Super greenhouse goes green on energy
One of the world's newest and most sophisticated plant research facilities is set to receive a multi-million-dollar upgrade to boost its research output and save on energy use.
The Plant Accelerator at the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus is sharing in $10 million in Federal Government funding awarded to the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, which has one node in Canberra and one in Adelaide.
The funding - awarded as part of the Federal Government's Super Science Initiative from the Education Investment Fund (EIF) - will see $5 million go towards the Plant Accelerator at the Waite Campus, with the other $5 million going to the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre in Canberra.
The Plant Accelerator is a "super greenhouse", featuring a series of 50 hi-tech glasshouses and laboratories housing more than 1km of conveyor systems, and state-of-the-art imaging, robotic and computing equipment. The accelerator, which gets its name because of its capacity to accelerate the discovery of more productive and robust crops, was opened at the Waite Campus in January.
"This latest funding will further expand the research facilities at the Plant Accelerator, which will greatly assist our research efforts and provide enormous benefits to Australia's agricultural sector," said the Director of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, Professor Mark Tester from the University of Adelaide's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.
"Because much of our research is aimed at improving crops under harsh environmental conditions, we see it as our duty to also help minimise our impact on the environment and reduce energy use as much as possible. This funding will help us to do that," Professor Tester said.
The $5 million for the Plant Accelerator will go towards:
- new plant growth rooms and chambers, offering precise, controlled environmental conditions;
- automated and improved data analysis infrastructure, which will help accelerate the research outcomes for the facility's customers;
- a new gas-fired tri-generation plant to substantially reduce electricity costs (paying for itself in less than 10 years) and reduce the facility's carbon footprint (with 1,200 tonnes of CO2 emissions abated per annum).
The Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, said the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility had already established itself as a world-leading plant research facility, despite only being operational for a few months.
"Our investment, initially through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and most recently through the Super Science Initiative, has fostered greater international collaboration," Senator Carr said.
"Notable partnerships that have been formed include work with the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and the Scottish Crops Research Institute in Dundee.
"The facility has seen a quantum leap in the ability of Australian researchers to develop new crops that can provide answers to environmental problems such as increased salinity, and help boost not only Australian crops and agriculture, but world food production.
"I am delighted that this funding will further add to the facility's capacity to work smarter and at the same time yield significant environmental benefits by reducing the Accelerator's greenhouse footprint."
Story by David Ellis