Students find solutions for ag

University of Melbourne students develop solutions

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ACHIEVERS: Alexander Burnside, Georgia O’Shea and Kiana Barrie-Gresham present their proposed responses to the impact of Melbourne’s growth on productive arable land as part of their Bachelor of Agriculture assessment.

ACHIEVERS: Alexander Burnside, Georgia O’Shea and Kiana Barrie-Gresham present their proposed responses to the impact of Melbourne’s growth on productive arable land as part of their Bachelor of Agriculture assessment.

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Farmers and agricultural professionals must work with a wide range of people with different skill sets to solve problems.

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After preparing for professional careers through university study, graduates who start careers in soil health, plant and animal nutrition and rural finance must be able to understand farmers’ individual circumstances and work with them to deliver the best solution.

When studying the Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne, final-year students complete an industry-focussed subject, Professional Practice for Agriculture.

The students work in interdisciplinary teams to identify practical responses to a range of complex agricultural industry challenges including climate change adaption, regional food security, labour use and international competitiveness in horticulture.

Students presented their completed projects to industry representatives, academics, members of the public and their peers at a showcase event in October.

Four groups received outstanding achievement awards, including Kiana Barrie-Gresham, Alexander Burnside and Georgia O’Shea for their project, Managing Melbourne’s Food Bowl: Feeding Melbourne’s Seven Million by 2050, drawing on issues raised in the university’s report Melbourne's Food Future: Planning a resilient city food bowl.

The report argued ensuring a resilient food supply for Melbourne requires a precautionary urban planning approach that retains or strengthens the capacity of the city’s food bowl, the many small but highly productive regions scattered around the fringe of the city.

“As Melbourne’s population is increasing, the inclination of planning is to allow greater development, decreasing the available arable land in Melbourne’s food bowl, which supplies 41 per cent of the food needs of Melbourne’s population,” Kiana said. “Research has shown that if current trends continue, this could drop to 18pc and create a bigger reliance on global imports, which is a shame for our local farmers who could otherwise produce more here.”

The students combined the knowledge and experience gained in their majors: Production Animal Science, Plant and Soil Science, and Agricultural Economics. 

They recommended a roundtable discussion among developers, farmers, residents, economists and the state’s planning and agriculture ministers, with the intention of influencing the planning minister.

The group explored education to reduce food waste, how transport improvements around the food bowl area could reduce pressure on urban boundaries and the creation of a protected area around Melbourne similar to southern Canada’s Greenbelt.

The three students studied at the Dookie agricultural campus in the Goulburn Valley in their second and third year.

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