Agriculture in space, rare wine grape varieties and highly targeted weed control technology are among the diverse areas of investigation for a new school at the University of Southern Queensland.

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photo David Martinelli

Experiences of the past inform the future at Toowoomba’s University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ). While early astronauts may have survived mainly by sucking on tubes of apple sauce, tomorrow’s space scientists could well tuck in to fresh salad greens harvested from on-board vegie patches. The university’s new School of Agriculture and Environmental Science aims to employ world-leading research to issues that are locally relevant but have national and even global impacts, including space ag, on-farm automation and the management of biosecurity risks. 

Head of school Professor Craig Baillie explains that the wine science course, for example, capitalises on its proximity to the emerging Granite Belt wine region of southern Queensland, with its uncommon varieties of Sagrantino, Saperavi, Roussanne and Petit Manseng, allowing winemakers to add interesting flavours to traditional winemaking blends. “As the region is further north than most in Australia it may also be useful for study in terms of climate variability,” he says. “What is common experience there may end up reflecting future climate eventualities in the south.”

The school offers Australia’s only degree in agricultural engineering, and courses in agriculture, animal, environmental and food sciences, and environmental engineering. “The school prides itself on its vocational focus,” Craig says. “With our new degrees in agricultural technology and management, environmental science and a major in wildlife management, we aim to attract a broad range of students to the school.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #146

Outback Magazine: December/January 2023