2021 Science and Innovation Awards open

RD&A News | September 2020
11 Sep 2020
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Are you keen to combine your passion for research with the needs of the Australian wine sector?

Applications for the Wine Australia-sponsored 2021 Science and Innovation Awards are now open, and last year’s winner, Hamish McKirdy, is encouraging young researchers to apply.

‘It can be difficult at times as a PhD student to see the direct relationship between your research and its impact on the sector, but with the Science and Innovation Award I could clearly see the potential impact of my findings’, said Hamish, a PhD student and research assistant at Western Australia’s Murdoch University.

Hamish McKirdy and Minister for Agriculture the Hon David Littleproud

Hamish is using his 2020 Science and Innovation Award to focus on the cost of keeping the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) out of Australia – and whether that cost outweighs the potential risk of the bug entering the country.

International experience has shown that the brown marmorated stink bug can make a serious dent in the size and quality of grape harvest if left unchecked. In an effort to keep the bug from entering Australia, high risk shipping containers are fumigated at point of arrival in Australia.

‘What I am investigating is whether the cost of this management approach – including the cost of the chemicals, their application and the flow-on effects – outweigh the actual risk of a brown marmorated stink bug invasion’, Hamish said.

Brown marmorated stink bug. Image, Adobe Stock

Hamish said using economic modelling to produce a cost-benefit analysis of the bug on the Australian wine sector was an innovative way to drive decision-making.

‘I think too often we choose a particular treatment method or strategy without fully addressing the entire financial cost, which includes economic, social and environmental costs.

By focusing purely on the financial metrics, it allows for a quick comparison with the consideration of various factors (economic, social and environmental) from both an initial deployment and long-term perspective.’

Unfortunately, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a temporary hold on some aspects of Hamish’s research project.

‘I am currently in contact with the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Biosecurity Analytics Team to collect data and prepare a literature review, but I have had to put on hold other aspects of the project, including training in Melbourne because of border closures.

However, he said despite the challenges he is facing in this COVID-19 year, he would ‘absolutely encourage young researchers to apply for the Science and Innovation awards.

‘Winning last year’s award was a unique opportunity to combine my passion for plant biosecurity with a critical sector need. It’s a great opportunity for young researchers.’

Applications for the 2021 Science and Innovation Awards close Friday 2 October 2020. Visit www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/conferences-events/scienceawards.


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