The Seed - Biosecurity Innovation Hub

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

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.

  • Biosecurity Industry Innovation Challenge

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Image: Biosecurity Industry Innovation Challenge

    Article written by Compliance division

    Australia’s biosecurity landscape is constantly changing — with increasing volumes of trade, supply chain complexity, climate change and the increasing international spread of pests and diseases. We need to do biosecurity differently. Simply increasing our current biosecurity controls will no longer maintain the same level of residual biosecurity risk.

    The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has partnered with the Canberra Innovation Network to hold the Biosecurity Industry Innovation Challenge on Tuesday 26 May 2020. The challenge is a fully virtual event held through Zoom, where the department is looking for ideas and solutions to 4 big biosecurity challenges.

    Innovators will be asked to submit project proposals for feasibility/proof of concept studies through The Seed. The department will choose up to 4 successful proposals to further develop their idea or solution. Successful proposals will receive up to $50,000 through the Biosecurity Innovation Program. They will also receive 12 weeks assistance through the Canberra Innovation Network’s Virtual Incubation Program to help them develop and proof their concepts and apply for further funding.

    Find out more about the 4 problem statements that make up the challenge on the challenge website. The topics include:

    • audits
    • treatment verification
    • exotic invasive ants
    • container traceability.

    If you have an innovative idea we want to hear from you. Sign up to attend the event via the Canberra Innovation Network.

  • Improving biosecurity through enhanced traceability of Australian agricultural products

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Image: PwC’s Food Trust Platform

    Article written by Biosecurity Plant division

    In a rapidly changing international trade and biosecurity environment, better traceability systems are a necessity. Being able to reliably trace products, across the whole supply chain, provides customer assurance about the quality and origin of the product. It also provides valuable information about how it gets from farm to fork.

    Funded by the Biosecurity Innovation Program, the Biosecurity Plant division is working on a project to improve the traceability of plant products. A collaborative project with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to investigate the feasibility of their new Food Trust platform.

    Food Trust is a partnership between several companies—PwC, Google Cloud and Trutags Technologies. It combines different technology to improve traceability of agricultural products.

    Based on technology currently used in the United States’ pharmaceutical industry, it uses a tag to connect the physical world to the digital world. These inexpensive tags, developed by Trutags technologies, are microscopic barcodes. They are made of silicon dioxide and are applied directly to a product or its packaging.

    Each tag is manufactured with an optically-encoded, custom signature that can be scanned like a barcode by a specific device or mobile phone. Paired with Google Cloud software, this technology allows for real time product tracking up and down the supply chain.

    Data, such as product origin, biosecurity certification, organic certification (and other on-farm practices) and other relevant information, can be securely attached to products.

    PwC engaged with the Australian cherry industry to develop a pilot of the new technology with plant products. It is a great test case—as a low volume, high cost export that is subject to counterfeit trade. Australia only exports cherries for 9 weeks of the year—but ‘Australian’ cherries are available in foreign markets for over 9 months of the year.

    Tasmanian cherry exporters were happy to contribute to the development of the pilot. They are excited about the potential for this new technology in combatting counterfeit product and improving traceability. Biosecurity Plant division is looking to secure more funding to run the pilots in 2020–21.

  • 2019 innovation exchange continues Trans-Tasman collaboration

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Image: Exchange participants trialling the augmented reality game showcased by Air New Zealand in partnership with Magic Leap.

    Article written by Biosecurity Innovation team, Biosecurity Implementation branch

    Australia and New Zealand are world leaders in biosecurity. We share similar biosecurity challenges, objectives and an appetite for innovation.

    The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries hosted the second Biosecurity Innovation Exchange in Auckland on 4 November. Bringing together government agencies, research organisations, universities and industry from Australia and New Zealand.

    More than 90 participants took part in collaborative discussions, focused on innovative ways to address biosecurity challenges into the future.

    Nine representatives from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture attended the event. Including the head of biosecurity Lyn O’Connell and head of biosecurity implementation Cathryn Geiger.

    The department updated attendees on the progress of key initiatives from the first exchange, held March 2018 in Canberra, Australia.

    Key themes from this year’s exchange included innovative and cost-effective solutions to manage hitchhiker pests, tracking production animals without human intervention, priority areas of research and innovation for future biosecurity activities and remote sensing and artificial intelligence for surveillance, detection, monitoring and eradication.

    The New Zealand Biosecurity Awards were held at the end of the exchange to acknowledge people across the country contributing to biosecurity—including members of the public.

    The New Zealand community work closely together to overcome biosecurity challenges. Evident by the winner of the New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, from Rotorua, taking out the top honour with the trust's initiative dubbed 'Catfish Killas'.

    Highlights included a field trip for attendees, treating them to a tour of Auckland’s innovation hubs. Such as the Air New Zealand Innovation Hub, SPARK 5G Lab, New Zealand Product Accelerator at Auckland University and the Joint Border Analytic Centre.

    The exchange continues to be a success for growing collaboration on biosecurity. We look forward to exploring more opportunities as part of this valuable initiative.

    Outcomes from the exchange inform our innovation focus and activities. So, if you are keen to see the direction the 2019 exchange is pointing to, stay tuned to The Seed for updates.

    Also, nominations for the department’s 2020 Australian Biosecurity Awards are now open. Complete the nomination form by Friday 6 December 2019.

  • eDNA Innovations for Biosecurity Identification

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Image caption (left): The Franklin™ Real-Time PCR Thermocycler from Biomeme being tested in the facilities of an international aquarium fish supplier in Thailand.

    Image caption (right): The owner and manager of the aquarium fish facility were actively involved in preparing samples for testing, which was an essential component of collaborating and communicating science with an active importer to Australia.

    Article written by Biosecurity Analytics and Intelligence Services team, Biosecurity Integrated Information System Program

    Dr McCoy from Star Trek used a fictional futuristic device called a tricorder to examine patients in an instant. Imagine if we could build something like the tricorder to test for pests and diseases in plants and animals coming into Australia?

    Sound farfetched? It’s not as far away as you might think. Recent advances in molecular screening methods have revolutionised the way biological surveys are undertaken by providing users a cheap, fast and highly reliable method that increases certainty and accuracy of detection.

    The Department of Agriculture, through the Biosecurity Innovation Program, has teamed up with Professor Dianne Gleeson’s University of Canberra EcoDNA team to research the latest environmental DNA (eDNA) technology, and to understand how we can most effectively and efficiently apply it to biosecurity risk management.

    The project tests the use of eDNA (commonly shed by organisms into their environment in the form of skin, urine, hair, and other secretions) and suitable technology to detect priority pests, parasites and diseases of importance to Australian biosecurity.

    For example, a small water sample can be taken from a bag of imported ornamental fish on-arrival and added to a portable eDNA device no bigger than a mobile phone. The device will then identify both pest fish and diseases and give you a result in as little as 20 minutes.

    We are currently testing suitable technology that could be used by Australian biosecurity in pre-border, border and post-border scenarios. This will determine the possibility of including eDNA screening methods in our future biosecurity repertoire.

    Testing eDNA at border control for example, may in the future provide officers with a quick, accurate and simple triage tool to detect high risk pest hitchhikers that could be entering the country with imported products.
  • At the forefront of Innovation Month 2019

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Video: Innovation Sandpit 2019 summary

    Article written by Biosecurity Innovation team, Biosecurity Implementation branch

    The Department of Agriculture was a major player in Innovation Month 2019, an annual APS-wide initiative held each July since 2011.

    This year’s theme was Test. Fail. Learn. Deliver. And deliver it did, with the initiative showcasing and celebrating thinking differently, being creative and trying new approaches in government.

    To celebrate this initiative, the department held a five-part event series, consisting of thought-provoking, hands-on events that explored the theme of Test. Fail. Learn. Deliver.

    The launch event was an exciting seminar featuring keynote speaker Marita Cheng AM. Marita shared her experiences in founding and operating her robotics company, aubot (formerly 2Mar), and inventing the Aipoly app. These achievements amongst others have earned her a spot as one of Forbes World’s Top 50 Women in Tech.

    This was followed by two days of interactive learning in the Biosecurity Knowledge Rooms, where we showcased videos from the new Workforce Knowledge Sharing peer-to-peer learning project. This gave staff the opportunity to learn about a wide range of biosecurity inspection processes.

    Next in the event series was an impromptu seminar with Tommy Cheesman, co-founder and CEO of Future Superfoods. Tommy shared his story of experimentation with alternative food sources and how he landed on crickets as a new protein source. Tommy even brought in samples of cricket-based foods for morning tea.

    The department’s flagship event for Innovation Month 2019 was the Innovation Sandpit. The event showcased the exciting and innovative work happening across both the public and private sectors.

    Matt Koval, First Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Policy and Implementation, and the department’s Research and Innovation Champion, said it’s exciting to see the department and the wider APS celebrating innovations in the public sector.

    ‘Getting hands-on with departmental innovations, as well as innovations from the private and research sectors, can inspire us all to innovate the way we do business,’ Mr. Koval said.

    Through the sandpit, the department brought together innovators from government agencies, the research sector and industry for an interactive showcase.

    Some of the latest developments that featured included our innovations in detector dog training and new 3D X-ray technology, as well as demonstrations from Bondi Labs, the Bureau of Meteorology, Canberra Innovation Network, Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-technology, CSIRO, FluroSat, North Australian Quarantine Strategy, Silverpond and Wildlife Drones.

    The department closed out Innovation Month 2019 with ‘My Fantastic Failure’, a departmental executive panel where four senior executives shared their experiences of failure and how learning from these failures led to future success.

    ‘Innovation Month might be the annual month-long APS celebration of innovative work, but there are always opportunities to innovate across the department. Let’s keep innovating!’ Mr Koval concluded.

  • New video training boosts biosecurity skills

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    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!

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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    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.
  • Treating your fruit right: Mango treatment verification

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Image: CYBERTONGUE® unit next to a laptop

    Written by the Compliance division

    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.

  • Agri-tech centre - building smarter biosecurity solutions

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    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’.

  • Flying Drones: The New Way to Track Animals

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    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: