Several new projects have been launched to build capacity to fight future droughts throughout Victoria.
A new set of funding for the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub has been announced, aiming to see a profitable sector throughout future droughts.
Victorian Drought Resilience, Adoption and Innovation Hub co-director Ruth Nettle, said the new projects, based in six centres across the state, would not only see sustainable landscapes but also enrich rural communities.
"We aim to increase drought resilience, and this is with respect to farms, the environment and also communities," Professor Nettle said.
She said a coalition of regional industry and farming system groups, universities and Agriculture Victoria had already worked well to collaborate in specific regional centres or "nodes", targeting different sectors.
The north-west focuses on irrigated horticulture, while in the Wimmera and Mallee, there is a focus on broadacre farming.
"The hub aims to ensure that regional priorities and regional voices are coming through loud and clear and that the hub supports those priorities in local areas," she said.
She said despite it seeming odd to talk about drought, considering the amount of rain the state has seen in recent months, there was always a need to prepare for when drought takes hold.
"We really had this focus on thinking about four phases of drought, one of them being pre-drought period, which you'd probably say we're in now," she said.
"There's then often a time where it's pretty uncertain whether we're going to be going into drought or not, so we want to look at being better prepared for that particular period.
"There is also the phase where we are in drought, and then importantly, there is the time after drought and the recovery period, which we know can also be a very difficult time for people."
Prof Nettle said the hubs were organised around these phases, including more diversification and support around decision-making over issues like mental health, financial management, and environmental protection plans before a drought.
The nodes will work with local communities and stakeholders to put projects on the ground locally.
Riverine Plains chief executive Catherine Marriott - part of the North East Node - said her node would invest in a project looking at containment feeding in the region.
She said the tool would not be used "just as a drought management tool while in drought, but also to look at how it can be utilised as a management tool in the good years to maximise profitability, improve environmental management and broaden the management choices people have on their property".
"This is the first of a two-stage process, for this initial phase we are asking producers who have containment feeding facilities what would they like to learn about and what is most important to them, [and] where are the gaps in their knowledge," she said.
Once the local projects are established, there will be opportunities to look at common issues across the state across regions and use that as a basis for collaboration.
"It's a way to establish wider priorities where we can bring everyone together to address a particular issue," Prof Nettle said.
The four universities that are part of the hub - Melbourne, Deakin, La Trobe and Federation universities - are valuable to researchers and students who intend to work in the industry, according to Prof Nettle.
"The whole gamut of expertise that's needed around drought, whether that's in some systems, modelling and adaptation, whether it's in our health network, and also with environmental management," she said.
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