The Seed - Biosecurity Innovation Hub

Welcome to The Seed, our biosecurity innovation hub where you can learn more about exciting developments in the biosecurity space.

This initiative was an outcome of the inaugural Biosecurity Innovation Exchange 2018.

Each issue will feature stories about exciting initiatives and profiles of people who are making great strides in innovation.

You can also plant your ideas in our ideas patch and subscribe so you don’t miss out on the latest news.

Welcome to The Seed, our biosecurity innovation hub where you can learn more about exciting developments in the biosecurity space.

This initiative was an outcome of the inaugural Biosecurity Innovation Exchange 2018.

Each issue will feature stories about exciting initiatives and profiles of people who are making great strides in innovation.

You can also plant your ideas in our ideas patch and subscribe so you don’t miss out on the latest news.

  • New video training boosts biosecurity skills

    1 day ago
    Damon wood  tropical fish

    Image: Damon Wood, Melbourne (carrying out a tropical live fish inspection)

    Article written by Learning and Development team, Workforce & HR Strategy branch

    The Department of Agriculture is investing in the future through the newly established Biosecurity Innovation Program. The $25.2 million Program aims to invest in accelerating the identification, development and implementation of innovative technologies and approaches that can enhance the capacity of the national biosecurity system.

    One project funded through the Program is the Biosecurity Workforce Knowledge Sharing project which aims to enhance departmental operational training techniques. The project involves filming biosecurity officers performing operational tasks, which are...

    Image: Damon Wood, Melbourne (carrying out a tropical live fish inspection)

    Article written by Learning and Development team, Workforce & HR Strategy branch

    The Department of Agriculture is investing in the future through the newly established Biosecurity Innovation Program. The $25.2 million Program aims to invest in accelerating the identification, development and implementation of innovative technologies and approaches that can enhance the capacity of the national biosecurity system.

    One project funded through the Program is the Biosecurity Workforce Knowledge Sharing project which aims to enhance departmental operational training techniques. The project involves filming biosecurity officers performing operational tasks, which are then developed into training materials.

    The training increases the credibility of the task as it is demonstrated by the officer’s peers. It also reinforces the correct way to do something, using peer-to-peer learning.

    This innovative approach to training will assist in keeping up with staff’s changing skills and expectations and making work processes more consistent. It will also provide the opportunity for staff to access bite-sized learning when they need it.

    The department’s Learning and Development team and Inspection Group Technical Training Services team have partnered together to deliver the project and develop a digital learning solution for staff.

    Learning and Development Manager Kylie O'Grady explained that the team has filmed in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.

    ‘They have filmed a number of inspections including cut flowers, mail inspection—including X-ray start up—and fresh produce,’ Ms O’Grady said.

    ‘They also filmed simulations, including a used vehicle inspection, rear tailgate inspection and oversized tyre inspection.’

    The initial content development stage of the project is complete, with a wide range of peer-to-peer learning videos available to help enhance departmental staff’s training experience.

    Stay informed and subscribe to The Seed for project updates!

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  • New mobile app to improve data quality to better manage biosecurity risk

    about 1 month ago
    Mpr app in use   osorio nunes

    Image: Mobile passport reader application in action at Canberra Airport

    Article written by Compliance Division

    The Department of Agriculture is preparing to roll out a new mobile app that will advance information on arriving international air travellers, improving data quality to then better manage biosecurity risk.

    The Mobile Passport Reader (MPR) app will better inform the department’s approach to managing biosecurity risk by capturing entity level data at all points of intervention at Australia’s international ports.

    Stephanie Quispes Garay, Director of the Travellers section in the department’s Compliance Division, said the app will allow for the electronic and seamless collection...

    Image: Mobile passport reader application in action at Canberra Airport

    Article written by Compliance Division

    The Department of Agriculture is preparing to roll out a new mobile app that will advance information on arriving international air travellers, improving data quality to then better manage biosecurity risk.

    The Mobile Passport Reader (MPR) app will better inform the department’s approach to managing biosecurity risk by capturing entity level data at all points of intervention at Australia’s international ports.

    Stephanie Quispes Garay, Director of the Travellers section in the department’s Compliance Division, said the app will allow for the electronic and seamless collection of improved data with minimal impact on travellers.

    ‘Traveller volumes at Australia’s international airports are projected to increase 5% annually over the next decade to 32 million travellers by 2027,’ Stephanie Quispes Garay said.

    ‘This growth, and opening of new flight routes introduces greater levels of uncertainty and increased biosecurity risks.’

    This presents significant challenges for the department to effectively manage biosecurity risks associated with incoming travellers.

    The MPR will provide richer data stores, and enable the department to focus efforts toward travellers who are likely to be bringing in undeclared high-risk biosecurity material coming into Australia. In turn, travellers doing the right thing will experience less touchpoints for the purpose of biosecurity clearance.

    We are always working to improve biosecurity risk management while also managing the experience of people travelling to Australia. This app will make biosecurity border clearance processes easier for those who do the right thing.

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  • Treating your fruit right: Mango treatment verification

    2 months ago
    Irradiation verification image

    Image: CYBERTONGUE® unit next to a laptop

    It’s not an Australian summer without a fresh tray of mangoes and ice-cold fruit smoothies. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and CSIRO are exploring how to rapidly verify that imported mangoes have been properly treated to protect Australia’s fruit industry.

    This means Australians will continue to enjoy plenty of fresh mangoes in the future.

    In 2016, the department commissioned CSIRO to look into how emerging technologies could help us improve our biosecurity system. One idea that came out of this was the irradiation verification project.

    ...

    Image: CYBERTONGUE® unit next to a laptop

    It’s not an Australian summer without a fresh tray of mangoes and ice-cold fruit smoothies. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and CSIRO are exploring how to rapidly verify that imported mangoes have been properly treated to protect Australia’s fruit industry.

    This means Australians will continue to enjoy plenty of fresh mangoes in the future.

    In 2016, the department commissioned CSIRO to look into how emerging technologies could help us improve our biosecurity system. One idea that came out of this was the irradiation verification project.

    The project uses CSIRO-developed CYBERTONGUE® technology. It’s a fast and reliable way to determine if suppliers have treated fresh mangoes in compliance with Australia’s import requirements and our strict, food safety laws.

    CYBERTONGUE® technology has the potential to be used at the border to measure treatment by irradiation and therefore compliance for this kind of treatment. Future applications could use the treatment verification for other types of fruit as well.

    Alisha Anderson, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, said the study demonstrates that CYBERTONGUE® technology, which CSIRO recently licensed to Australian start-up PPB Technology, has applications beyond the dairy industry where it is currently being commercialised.

    ‘It’s exciting to see CYBERTONGUE® being trialled for verifying treatment, which is a new application of this technology. It could transform our ability to confirm the treatment status of fresh fruit,’ said Dr Anderson.

    Fresh fruit poses a high biosecurity risk as it can carry a range of pests and diseases. It is important that fresh fruit imports comply with biosecurity treatment standards.

    At the moment, there is no way to rapidly check if a piece of fruit has been irradiated to the correct standard. Compliance is assessed using paper certificates, which can be difficult to confirm or audit.

    This new development could reshape how the department checks imports at the border.

    Find out more about Australia’s import conditions.

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  • Agri-tech centre - building smarter biosecurity solutions

    3 months ago
    Ceat postcard

    Image: The Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT)

    Article Contributed by Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology

    Aerial drones, genetic screening, and gaming software are just some of the high-tech advances set to play a key role in our management of agricultural pests and diseases, according to the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT).

    CEAT is a joint initiative between the Australian National University, CSIRO and the ACT Government using world-class research and technology to target agricultural challenges. Some of these advances could provide the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources with new ways of managing biosecurity risks.

    Launched in...

    Image: The Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT)

    Article Contributed by Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology

    Aerial drones, genetic screening, and gaming software are just some of the high-tech advances set to play a key role in our management of agricultural pests and diseases, according to the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT).

    CEAT is a joint initiative between the Australian National University, CSIRO and the ACT Government using world-class research and technology to target agricultural challenges. Some of these advances could provide the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources with new ways of managing biosecurity risks.

    Launched in 2018, CEAT already has five agri-technology start-ups working in its Innovation Hub in Canberra. These include a company developing drones for locating hundreds of animal species across vast and remote pastures, another that can screen saplings for genetic markers of disease resistance, and another using gaming technology to find and verify plants and animals, including pests.

    CEAT Director, Dr Mary Kelly, said the focus was on mobilising research capable of enabling transformative, not just incremental, agri-tech solutions.

    'CEAT is defining agriculture as the industry holistically, and through tailored Innovation project teams, CEAT aims to absorb and bypass traditional barriers to industry-informed research,’ Dr Kelly said.

    ‘Success is defined by creation of a viable ecosystem where globally relevant agri-tech solutions are co-created, tested, commercialised and adopted and we can’t do this alone.’

    CEAT is currently establishing a series of networks to ensure that their programs and services are informed by the primary producers, industry groups, technologists, researchers, innovators, influencers and leaders critical to agri-tech.

    To find out more, visit the CEAT website and ‘Get Connected’.

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  • Flying Drones: The New Way to Track Animals

    5 months ago
    Debbie saunders drone flying   wildlife drones

    Image: Wildlife drone in flight

    Article Contributed by Wildlife Drones

    In this fast changing world fraught by environmental challenges, understanding animal movements is critical. From uncovering migration patterns to population demographics, we can learn a lot about different species just by following their movements. More importantly, we can use this information to better inform conservation strategies, land management practices, and mitigate biosecurity threats.

    Wildlife Drones is an Australian company revolutionising how animals can be tracked. They have developed an innovative system that combines radio-tracking technology with drones. This technology presents a new approach to surveillance and...

    Image: Wildlife drone in flight

    Article Contributed by Wildlife Drones

    In this fast changing world fraught by environmental challenges, understanding animal movements is critical. From uncovering migration patterns to population demographics, we can learn a lot about different species just by following their movements. More importantly, we can use this information to better inform conservation strategies, land management practices, and mitigate biosecurity threats.

    Wildlife Drones is an Australian company revolutionising how animals can be tracked. They have developed an innovative system that combines radio-tracking technology with drones. This technology presents a new approach to surveillance and has multiple possible applications to help strengthen Australia’s biosecuriy system.

    Radio tracking is a technique used worldwide to locate animals tagged with lightweight transmitters that emit very high frequency radio signals. Until now, radio tracking has been done manually with users spending hours trekking through rugged and remote areas hoping to pick up the signals from individual animals.

    Wildlife Drones’ unique radio receiver can be attached to an off-the-shelf drone and eliminates the need to radio-track manually. When launched, the drone creates an immediate high-point that maximises the radio receiver’s ability to detect signals. It can also track up to one hundred animals simultaneously and display their live locations on a high resolution map on a laptop in the field.

    Wildlife Drones offers researchers, invasive species managers, farmers and other land managers the ability to efficiently track and monitor the movements of their animals. The technology also offers huge savings in time, cost and effort.

    For more information visit: www.wildlifedrones.net

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  • Can you solve the million dollar challenge?

    5 months ago
    104425l

    Image: Shipping containers at Port Melbourne

    Article written by Biosecurity Innovation team, Biosecurity Implementation branch

    Applications are now open for the Australian Government’s Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) run by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

    The BRII initiative is one of many innovative initiatives the department is taking to improve our biosecurity system. We’re seeking innovative and cost-effective solutions to enhance the way we prevent, detect and manage hitchhiking pests that make their way to Australia on or in shipping containers.

    If you’re a small to medium enterprise, you could be...

    Image: Shipping containers at Port Melbourne

    Article written by Biosecurity Innovation team, Biosecurity Implementation branch

    Applications are now open for the Australian Government’s Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) run by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

    The BRII initiative is one of many innovative initiatives the department is taking to improve our biosecurity system. We’re seeking innovative and cost-effective solutions to enhance the way we prevent, detect and manage hitchhiking pests that make their way to Australia on or in shipping containers.

    If you’re a small to medium enterprise, you could be eligible for up to $1 million in grant funding to help us meet this challenge.

    Every year over three million containers arrive at Australian ports. Many of which have the potential to carry exotic pests and diseases that threaten our $60 billion agriculture industry. They could also impact food security and endanger our unique environment, native flora and fauna, tourism industry and way of life.

    Leanne Herrick, project director, said physically inspecting containers is unsustainable in a modern trade environment.

    ‘The current way we inspect incoming cargo is labour intensive,’ said Ms Herrick.

    ‘With the volume of cargo entering Australia expected to double between 2015 and 2030, we need to explore alternate solutions.’

    Can you solve the million-dollar challenge?

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  • Modifying remotely operated underwater vehicles for biosecurity surveillance

    6 months ago
    Rov on patrol

    Image: A Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle on patrol

    Article written by Biosecurity Animal Division

    Have you ever wondered what creatures are living beneath the surface of Australia’s marine environments? We have, and we are constantly on the lookout for invasive marine pest species that could harm Australia’s unique environment, and our way of life.

    That’s why we are providing $200,000 to the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment to modify and trial Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs) for use in marine biosecurity surveillance.

    Our challenge in marine biosecurity surveillance is to quickly detect...

    Image: A Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle on patrol

    Article written by Biosecurity Animal Division

    Have you ever wondered what creatures are living beneath the surface of Australia’s marine environments? We have, and we are constantly on the lookout for invasive marine pest species that could harm Australia’s unique environment, and our way of life.

    That’s why we are providing $200,000 to the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment to modify and trial Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs) for use in marine biosecurity surveillance.

    Our challenge in marine biosecurity surveillance is to quickly detect pests so that we can prevent them establishing in Australia, and stop the spread of pests to new environments. Marine pests can hitch a ride on the hulls of vessels or in ballast water, and once they’re on the move, they can go undetected.

    Using ROVs will enable us to more effectively inspect vessel hulls, port infrastructure and marine environments for marine pests. This means we can better detect, and manage marine pests before they spread.

    Ian Holmes from Undersea ROV said that while ROVs have been around for some time, recent innovations in robotics and sensor technologies have resulted in an explosion of new and exciting applications.

    ‘The new generation of ROVs are small, manoeuvrable, easy to operate and affordable,’ said Mr Holmes.

    Project leader Kevin Ellard explained that modular design will allow ROVs to be tailor made for specific surveillance applications.

    ‘We plan to install a number of additional features including high resolution video cameras, live streaming, sonar and sample collection devices to improve ROV capability in marine biosecurity surveillance. Training courses will also be developed to teach personnel how to operate and maintain ROVs,’ said Mr Ellard.

    Find out more about marine pest surveillance.

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  • New Tricks: New Training for Biosecurity Detector Dogs

    6 months ago
    Kyndall christie   asha   vehicle   copy

    Image: Kyndall Christie & Asha training to screen cars for BMSB

    Article written by Compliance Division

    The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has been working with researchers at the University of New England to retrain biosecurity detector dogs to detect Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, an exotic insect that can arrive in Australia on cargo and containers.

    Jessica Mitchell, Director, Biosecurity Detector Dog Program, said that with the growing threat of exotic plant pests we are looking to modernise our existing detector dog capabilities.

    ‘Biosecurity detector dogs have been helping protect Australia from pests and diseases...

    Image: Kyndall Christie & Asha training to screen cars for BMSB

    Article written by Compliance Division

    The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has been working with researchers at the University of New England to retrain biosecurity detector dogs to detect Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, an exotic insect that can arrive in Australia on cargo and containers.

    Jessica Mitchell, Director, Biosecurity Detector Dog Program, said that with the growing threat of exotic plant pests we are looking to modernise our existing detector dog capabilities.

    ‘Biosecurity detector dogs have been helping protect Australia from pests and diseases since 1992, but they only screen for biosecurity risks in airline traveller and mail pathways,’ said Ms Mitchell.

    ‘The success of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) research means we can deploy this existing detection capability, our detector dogs, to better protect Australia from biosecurity threats.’

    ‘We’re trialling detector dog screening for incoming sea cargo in Brisbane, a first for biosecurity innovation in Australia.’

    BMSB could severely impact our agricultural industries. Juveniles and adults feed on, and can severely damage, fruit and vegetable crops rendering them unsellable or reducing production yields. Adult BMSB can also be a nuisance, entering vehicles, homes and factories for shelter over winter.

    The next step in this research is to find chemical similarities between groups of risk material to make training dogs more effective.

    ‘The dogs naturally generalise some scents. We can train a dog to respond to the scent of an apple and, without ever being exposed to a banana, most dogs will respond to the scent of banana,’ said Ms Mitchell.

    ‘By specifically identifying the chemical compounds the dogs detect in risk material we can train novice dogs faster, and allow rapid response training for our existing fleet to meet seasonal or emerging risk materials or pests.’

    Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.

  • Tackling Queensland Fruit Fly with adaptive area wide management

    7 months ago
    Queensland fruit fly   transparent3

    Image: Queensland Fruit Fly. Photo Credit: Andrew Jessup

    Article Contributed by Hort Innovation

    Growers and communities have been exploring new ways to manage Queensland Fruit Fly, or Qfly, thanks to Hort Innovation’s Adaptive Area Wide Management Project.

    Adaptive Area Wide Management (AWM) is used to manage mobile pests around the world. It is a coordinated approach to reduce pest habitats within a defined area.

    Hort Innovation Research and Development Manager, Penny Measham, said exploring new and collaborative ways to manage biosecurity such as AWM, was key to keeping Australian farms productive, efficient and profitable.

    “Qfly is a major pest...

    Image: Queensland Fruit Fly. Photo Credit: Andrew Jessup

    Article Contributed by Hort Innovation

    Growers and communities have been exploring new ways to manage Queensland Fruit Fly, or Qfly, thanks to Hort Innovation’s Adaptive Area Wide Management Project.

    Adaptive Area Wide Management (AWM) is used to manage mobile pests around the world. It is a coordinated approach to reduce pest habitats within a defined area.

    Hort Innovation Research and Development Manager, Penny Measham, said exploring new and collaborative ways to manage biosecurity such as AWM, was key to keeping Australian farms productive, efficient and profitable.

    “Qfly is a major pest for Australian horticultural crops,” she said.

    “It causes millions of dollars worth of damage each year and poses a major barrier to market access for Australian products. Urban areas pose a significant challenge because they are a breeding ground for flies throughout the year.”

    “Communication and community education have been critical to managing Qfly. The AWM guidelines are helping growers and communities understand the basics of AWM. It’s great to see this initiative making a real difference,” Ms Measham said.

    The AWM guidelines developed from the project help growers and communities to understand:

    • the basics of AWM

    • how to get started in implementing AWM for the management of Qfly

    • the opportunities, such as the SITplus program, to implement Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) once AWM has been successfully applied.

    The AWM guidelines were developed in consultation with stakeholders impacted by Qfly and are now being used to bolster AWM efforts in a number of regions. The Goulburn Valley community is preparing for sterile fly releases this year and table grape growers in Sunraysia are making good use of the guidelines to build a co-ordinated approach to fight fruit fly.

    The project, which began in 2015, is funded by the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit program and is supported by state and territory governments, CSIRO and Wine Australia.

    Find out more about the Rural R&D for Profit Program.

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  • Recognition for excellence in risk innovation

    8 months ago
    Rrra award image

    Image: L-R: Nianjun Liu, Sam Wells, Paul Pheloung, Rosemary Huxtable, Daryl Quinlivan and Callum Moggach at the Comcover award ceremony.

    Article written by RRRA team, Biosecurity Implementation branch

    Imagine we could forecast the effect of a new biosecurity policy on Australian agriculture, its people and environment, before any changes are made.

    Our department can do just that with the Risk Return Resource Allocation model (RRRA). The RRRA is a mathematical model of Australia’s biosecurity system that calculates the efficiency of our measures to stop pests, diseases and weeds from entering and spreading.

    In October, the RRRA model was recognised at...

    Image: L-R: Nianjun Liu, Sam Wells, Paul Pheloung, Rosemary Huxtable, Daryl Quinlivan and Callum Moggach at the Comcover award ceremony.

    Article written by RRRA team, Biosecurity Implementation branch

    Imagine we could forecast the effect of a new biosecurity policy on Australian agriculture, its people and environment, before any changes are made.

    Our department can do just that with the Risk Return Resource Allocation model (RRRA). The RRRA is a mathematical model of Australia’s biosecurity system that calculates the efficiency of our measures to stop pests, diseases and weeds from entering and spreading.

    In October, the RRRA model was recognised at the 2018 Comcover Awards for Excellence in Risk Management when it was awarded a High Commendation in the Risk Initiative category.

    Not only does the model forecast how changes in trade and travel patterns can affect Australia’s exposure to biosecurity risk, it can also calculate how best to invest in protecting our multi-billion dollar agriculture industries, our environment and our community.

    Matthew Koval, First Assistant Secretary for Biosecurity Policy and Implementation said the RRRA model was one of a kind, and it’s already being put to use in assessing and modifying the measures we’ve put in place to protect our unique way of life.

    ‘We’ve developed a world first tool that calculates the potential risks of imports and what they could end up costing Australia’s $32 billion agricultural export industries,’ Mr Koval said.

    ‘The model has already demonstrated its value in reducing Australia’s exposure to biosecurity risk through its flexible, innovative approach to analysing complex data.’

    The RRRA is a critical part of the department’s decision-making processes and alongside our other Research and Innovation projects, plays an important part in managing Australia’s biosecurity system.

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