FOR 50 years, scientists and researchers at Horsham’s Grains Innovation Park have worked tirelessly to future-proof our country’s agriculture industry.
A group of passionate Wimmera farmers first planted the seed to develop the research site in 1967. The facility – then named the Victorian Wheat Research Institute – was opened the following year on November 29, 1968.
Now in 2018, the park is home to the Australian Grains Genebank, the Victorian Fisheries Authority, Regional Development Victoria, the Department of Land, Water and Planning’s Forest Fire Management Victoria and Horsham Incident Control Centre, and a number of private tenants.
There are more than 150 staff members employed at the park, including about 100 Agriculture Victoria research, extension, biosecurity and animal health staff working at regional, national and international levels.
Park research director and centre leader Traci Griffin said employees were conducting critical research to future-proof the world’s food supply.
“A lot of the work they are focusing on at the moment is around seasonal conditions,” she said.
“The Australian Grains Genebank is the only facility in Australia that manages grains, so all the representations of seeds that we need from overseas and at home are stored at the bank.
“It’s a very important site that’s a national centre, not a just a regional centre. They are dealing with pretty critical stuff and looking ahead a lot longer than just our lifetimes.
“They’re trying to ensure that the types of grains our framers use are adapting to climate changes and are keeping up with market conditions.”
She said, although there were a number of trials onsite, trial paddocks were located across the country.
“From here we have trials in NSW, SA and WA, and the idea is that we’re constantly testing different soil types,” she said.
“The majority of our work is done either on a farmers’ paddocks, or with businesses or grower groups. It’s great if it works in a lab but it’s useless if it can’t be used in a paddock.”
Ms Griffin said it was important to recognise the park’s achievements.
“Not only do we have some amazing science facilities, but we have it in a regional context and that doesn’t happen all the time,” she said.
“The site is a major employer for the region; we have more than 30 different nationalities represented. We also get tours every week so it’s a drawcard to bring people to the Wimmera.”
The park will celebrate its 50 year anniversary on Thursday, 18 October. Community members are invited to see firsthand the world-class research happening in the Wimmera.
Tours of the park’s various facilities will be held throughout the day from 11am. There will also be displays and demonstrations.