Future prawn farmers to benefit from digital skills hub, thanks to CQUni partnership

01 July 2021

As Australia's aquaculture industry continues to grow' so too does the need for digitally skilled and confident employees.

In fact' inadequate digital capability presents a major barrier for Queensland prawn farmers to continue to be innovative' resilient' and profitable in the future.

That's why CQUniversity has partnered with the Australian Prawn Farmers Association to address this issue' through the establishment of a digital skills hub.

The hub' which will be delivered as part of a CQUniversity research project - Accelerating the adoption of digital technology on Queensland prawn farms - will host a series of capacity-building learning modules' to help Queensland prawn farmers confidently adopt the technology within their business.

The project' which will run until June 2022' is co-funded by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' through the Agribusiness Digital Solutions Grants Program' and supported by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation on behalf of the Australian Government.

Australian Prawn Farmers Association Executive Officer Kim Hooper says the rapid growth of the Australian prawn farming sector' which accounts for 67 per cent of the aquaculture industry in Queensland' has introduced many new technologies.

"The value of prawn farming in Queensland is expected to increase to $500 million over the next five years and create over 4' 200 new direct and indirect jobs in regional areas' via large investments in suppliers and contractors'"

she says.

"This significant expansion is introducing an increased reliance on digital skills and infrastructure' which is not only challenging the industry' but also requires a strategic approach to escalating the adoption of digital technologies across the sector."

CQUniversity Research Fellow in Agri-tech Education and Extension' Dr Amy Cosby says a full-time Research Masters student scholarship' valued at $30'000 tax-free (per annum)' is also available as part of the project.

"The Masters student will be involved in the design' delivery' and evaluation of an online and face-to-face training program' which targets specific technologies within the Australian prawn farming sector'"

she says.

"Data' which will be collected via an industry-wide survey' will focus on the key behavioural' cognitive' and affective components of skills development; the difference between online and face-to-face delivery; and what factors will influence engagement with the digital skills hub."

Dr Cosby says the student will not only contribute to a research project that is of national significance' but one that will produce real-world benefits.

"There is not much solution-driven research available on how to address digital skills gap or about the sector's adult learning and training/workforce requirements' therefore' it is a research project with national significance'"

she says.

"Research outcomes will directly benefit the rural and regional Queensland' initially' but are likely to lead to a resilient and profitable Australian prawn farming sector workforce – now that is research with impact.

"Benefits will be achieved through regional employment; economic diversification and resilience; healthy' high quality and sustainably sourced food; and a valuable contribution to Queensland's future food security."

To find out more or to apply for the Research Masters Scholarship' please contact Dr Amy Cosby on 0405 824 112 or a.cosby@cqu.edu.au