Initiatives awarded

By Country News

A scientist whose work is boosting the $3billion-a-year dairy export sector and a researcher who has developed crop ‘speed breeding’ technology have been recognised with one of Australia’s top awards.

Lydia Ong from the University of Melbourne and Lee Hickey from the University of Queensland have been presented with ICM Agrifood awards at a gala event in Sydney, organised by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Dr Ong, who is part of the ARC Dairy Innovation Hub at the Department of Chemical Engineering, uses microscopy to study the behaviour of food components, such as protein and fat on a molecular level.

She uses this to work out how to improve processes in the Australian dairy manufacturing sector.

Dr Hickey leads a research team at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation that focuses on plant breeding and genetics research into Australia’s most important cereal crops, wheat and barley.

He has played a key role in applying technology that enables up to six generations per year for major crops, such as wheat, barley and chickpea.

Academy president Hugh Bradlow congratulated the winners.

‘‘The ICM Agrifood Awards recognise early-career scientists or technologists who have demonstrated excellence, innovation and impact in relation to food and agriculture in Australia,’’ Professor Bradlow said.

‘‘The nation’s future prosperity depends on embracing new technology to address critical national challenges.

‘‘More than ever, we need knowledge creation, technology and innovation that can be harnessed to drive commercialisation and economic and social benefit.

‘‘Dr Hickey and Dr Ong have both made tremendous contributions — slashing the time to develop improved varieties for farmers, and raising the productivity and efficiency of the dairy industry.’’

Dr Hickey said the technology had been used to create novel wheat varieties in Australia and was being adopted by plant-breeding programs across the world.

Winners of the ICM Agrifood Awards each receive $5000.