Sunraysia Institute of TAFE has secured $1.9 million to be used towards its ‘Protective Cropping – Building an Industry Workforce’ project.
Protected cropping provides a sustainable solution for food production in Australian climates, through enabling the production of high-quality crops with minimal wastage.
On Tuesday the Victorian Government announced the ‘Protective Cropping – Building an Industry Workforce’ project is one of 13 projects approved for funding as part of the Government’s $15 million Agriculture TAFE and Training Fund.
SuniTAFE General Manager – Operations David Harris said securing the funding was fantastic news.
“We are extremely happy to have received the funding and the change it is going to make to the protected cropping industry,” he said.
The protected cropping industry is the fastest growing food producing sector in Australia with labour requirements forecast to grow significantly over the next 10 years. Protected cropping reduces environmental issues associated with field-based farming, including fertiliser run-off, excessive use of water, pesticides or herbicides, and waste due to inconsistent product quality. Improving the growing environment through protected cropping results in faster crop growth, higher yields and better quality.
Despite training and education being the only way to build capacity in protected farming, no RTOs, including TAFE’s, are currently delivering vocational training in protected horticulture.
SuniTAFE will be using the grant to see this change.
“SuniTAFE will build this workforce through the delivery of high-quality training through the AHC21819 Certificate II in Protected Horticulture (the Certificate) in its SMART Farm training facility based in Mildura,” Mr Harris said.
“Training through the Certificate will help build a highly-skilled workforce that meets the needs of the protected cropping industry; and provide skills and knowledge for workers in the protected horticulture industry undertaking routine tasks such as picking, packing, crop and nursery work.
“The Certificate will be a great addition to our current courses on offer, as well as provide a pathway to further education and training.”
With the funding now secured, development of the project is underway with the view of taking enrolments for AHC21819 Certificate II in Protected Horticulture as early as 2024.
The proposed course is being developed in partnership with La Trobe University and the Cann Group – Australia’s first commercially licensed medicinal cannabis cultivator and manufacturer.
Through this partnership, SuniTAFE will benefit through Cann’s extensive experience in agriculture, agronomic and health research sectors and in developing and commercialising agriculture technology. Cann’s experience will help SuniTAFE develop and teach relevant course offerings in this area of precision agriculture.
La Trobe will support the delivery of the AHC21819 Certificate by providing in-kind support such as lectures for students, work experience opportunities and pathways into higher education.
The Agriculture TAFE and Training Fund is part of the Future Agriculture Skills Capacity Fund established under the Labor Government’s $50 million Agricultural College Modernisation Program, which supports more Victorians to pursue careers in agriculture.