The Seed - Biosecurity Innovation Hub

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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.

  • Investing in the future of Australia’s biosecurity system

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    Image: Biosecurity innovation – aerial drone and a scientist in a lab

    Article written by Biosecurity Innovation team, Biosecurity Implementation branch

    The Australian Government is investing in new cutting edge technologies and approaches to enhance Australia’s Biosecurity System, protecting Australia into the future. Through a new $25.2 million Biosecurity Innovation Program the department’s innovation teams will investigate the benefits of emerging technologies to meet the challenges of an ever changing global environment.

    ‘This investment is part of the Australian Government’s comprehensive plan to keep Australia's industries and environment safe from invading biosecurity threats,’ Minister Littleproud said.

    The Program aims to benefit the agriculture sector, the environment, tourism, the Australian economy and way of life by helping to ensure Australia remains free from exotic pests, diseases and weeds.

    With the number of passengers, shipping and containerised cargo arrivals set to significantly increase (double) by 2025, investment in innovation and emerging technologies and approaches is required to help ensure the national biosecurity system can meet the challenges of an ever changing global environment.

    The 2017 report Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system: An independent review of the capacity of the national biosecurity system and its underpinning intergovernmental agreement recommended the establishment of a National Biosecurity Innovation Program and the exploration of emerging technologies and approaches. These technologies could include such things as computer learning, robotics, Next Generation Sequencing, new biological controls and alternative management approaches to border interventions, to improve efficiency and effectiveness of biosecurity activities. The department will administer the program with aim to secure the future of Australia’s Biosecurity System.
  • Next Generation Sequencing on the agenda at innovation workshop

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    Image: Tests being carried out in the PIC@PEQ lab

    Article written by Biosecurity Innovation team, Biosecurity Implementation branch

    Imagine if years of virus testing on imported plants could be reduced to just one rapid test. This could soon be a reality, thanks to an innovative Plant Innovation Centre at Post Entry Quarantine (PIC@PEQ) project. The project is examining the potential of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to detect plant viruses.

    At the inaugural Biosecurity Innovation Exchange 2018, the Australian and New Zealand governments committed to holding a series of innovation workshops to define and progress initiatives based on four key themes, including NGS.

    NGS uses genetic material to quickly screen a plant sample for viruses. It offers the potential to use a single diagnostic test to quickly, reliably and cost effectively detect multiple plant viruses, rather than using multiple tests. This technology could help importers access new plants faster and more cheaply, while maintaining rigorous biosecurity risk controls.

    On 5 July 2018, PIC@PEQ Director Mark Whattam led a workshop in Canberra to progress the NGS initiative. At the workshop, department experts explored NGS, what the innovation offers the department and clients from both a plant and animal biosecurity perspective, and discussed a way forward and the potential to adopt the technology. Next, a ‘roadmap’ will be developed showing how issues raised in the workshop will be addressed, and the research investment that may be needed to continue the project. The hope is to phase NGS testing in to Post Entry Quarantine processes over time, while research to further develop NGS continues.

    We’ll keep you updated as work to develop NGS technology progresses.
  • Innovation profile: improving plant biosecurity service delivery

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    Image: Mark Whattam, Director of PIC@PEQ alongside Lyn O’Connell, Deputy Secretary formally launching the centre in November 2017.

    Article written by Mark Whattam

    We know that delivering efficient and effective services in a rapidly changing world requires the department to be innovative. Enter PIC@PEQ, a great example of innovative service delivery happening here and now.

    PIC@PEQ is a cool concept – it stands for the Plant Innovation Centre at the national Post Entry Quarantine facility. The department formally launched PIC@PEQ in November 2017, to conduct innovative and applied plant biosecurity focused research and development projects to support core business.

    ‘PIC@PEQ has made substantial progress since becoming operational including recruiting a PIC@PEQ team, preparing guidelines to enable university students to engage with PIC@PEQ initiatives and investigating an initial list of PIC@PEQ projects,’ Mark Whattam, PIC@PEQ Director, said.

    ‘A three year forward work plan is currently being developed.’

    Many projects are already being progressed, including:

    • investigating mobile apps to automatically identify plant pests and diseases using images, for use by inspectors

    • improving verification of cut-flower treatments by using faster and more effective ways to detect presence of glyphosate chemicals

    • progressing a single test to detect all viruses in imported plants in Post Entry Quarantine using Next Generation Sequencing

    • conducting hot water trials to determine the tolerance of seed and plants to treatments that manage plant biosecurity pests.

    We’ll keep you updated on this exciting initiative.
  • Innovation Profile - Dr Desi Ramoo (New Zealand)

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    Image: Dr Desi Ramoo, Research Technology and Innovation Practice Lead, Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand

    Article written by Dr Desi Ramoo

    It was through visiting science museums on a year-long motorcycle tour of North America in 1992 that Desi caught the science bug. He embarked on an adventure in theoretical physics, completing a PhD funded by British Telecommunications UK and continuing his research in the area of highly efficient microcavity semiconductors lasers.

    Desi immigrated to New Zealand with his wife and two sons from the UK in 2008 to work for the Building Research Association of New Zealand. He joined the organisation as a computational fluid dynamics physicist. He later worked with the MacDiarmid Institute as its Innovation Agent developing nationwide networks and connecting New Zealand’s researchers with commercialisation opportunities.

    Desi has an incredibly diverse range of experience, having completed several research roles in the UK and New Zealand. He has mentored PhD students in commercialisation and has set up and run businesses. Recruited by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in 2016, Desi designed, set up and now leads the Research Technology and Innovation (RTI) Practice.

    RTI is an alternative way of working at MPI, which identifies ideas, 76 to date, with the potential to solve biosecurity problems. Desi presents MPI’s Senior Leaders with innovative ideas every six weeks, giving them the chance to sponsor those which strategically align and would add value if successful.

    Desi connects with researchers, start-up companies and industry from a wide range of disciplines on initiatives to solve pressing biosecurity issues. This increases the number of participants investigating real-world biosecurity challenges, and links MPI with partners to help improve our management of the biosecurity system.