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Creating a sustainable future for Greater Western Sydney’s Parkland City through education, technology and connectivity

In 2050 the Western Parkland City will produce more than enough fresh and nutritious food for the entire local community and beyond.

Photo of Priti Krishna
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Western Sydney University

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education - Richmond Agricultural College, TAFE NSW – Richmond College, Enesys - Ecologically Sustainable Technology and Research & Development entity owned by Norwood Technologies Pty Ltd iFarmGROUP - Innovative, Sustainable, Delicious; building Australia’s first state of the art energy independent hydroponic enterprise

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Richmond, New South Wales

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Australia

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Greater Western Sydney, New South Wales

What country is your selected Place located in?

Australia

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The Hawkesbury Campus of Western Sydney University (WSU), located in the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) region, houses Australia’s most modern greenhouse facility as the National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre, the internationally renowned Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment,  WSU’s educational programs with a focus on Sustainable Agriculture, Resource Management and Sciences, TAFE NSW with a focus on Equine and Agribusiness, and the recently announced Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education which will support Agricultural and STEM education needs for school students across NSW. This unique education and training precinct will also serve as a platform for students to demonstrate leadership and innovation in providing solutions towards food and nutrition security and resource management. The precinct’s  Agricultural Education Working Party  (WSU,TAFE NSW and Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education) have been working since 2018 to foster collaboration with industry (Enesys, iFarm Group, Greenworks), Government bodies, Department of Primary Industries, Local Land Services, non-profit organisations (Food Ladder, Australian Agricultural Centre) and our Local Government Areas to develop reflexive teaching, research and leadership programs that address regional and global food issues. The rapidly growing population of Greater Sydney, projected to grow from 4.7 to 8 million by 2060, has led to the vision of transforming Greater Sydney into a metropolis of three cities: the Western Parkland City, the Central River City, the Eastern Harbour City. The Hawkesbury Agricultural Precinct is strategically located in the north west sector of the Western Parkland City, which is a significant food producing area for both the Sydney Basin and export markets. However, innovative solutions are needed to maintain local food production, manage waste and water and reduce carbon emissions in the face of increasing urbanisation, land prices, and diminishing fresh water.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The new international Western Sydney Airport and Aerotropolis will be a catalyst of employment and education. A designated precinct of the Aerotropolis will support the sustainable production and value-adding of high-quality fresh produce and pre-prepared consumer foods. These activities will be fuelled by innovation and optimisation through a proposed Australian Centre of Excellence in Food Innovation. A centre will unify students, scientists, industry, entrepreneurs and government and serve as a collaborative powerhouse to establish a sustainable, resilient and nourishing food-future for the city and its people. Incorporating the Hawkesbury Agricultural Precinct within the Centre of Excellence brings a unique blended approach to education and innovation in sustainable production of fresh produce, underpinned by circular economy principles, integrating food production with energy, waste and water management. 

The Western Sydney region has the greatest cultural diversity and the largest indigenous population in the country. Nearly 38% of the population speak a language other than English. The region remains the main destination for newly arriving migrants who are the mainstay of primary production in the region.

The landscape of the area is changing rapidly due to increasing population pressure and an increased demand for affordable housing in the peri-urban environment. The Hawkesbury-Nepean river systems provide 97% of the fresh drinking water for Sydney, and support agriculture and aquaculture industries which supply fresh produce to the Sydney markets and for export.

Surrounded by World Heritage listed natural environments, areas of cultural and historic significance and modern and vibrant urban centres support the region’s burgeoning younger demographic. Proximity to the urban centre of Sydney, as well as rural agricultural and mining regions, places this community in a unique location, giving pride to those who live here.

Greater Western Sydney has the largest food industry in Australia with the gross value of agriculture production being $806 million in 2016. Agricultural industries are diverse, including eggs, apples, vegetables, citrus and tree nuts. The most important commodities in the region were poultry ($317 million), eggs ($95 million), and mushrooms ($75 million).  Preserving the agricultural land in close proximity to the urban markets and adding 5-square-kilometre area of protected cropping is an important consideration for the region.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

8000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

As global populations grow and cities expand, as weather and climate become increasingly unpredictable and dangerous, and as people demand safe, healthy, local food, we have a dire need to change the way we are currently growing and accessing our food.

The challenges to the food system in Western Sydney can be summarised as below:

  • The price of food in Australia is relatively high and while Australia produces more food than is needed to feed its population, many households even within Western Sydney region face food stress;
  • Western Sydney region has a deficit in employment opportunities, and contains several areas of social disadvantage; 
  • Western Sydney has seen a decline in the number of farms and farmers due to changing land values, pressures for newly urbanised areas and small propriety confidence in the long-term viability of their farms in the changing economic landscape;
  • Australia’s food production is increasingly vulnerable to climate change, with the Western Sydney topography and climatic conditions further exacerbating the issues of drought, extreme temperatures, fire and flood;
  • People are far more conscious today about food; its origin, nutritional quality, chemically treated or sprayed. According to the Sydney’s Food Futures (2015-2016) research project report, if the loss of agriculture trend continues, Sydney’s fresh vegetable production could drop by >90% and the capacity to meet 20% of its resident’s food demands could drop to 6%.  Protected Cropping and Indoor Farming, by necessity, will become increasingly important for producing fresh and nutritious food to benefit both the local community and the export market.
  • Growing indoors increases yields and uses much less water as compared to broad-acre cropping. However, most of the growing systems require energy-dependent technologies such as grow lights and climate control. Indoor Farming requires an energy solution to help us force ahead in growing food safely and efficiently in enclosed environments.

Despite these challenges, GWS is recognised as the engine of the NSW economy. The Government’s commitment to develop Western Parkland City is set to drive the creation of ~200,000 jobs. Up-skilling and educating the youth and developing new and advanced technologies is therefore imperative for promoting a healthy lifestyle whilst managing environmental issues in the sustainable development of the Western Parkland City.

Governments and communities recognise the need to increase the resilience of Sydney’s food systems while simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint to maintain supply of fresh, nutritious, affordable food for the health and well-being of people. Sydney’s greatest health challenges include obesity, diabetes and heart disease, with Western Sydney carrying the biggest burden in terms of health care and associated risks. Food is a key determinant of nutrition-related chronic diseases. Increased access to fresh, nutrient-dense food is therefore a priority.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

As a partnered educational, research and innovation hub, the Hawkesbury Agricultural Precinct will focus on sustainable agricultural solutions within a changing peri-urban environment. In partnership with industry, the hub will develop an operative circular economy in food production with waste and water reuse, and promote effective environmental stewardship in a newly emerging city, whilst educating and promoting the future leaders of Agriculture, Food Security and Resource Management. The hub will serve as a model for the Western Parkland City to enhance health, lifestyle, and educational and employment opportunities for its people in the future, whilst promoting innovative and sustainable future for its primary industries.


High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

In 2050 the Western Sydney Parklands, and in particular the north west sector will be a vibrant, carbon neutral community that values education, food security and environmental stewardship. Families, communities and industry will work in partnership to ensure supply of locally-produced healthy food in closed systems that minimise their impact on the environment. The food production systems will support nutritious food supplies and best practice models for local, national and global arenas. The community will value the importance of education and cutting-edge research to promote ongoing innovation. The alignment of this vision with that of the Aerotropolis will broaden the reach of Western Sydney produce within a global market.

 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our vision, as partners in education, research and innovation within the Hawkesbury Agricultural Precinct and also as part of the proposed Australian Centre of Excellence in Food Innovation, is to help deliver sustainable agricultural and circular economy solutions with prototypes, and a highly skilled dynamic workforce to the new and developing Western Parkland City.

We envisage the Western Parkland City to produce more than enough fresh and nutritious food for the local community and export markets. The connected food production and resource recycling systems that we will develop as prototypes will physically link proprietary equipment with new technology in innovative ways that can serve as models or as use for by large industrial systems, independent businesses and education institutions so that they can operate their core businesses more profitably while transparently partnering in a broader circular economy.

Our vision for the future food systems rests on the following assumptions and convictions: 

Economics

Growing food on scale makes economic sense, but when energy, transport, infrastructure costs are high and supermarkets demand the lowest price; creating buoyant economies around food is, for the most part, a struggle. Energy costs for a community, institution or commercial precinct can be crippling, and many renewable options are out of financial reach for many businesses in the Western Sydney area. Council currently pays high prices to dispose off waste, 40% of which ends up in a landfill.  Bringing educational institutions, commercial partners, waste management, and clean energy providers all on the same patch is a challenge, but sharing resources can have huge health, environmental and economic benefits.

Culture

In an ever more connected world, it is still usual that most industries exist within a vacuum. They traditionally deal only with their direct stakeholders and are often unaware of how to link resources and bring new technologies, educational bodies, community, and policy together. Behaviour change will be necessary across many levels from the beginning of the concept to translating ideas and then to finding cooperative and collaborative partners and working together harmoniously.

Technology

There is currently a lack of connectivity in technologies and facilities supporting circular economy, as well as lack in the production models based on circular economy. Technologies that are utilised in big business for energy and environmental benefits are often not affordable at community or small industry level. Thus, there is an urgent need to bring waste, energy and growing systems together in innovative prototype models. 

Vision

Using education, research and partnered innovation as our platform and with a systems-focused approach to food security, agriculture and environmental management our vision is to generate a highly impactful model of collaboration between youth, industry, and community to provide game-changing solutions for sustainable production of high quality food for the Western Parkland City and its people. In partnership with sustainable energy entrepreneurs, innovative growers, and industry groups, we will disrupt traditional educational, industrial and commercial barriers to promote:

  • environmental stewardship in the peri-urban context of our community through the development of closed food production systems and lowered ‘food miles’, and improved resource management that will minimise the impacts of climate change;
  • local production of and access to high quality, nutrient dense foods, which will improve people’s daily diets and their understanding of the health benefits of good nutrition and health;
  • the importance of Sustainable Agriculture to drive and support local and export markets, create employment, and facilitate new and emerging industries;
  • the links of Agriculture to sites of cultural and historical significance in the region, enhancing the attributes from learned practices and developing new communities of producers;
  • the development of new and emerging technologies and their successful translation into prototype food production systems;
  • the development of a vibrant workforce of young people who are informed and capable of engaging in new policy developments to address emerging needs;
  • a translational approach to learning, linking education, research, industry and community in determining solutions to local problems.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

3 comments

Join the conversation:

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Photo of Itika Gupta
Team

Hi there! Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize.

It is lovely to see your team come up with a Vision encompassing a community led approach for a more nutritious future for all.

Make sure you've entered all the final edits and bits of magic to your submission before the Open Submission deadline of January 31, 2020 @ 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time
As you refine your submission in the final hours, feel free to refer to this Food System Vision Prize Pocket Guide: https://bit.ly/2t8Zmc2
Wish you the best for the Prize.

Photo of Priti Krishna
Team

Dear Itika, Thanks much for your encouragement. I struggled with getting team members linked to the application and have now run out of time. Also wanted to load a video but it didn't work.
Anyways, hoping for the best.
Kin Regards

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