Victorian students and teachers set for agri-tech check

27 April 2023

Agricultural researchers from CQUniversity Australia in partnership with the Victorian Association of Agricultural and Horticultural Educators (VAAHE), have been awarded a grant worth almost $200,000 to conduct an 'agri-tech check' on Victorian schools.

The project is supported by the Secondary Schools Agriculture Fund, which is funded by Agriculture Victoria as part of the four-year $50 million Agricultural College Modernisation Program.

The innovative 'Agri-tech check' project aims to increase the awareness of Victorian students and teachers when it comes to the technological innovations and digital skills that are now used in a range of modern agricultural careers.

Through the project the VAAHE will partner with CQUniversity's Agricultural Education and Extension team to develop and deliver three agri-tech learning modules that improve students' understanding of the skills needed for careers in agriculture and how emerging technologies are improving production, profitability and sustainability.

Project Leader and CQUniversity Agricultural Technology and Education expert, Dr Amy Cosby said that the development and delivery of this program is vital to ensuring the Victorian Agriculture industry has access to skilled future workforces.

"The project will deliver three curriculum-aligned learning modules to students in Years 7 to 12, with each module to have one version targeted to the VCE Agriculture and Horticulture curriculum, and another to an alternative area of study.

"The delivery of the learning programs will also be supported by the development of professional learning workshops for teachers so that they can develop the skills and knowledge needed to incorporate the modules into their teaching program," said Dr Cosby.

"The digital transformation of the Victorian agricultural industry is changing the types of jobs available, with greater need for a skilled, digitally literate workforce who can apply STEM concepts in the workplace.

"It is critical that the agriculture sector continues to attract and retain a diverse, talented, and capable workforce to ensure its continued growth."

"In delivering this project, we aim to raise student aspirations, understanding and confidence to pursue further education and career in agriculture, aligning with Victoria's Agriculture Strategy to modernise the industry and support students to get the skills and training they need to boost agriculture jobs and to attract and prepare students for the demands of this evolving industry."

Shona Janky, President of the VAAHE also explained that the project will help students, including those from non-farming backgrounds to understand that agriculture is an industry that can provide some really exciting career pathways.

"Agriculture is no longer just about driving tractors or harvesting crops, instead, today's farmers are relying on smart innovations that will help them to better manage their businesses and realise efficiencies," said Ms. Janky.

The modules to be developed as part of the project will expose students and teachers to commercially available software to improve employability skills.

Module topics will include GPS livestock tracking to improve animal welfare and decision making; tracking of horticultural produce grown in Victoria; and a farming for the next generation module which will introduce students to digital farm management applications to manage operations and guide decision making related to the efficiency and sustainability of farming enterprises.

The development of these modules and the associated professional development programs for teachers has now commenced for delivery later this year.