Western Sydney University (WSU) hopes to build an Australia-first agricultural technology hub in the Hawkesbury and is seeking an investment of $16.7 million from the Federal Government.
The state-of-the-art Agri-Tech Hub would span six hectares and consist of a high-tech commercial, teaching and research greenhouse complex.
It would be supported by research clusters in the food technology, land-use management and consumer demand spaces, and would create jobs and attract industry to the area while developing a sustainable approach to future peri-urban farming.
The university is requesting the $16.7 million Commonwealth Government investment to fund the infrastructure for the Hub, and the university would also make a significant investment to get the project up-and-running.
NSW Government support for the Hub, possibly under the WestInvest Fund to rejuvenate Western Sydney communities and boost jobs, would also be valuable.
The Hub would be located on the WSU campus at Richmond, within the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE).
WSU Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Barney Glover, said the Hub would harness existing teaching and research strengths of the HIE and WSU's School of Science.
"Western Sydney University is a world leader in the development of technology-rich learning spaces and research infrastructure. Partnering with industry in delivering future focused opportunities for our students and researchers underpins our strategy for the region," Professor Glover said.
WSU Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andy Marks, said the Agri-Tech Hub would deliver knowledge jobs to the Hawkesbury region.
"All three layers of government have promised to create 200,000 future focused jobs for outer Western Sydney, and we're confident this plan for the Hawkesbury will make a very significant contribution to that objective," Professor Marks said.
"The Hawkesbury has a rich tradition in food production and land management, and our vision brings that deep experience into the 21st century, connecting with all the possibilities the agri-tech sector offers.
The combined power of the agricultural and environmental research facilities on the Richmond campus of Western Sydney University is what will help Australia tackle issues around agriculture, climate change, and food security into the future.- Macquarie MP Susan Templeman
"Just 30 minutes from the new airport at Badgerys Creek, this facility will support the rapid export of high-quality, high yield produce, straight from Western Sydney and into South-East Asia. It is a chance for Hawkesbury residents to directly benefit from major Government infrastructure investments being made in our region, and secure knowledge jobs in a rapidly expanding sector, close to home."
Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, said she supported the project and it aligned with the $20 million commitment she made to invest in agri-research in the Hawkesbury in 2018.
"The combined power of the agricultural and environmental research facilities on the Richmond campus of Western Sydney University is what will help Australia tackle issues around agriculture, climate change, and food security into the future," Ms Templeman said.
"This resource would help identify food production opportunities in a peri-urban environment like ours in a changing climate, and would be an investment in agriculture moving forward.
"Our region would also benefit enormously from the $30 million worth of economic activity this project would inject every year into our local economy, as well as the hundreds of direct and indirect jobs that would be generated as the result of both construction and operation."
She said it had been "disappointing" the Federal Government had "not bothered to invest in previous opportunities at Richmond".
"I congratulate Western Sydney University, and I urge the Federal Government to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to supporting local jobs and regional economies, and commit to funding this hugely beneficial project," Ms Templeman said.
State Member for Hawkesbury, Robyn Preston, said: "It's good to see Professor Marks advocating for the Agri-Tech Hub and I'm looking forward to talking further about this project."
"It's an opportunity to consider the impact that the Agri-Tech Hub would have on job potential, education advancement and growing the Agri business in Hawkesbury, Sydney's food bowl and beyond," Ms Preston said.
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