Institute for Future Farming Systems

Northern Australia's Agricultural Innovator

CQUniversity’s agricultural research program is a world leader in delivering practical solutions which are bolstering the productivity, profitability and sustainability of the livestock and horticulture sectors.

In particular, it is internationally recognised for its specialist skills in the development of non-invasive, precision management tools, with its research in this area independently assessed as above world class (ERA ratings of 4 and 5 in the last two assessments).

In mid-2015, CQUniversity established its flagship Institute for Future Farming Systems (IFFS) to drive the delivery of new agricultural innovations, and provide an environment for practical, skills-based training and research-led teaching delivered by industry experts.

Importantly, its research is grounded in industry needs – the Institute’s researchers live and work in the communities they serve, with staff working closely with industry partners and primary producers in Bundaberg (Australia’s largest vegetable producing region) and Rockhampton (Australia’s beef capital).

Among its many successes have been the development of the widely adopted hand-held NIRS (near infrared spectrometry) gun, which assesses the ripeness of fruit, bolstering crop productivity through optimised harvest timing and improved fruit quality.

And in the livestock sector, the research team has developed automated data gathering tools to monitor the condition of individual animals and assist graziers to make more informed production and marketing decisions.

The Institute utilises world-class facilities including the laboratories at the Central Queensland Innovation Research Precinct (CQIRP) and the 3200-hectare Belmont Research Station.

The Institute for Future Farming Systems aspires to use its Central Queensland base and the collective skills of its staff to become the major contributor to successful agricultural industry development in northern Australia and for CQUniversity to become Australia’s top agriculture university.

Find out more about our facilities and equipment and staff.

Agriculture science research at the Institute for Future Farming Systems Transcript

The CQUniversity Institute for Future Farming Systems is headed by Director Philip Brown, who works with a team of 25 research staff as well as collaborating with numerous CQUniversity scientists from across a range of related disciplines.

The research activities of the IFFS are focussed in three broad themes:

Professor Philip BrownPrecision Horticulture - Cluster Leader Professor Philip Brown

The Precision Horticulture team works in partnership with the Queensland Department of Agriculture & Fisheries, and is focussed on improving the productivity and profitability of Queensland’s major horticultural commodities. It seeks to undertake research that will deliver innovative future farming practices and has the potential to make a substantial impact on the state economy. It is currently delivering major projects improving the sweet potato, chilli and tomato industries.

Professor Kerry WalshNon-Invasive Sensor Technology – Cluster Leader Professor Kerry Walsh

This cluster is focussed on the development of new sensor hardware and applications of existing sensors that can assess agricultural commodities and advance productivity without damaging the product.

In partnership with international technology companies and the Australian horticultural supply chain, the team is delivering new tools to accurately assess the ripeness of mango crops prior to harvest and retail.

Professor Dave SwainPrecision Livestock Management – Cluster Leader Professor Dave Swain

The PLM team is recognised as a national leader in the field of tropical livestock research. Its area of speciality is the use of cutting edge technology to automatically gather precise phenotypic data such as animal liveweight, pregnancy status and parentage, as well as improve the understanding of animal behaviours, all with a view to improving on-farm profitability and productivity. It is the key research provider for the Central Queensland Livestock Centre of Excellence, a collaboration between CQUniversity, QDAF, AgForce, and Qld Agricultural Training Colleges (QATC).

Current Projects

Our research projects currently include:


CQUniversity’s Precision Livestock Management (PLM) program, led by Professor Dave Swain in Rockhampton, forms part of CQUniversity’s Institute for Future Farming Systems. The PLM team is rolling out a groundbreaking new individual animal monitoring technology onto grazing properties across Central and North Queensland. Known as ‘DataMusterTM’, the technology integrates on-farm walk-over-weighing systems, low-band width data transmission technology, and sophisticated analysis systems to deliver real time information about individual animals and infrastructure direct to a mobile app.


Calf Alert

Research into widespread calf loss in cattle herds across northern Australia is being accelerated, thanks to a new tool which alerts researchers when a calf is born and provides location details.

GPS Tech Unlocks Fresh Fields for Stock Monitoring

It’s a world-first trial of global positioning technology in the grazier's field, and CQUniversity’s Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) research project aims to make locating livestock a centimetre-perfect process. Announced in late 2017, the $14 million research is coordinated by Geoscience Australia and the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information, and funded by the Australian and New Zealand governments. Across several stages, researchers aim to improve the accuracy of GPS-tracking for livestock, from about five metres currently, down to less than 50 centimetres. It’s a project that complements a range of research initiatives at CQUniversity’s Institute for Future Farming Systems, and all of them aim to deliver big benefits for local graziers – and primary producers globally.

New Research Untangling the Nematode Knot

Following the removal of chemical nematicide products from the market in recent years due to concerns about toxicity impacting on human and environmental health, the agricultural industry, and in particular the sweet potato industry, has become increasingly threatened by the invasion of the root-knot nematode (RKN). The research is trialling new control methods of the highly damaging root-knot nematode in sweet potato and ginger crops by surveying the presence of different plant-parasitic nematode species in sweet potato growing areas and assessing the effectiveness of alternative management practices including the use of fungal applications.

Unleashing Gut Biota for Better Health and More Productive Poultry

The secrets to unlocking some of life’s greatest challenges can be hidden in the most unusual places, and that includes the gut inhabitants of humans and animals. Through her work investigating microbiota, CQUniversity researcher Dr Dana Stanley has revealed new insights into a raft of human health problems, from obesity to prostate cancer, as well as ways to boost poultry production.

Contact Details

Institute for Future Farming Systems

School of Medical and Applied Sciences
Bruce Highway, North Rockhampton QLD 4702

Mrs Caroline Jowsey
Phone: +61 (0) 7 4150 7056

Prof Phil Brown (Institute Director)
Phone: +61 (0) 7 4150 7145

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