Ag among STEM priorities to help SA grow: ATSE

Ag among STEM priorities to help SA grow: ATSE

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Investments in science and technology, including on-farm, are included among a plan thought to help the state recover from COVID and grow. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Investments in science and technology, including on-farm, are included among a plan thought to help the state recover from COVID and grow. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

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Agriculture has been included among eight priorities highlighted as helping SA to grow, ahead of the upcoming state election.

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Agriculture has been included among eight priorities highlighted as helping SA to grow, ahead of the upcoming state election.

A group of 66 technologists, scientists and engineers from across SA have tabled a technology and policy-based plan that they say will help foster innovation, economic growth and sustainability within the state.

It highlights eight vital fields that could help SA's economic recovery from COVID-19 and power the state's transition into a low-carbon future, with a technological edge.

We need to support research and development in sustainable, carbon neutral agriculture and carbon sequestration that will facilitate their adaptation in a low-carbon future. - GRAEME DANDY

SA Division of the Academy of Technology and Engineering chair, Emeritus Professor Graeme Dandy said next year's state election was an opportunity to "set a strong direction for the future of the state's technological leadership".

"SA is in an enviable position to demonstrate what a net zero emissions transition looks like in practice," he said.

"If the state government undertakes a comprehensive review of large-scale, base-load electricity storage and backup options to support increasing renewable wind and solar electricity generation, we can be at the front of the pack in the race for renewable energy and energy storage.

"Similarly, we need to support research and development in sustainable, carbon neutral agriculture and carbon sequestration that will facilitate their adaptation in a low-carbon future.

Prof Dandy said SA businesses and sectors urgently needed to adopt digital transformation technologies to super-charge economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and to create new jobs.

"We also need invest in our future workforce and STEM leaders," he said.

"This requires specialist education for all students throughout levels 1 to 12 and by including applied sciences, including engineering and computer programming, in our curriculum."

"A STEM literate population will be crucial as we build a state that can lead the way in ensuring Australia does not become a technological laggard."

In its plan, ATSE has a list of initiatives to help support agriculture, on top of the support in transitioning towards a low carbon future.

These include the development of diagnostic imaging for natural and agricultural ecosystems to track nutritional status, yields, biodiversity, fire hazards, and potential pest or disease outbreaks.

ATSE would also like to see SA's policies on new primary production technologies in crops and animal welfare be science based and "congruent with other jurisdictions".

It is also calling on the government to seed-fund a collaborative government, industry and academia approach to developing a plant-based protein food manufacturing industry in SA, using locally-produced dryland crop products.

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Among its water priorities, ATSE would like the SA government to work with the Commonwealth to ensure all jurisdictions are complying with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan; invest in new water technologies and amend the Water Industry Act (2012) to simplify the management of urban stormwater infrastructure for Adelaide and other large cities in SA.

A focus on energy would include a focus on renewables, with the ability to capitalist on SA's world's highest share of wind and rooftop solar worth 60 per cent, access to uranium resources and a target of reaching net 100pc renewables within the next decade, the plan says.

Among the industry and innovation priority is the goal to establish an Additive Manufacturing Hub - or 3D printing - to support small businesses, as well as developing a taskforce looking at diversification or growth in manufacturing and processing industries.

As well as improving digital skills more broadly, including the development of best practice in data security and cyber resilience, ATSE would also like to see support for businesses to partner with government on pilot projects for AI-based solutions to regional problems.

Health, an improved focus on STEM education and mineral resources are the remaining priorities set out by ATSE.

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