest in plant biosecurity and protecting Australia’s natural and productive ecosystems will soon be invited to submit expressions of interest.
Associate Professor Lori Lach is an ecologist at JCU in Cairns. Her research addresses challenges in the detection, elucidation of impacts, and effective management of invasive species.
Associate Professor Mostafa Rahimi Azghadi is an electrical and electronic engineer at JCU in Townsville. His research interests include the application of Artificial Intelligence to agriculture and aquaculture industries.