$156.5m secured to drive a sustainable future for Australia’s irrigation regions

Murray River aerial image.
The One Basin CRC will develop and commercialise opportunities for Australia’s irrigated agriculture and rural water industries. Image: supplied

A $50 million Federal Government grant through the Commonwealth Cooperative Research Centres Program, together with $106.5 million from 85 partners, will support a new partnership to achieve a more productive, resilient and sustainable Murray-Darling Basin and beyond through the newly announced One Basin Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

A collaborative partnership, the One Basin CRC, led by the University of Melbourne and including the Australian National University, Charles Sturt University, the Goyder Institute, Hort Innovation, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Sensand Technologies and the University of Sydney, will develop and commercialise opportunities for Australia’s irrigated agriculture and rural water industries.

One Basin CRC will create and assess new sustainable water and agricultural technologies and drive their adoption by water managers and farmers to increase agricultural production while ensuring environmental resilience and sustainability. First Nations inclusion, recognition and respect is a core element of the One Basin CRC.

The initiative aims to secure the future of Australia’s irrigation regions through the successful development, commercialisation and adoption of new business models and technologies that will respond to challenging climate events and foster effective environmental stewardship.

University of Melbourne Professor Mike Stewardson is leading the One Basin CRC as interim CEO, while CEO of the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre, Rebecca Wells, is leading the CRC’s Mallee Regional Hub based in Mildura.

Professor Stewardson said the One Basin CRC is shaped by industry and will pave the way to transform irrigation regions across Australia and internationally.

“By 2037, an estimated $4.3 billion of economic impact will be generated by innovation in water, agriculture and energy technology, enhanced forecasting and decision-making capacity, with a focus on sustainability and resilience in the face of climate change," Professor Stewardson said.

“Australia’s irrigation regions are the powerhouse of Australia’s agricultural sector producing 50 per cent of Australia’s agricultural profits, with the Murray-Darling Basin being the focus of two thirds of that irrigated agriculture.”

Over its ten-year term, One Basin CRC’s activities will be concentrated across four regional Basin hubs located at Loxton, Mildura, Griffith and Goondiwindi, working directly with industry, businesses, First Nations, community and government.

Regionally-based research and development will support innovation and adaptation by farmers and communities, resulting in more resilient farms and diversified income streams. Regions will benefit from job growth and socio-economic improvements.

Ms Wells said research in the regions enables meaningful collaboration and engagement with our partners.

“This ensures research is fit for purpose and directly relevant to the region – that will drive greater uptake and adoption, which is essential to achieve the innovation we require for growth in both productivity and sustainability,” Ms Wells said.

Dr Wendy Craik AM, One Basin Chair-Elect said First Nations participation is an important part of the One Basin CRC.

“Involvement, recognition and respect of First Nations peoples is a core element of the One Basin CRC. With First Nations board members, two full-time convenors, and participation through Regional Hubs and research projects, the One Basin CRC partnership will further support First Nations involvement in water management,” Dr Craik said.

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor James McCluskey, welcomed the announcement.

“The University of Melbourne’s work in convening the One Basin CRC with its partners signifies our commitment and dedication to protecting one of Australia’s most important assets. In addressing this challenge through the CRC scheme, we recognise the value of collaborative, community-based research for environmental and economic sustainability in our irrigation regions,” Professor McCluskey said.