Plant phenomics is a science that has the power to transform our lives. By exploring how the genetic makeup of an organism determines its appearance, function and performance, phenomics can help us tackle the most pressing challenges of our time – including global food shortages, the demand for alternative fuels, fewer resources and climate change.
With the global population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, a transformational advance in grain production must occur to increase yield by 50-60% to meet projected global food demand. Many global production issues are particularly pertinent to Australia which faces long periods of drought and increasing salinity, undermining farm productivity. Increasing the yield in crops, particularly in these marginal environmental conditions, using novel approaches that exploit robotics, machine learning, computer vision and genetics technologies will significantly increase global food quality and production, and reduce environmental degradation.
Phenomics data captured at the APPF enables the more rapid discovery of molecular markers and faster germplasm development, aimed at improving crop yields including the tolerance of major crops and other agriculturally important plants to biotic and abiotic stresses such as drought, salinity and a broad spectrum of plant diseases; putting the APPF at the forefront of the race to meet global food demands in the future.
The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) is a distributed network of national research infrastructure platforms that offer open access to plant phenomics technologies and expertise. The capabilities and capacity provided by the APPF enable researchers to address complex problems in plant and agricultural science both here in Australia and around the globe.
The APPF was established in 2007 and commenced operations in 2009 with the aim of driving research excellence and collaboration between researchers, government and industry to deliver practical outcomes. Since then, the facility has embraced advances in robotics and automation, and developed infrastructure, expertise and methodologies to innovate the investigation of plant performance in different environments, e.g. drought, salinity, heat. Relating that performance to the genetic makeup of plants (plant phenomics) will lead to the development of new and improved crops, healthier food and more sustainable agricultural practices.
We facilitate new research programs in plant and agricultural science through:
- Providing access to high quality growth facilities and state-of-the-art automated phenotyping capabilities in controlled environments and in the field
- Providing high level consultation and expertise in plant phenomics including project design, statistics, automated imaging, image analysis and data management
- Promoting and engaging in multidisciplinary and cross-institutional research collaborations to facilitate and accelerate transfer of knowledge at the national and international level
- Continuously improving existing capabilities and developing and disseminating new technologies to meet the changing needs of the plant and agricultural research community
- Providing training opportunities to develop a critical mass of experts in plant phenomics
- Collaborating with the national and international plant phenomics community
- Collaboration and technology transfer with industry to increase yield in food crops
The APPF will advance Australia’s phenomics capacity and capability in plant science to deliver sustainable and profitable agricultural practices.
The APPF will facilitate world class research and innovation in plant phenomics by:
- Providing efficient access to state-of-the-art, science-ready platforms for plant science and agriculture
- Developing new technologies and capabilities to facilitate innovation in plant phenomics
- Contributing to multidisciplinary and cross-institutional collaborations that address critical challenges in agriculture
- Promoting scientific partnerships and collaborations between researchers and industry
- Upskilling technicians and next-generation scientists in the use of advanced technologies
- Expanding national and international research networks
- Sustaining Australia’s intellectual capability and capacity in plant phenomics
- Delivering outstanding infrastructure and customer service to underpin research excellence and innovation
- Developing new technologies and research methods
- Improving Australia’s plant phenotyping expertise to accelerate research outputs and impact
- Engaging with the research community, industry, RDCs and governments to advance Australia’s efforts in addressing the challenges faced by agriculture at a time of extreme climate variability
The APPF operates a geographically distributed model with facilities at the University of Adelaide, CSIRO in Canberra and the Australian National University – three internationally renowned plant research organisations. Each node has unique, specialised facilities that interlink to provide a complementary, seamless service to users. A “research hotel” approach provides opportunities for more distantly placed researchers to utilise the facilities, either in person or remotely through engagement of APPF staff, while mobile equipment is available for field deployment anywhere in Australia. In addition, a common outreach and training program provides further opportunities for interaction among the three nodes. Discover more about each node on our Contact page.
The APPF is supported by the Australian Government through its National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). NCRIS is a national network of world-class research infrastructure projects that support high-quality research to drive greater innovation in the Australian research sector and the economy more broadly. Projects support strategically important research through which Australian researchers and their international partners can address key national and global challenges.
The APPF substantially leveraged its NCRIS funding during the first decade of operation by attracting several million dollars in state government and host institution support, as well as RDC grants, to enhance existing, and add new, infrastructure to support the research community.
Today, NCRIS funding and substantial in-kind support from our host institutions, the University of Adelaide, CSIRO and Australian National University, cover much of the facility’s operating costs, providing facility users with highly subsidised access to advanced technologies and expertise. The remaining funds required to maintain the infrastructure is generated by user fees, RDC grants to support capability improvements and a recent $2.6 million research infrastructure investment made by the Federal Government. The grant was announced under the Federal Government’s new $1.9 billion Research Infrastructure Investment Plan, developed in response to the recommendations from the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap produced by a group of experts led by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO.
The APPF is governed by a seven member Board comprising four independent members and three host institution representative members.