BAYER CropScience's $14-million wheat and oilseed breeding centre at Longerenong College will be operational within a year after a sod-turning ceremony yesterday.
Bayer CropScience representatives, Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh, Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty and Horsham Rural City Mayor David Grimble were on hand to mark the start of construction with gold-coloured shovels.
Bayer CropScience's managing director Jacqueline Applegate said the centre aimed to develop disease-resistant varieties of wheat and canola that produced better yields.
She said she hoped the centre would spark an interest in agriculture for young people.
"We are showing our support for the farmers who are savvy and hardworking people and who are the backbone of our industry," she said.
"We are developing technology for Australia but also developing technology for the rest of the world.
"Bayer is connected to technology but is also inspiring young people to become involved in the agricultural industry."
Longerenong College general manager John Goldsmith said it was exciting to see construction begin after two years of planning and negotiations.
He said having Bayer CropScience lease almost 80 hectares of land would benefit the college's students.
"To have access to research it will be current research from out in the field and access to the scientists will be very valuable," he said.
"Having Bayer here is part of our strategic plan to attract investment that will complement what we do already at the college."
Mr Delahunty said a secure water source from the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline attracted Bayer to the region, as well as quality soil and climate. He said the State Government, which contributed $1.2 million for roadworks, supported the creation of about 20 jobs at the centre.
"I want to see our young people stay here or return to build futures and contribute to the development of the region," he said.
"I welcome the creation of jobs in the building and the ongoing jobs for this region."
Cr Grimble said it was a significant day for agriculture and economic development in the rural city. He said council contributed $100,000 to build roads at the site, which is one of seven Bayer CropScience centres globally.
"This project is bigger than the Wimmera-Mallee because it is globally linking this site with the other six sites around the world," he said.
"It certainly increases the leverage of private investment in the region. Having a secure water supply was significant for Bayer so this has become one of the key opportunities to come from the pipeline project."