The University of Queensland’s newly appointed Professor of Protected Cropping has big plans to reshape farming in Queensland.
Professor Paul Gauthier has joined The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), directing a project which will establish UQ as a leader in protected cropping for tropics and subtropics.
"Building a sustainable and reliable food production system is one of the biggest challenges we face," Professor Gauthier said.
"My priority is to empower the next generation of farmers with a focus on tropical and sub-tropical crops, which is an emerging industry with a high growth rate."
The project will look at high-value pharmaceutical and nutraceutical crops that can be grown indoors.
"Climate change, natural disasters, digital disruption, population growth and the pandemic all reinforce the need for innovation in the Agrifood sector in what is a rapidly changing landscape," he said.
Professor Gauthier is one of the world’s leading proponents of vertical farming which has boomed globally since the advent of COVID-19 but is still in its infancy in Australia.
"The yield of some crops can be multiplied up to 100 times with vertical farming," he said.
"Vertical farms also don’t generally use pesticides and save a lot of water which allows for higher quality produce."
Professor Neena Mitter, Director of the QAAFI Centre for Horticultural Science and the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformational Research HUB for Sustainable Crop Protection at UQ said the appointment of Professor Gauthier was a coup.
"Paul Gauthier is a leader in his field and brings valuable knowledge and experience to his new role," Professor Mitter said.
"His research will help maintain UQ’s reputation as a global leader in agriculture and food science."
Professor Gauthier has previously held roles at Bowery Farming in the US, Princeton University and ANU.
He said he planned to ensure Queensland is at the forefront of the future of farming.
"I have always worked with the best and UQ is one of the greatest universities with amazing facilities and scientific leaders, so QAAFI is the right place for me," he said.
"I look forward to developing the collaboration needed to boost protected cropping in Australia and beyond, as well as developing the technologies needed to help feed the world."
Photos of Professor Paul Gauthier and UQ research in glasshouses available from Dropbox .