ARC launches AI agri research Hub

ARC Agricultural Hub

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has launched a new $5 million research Hub to explore use cases for artificial intelligence (AI) in the agricultural sector, including pest control and quality control of produce.

The ARC’s newest Industrial Transformation Research Program (ITRP) Hub, to be based within Queensland’s Griffith University, will research and develop AI and machine learning technologies to help increase crop yields and prevent losses from diseases.

Funded through the Federal Government’s ITRP grants scheme, the Hub will receive $5 million over five years for its R&D program – the maximum amount offered by the Government under the ITRP scheme.

Unveiling the new agri-tech Hub – the first ITRP to launch in 2022 – Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations, Senator Amanda Stoker said its efforts could assist with both reducing labour costs as well as introducing greater workforce stability for an industry that still relies heavily on seasonal labour.

“Machine vision provides an affordable, objective, and reliable method of performing quality control over agricultural products,” Stoker said.

“This allows producers and retailers the confidence that their products are of the highest possible quality and free from defects and contamination from foreign objects.

“In many cases machine vision can detect defects in fruit that are undetectable by human observers, for example bruising in strawberries.”

Based at Griffith University, the Research Hub draws together funding and close collaboration from five other Australian universities and five partner organisations, as well as the CSIRO.

The ITRP Hubs scheme enables eligible organisations “to engage in cutting-edge research on new technologies and economic, commercial and social transformation which support the development of research outcomes that benefit industry partners in the Industrial Transformation Priorities”, the ARC notes.

In 2021, the ARC funded eight separate ITRPs across Australia, including separate research Hubs for intelligent robotic systems for real-time asset management, connected sensors for healthcare, and ‘intelligent infrastructure’ for the urban, resources and energy sectors.

The ITRP Hubs qualify for Government grants of between $500,000 to $1 million each year for three to five years.