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University collaborations to benefit farmers, students

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Australian researchers are joining forces with their Indian counterparts to address the problems of food security and water management in their respective countries by using high-tech solutions.

Dr Leisa Armstrong from Edith Cowan University’s (ECU’s) Faculty of Computing, Health and Science in Perth, Western Australia, is the co-leading researcher on a project with Associate Professor J Adinarayara from the Centre of Studies in Resource Engineering (CSRE) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.

They are examining how data mining huge volumes of past agricultural records can help Indian farmers of today.

Dr Armstrong said that by examining past crop production, climate, soils and other data, researchers can identify patterns which can help make predictions as to the effects of drought and the increasing impact of climate change.

“Using data mining, as well as other technologies such as sensor networks, to improve agricultural production is an emerging field in both the Australian and Indian agricultural industries,” Dr Armstrong said.

“It will allow farmers and scientists to make better decisions about the farming systems and crops which will be suited to their farming district and the changing environments under predicted climate change scenarios.”

The project is funded through the Australian-Indian Strategic Research Fund grant. Partners include the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Hyderabad, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Australian National University and the University of New England.

The research is just one example of the close links between ECU and Indian higher education institutions.

Dr Armstrong is also supervising research that is assessing the placement of check dams in the Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh. As a drought-prone region that relies only on rainfall for peanut crop production, the dams are intended to provide better water irrigation supplies for farmers.

“Australian farmers, who have to contend with similar droughts, could benefit from this approach, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin,” Dr Armstrong said.

To build on ECU’s successful links with higher education institutions in the region, ECU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International) and President Professor Tony Watson, along with Dr Armstrong, are this month visiting Indian and Nepalese organisations including:

  • The University of Mumbai, India – ECU enjoys close links with UM, with an MOU signed in 2011. Dr Armstrong is an Adjunct Faculty Member and is involved in research collaboration with UM staff. ECU and UM will explore establishing an Indo-Australian Studies Centre. ECU students also visit UM as part of the ECU ambassador program.
  • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, India – Dr Armstrong already undertakes research with IIT’s Centre of Studies in Resources Engineering. ECU and IIT will explore opportunities for further collaboration in IT, engineering and nanotechnology;
  • The National Education Society (NES), India – NES signed an MOU with ECU in 2010, with ECU now seeking to provide courses in business, IT, engineering, health and communication;
  • Ansal Institute of Technology (AIT), India – AIT currently has a pathway program with ECU in the area of nursing; and
  • Norvic Institute, Nepal – ECU already provides advanced standing to Norvic nursing students. An MOU was signed earlier this month between ECU and Norvic with the intention to expand this arrangement for business, IT, engineering, nursing and medical science courses.

Professor Watson said ECU’s collaborations with Indian institutions were already providing exciting breakthroughs in the area of eAgriculture, engineering and Alzheimer’s disease research.

“There are many mutual benefits to be gained by Australia and India from these groundbreaking projects,” Professor Watson said.

ECU has also run a very successful Student Ambassador Program to India, providing ECU students with the chance to visit Indian cities and villages and take part in industry and cultural tours.

“ECU is very proud of our existing teaching and learning agreements, which have provided Indian students with the opportunity to complete ECU programs, undertake exchange study in Perth or have ECU staff supervise their research. We look forward to strengthening our relationships with Indian and Nepalese institutions,” Professor Watson said.

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