Investment in northern agriculture will be the central focus of the Northern Australia Food Futures conference in Darwin starting tomorrow [12 April 2016].

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CSIRO researchers will join more than 300 industry and government representatives to discuss the sustainable development of the north. Northern Australia, comprising 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass, is already the world’s fifth largest beef and sugar exporter, with 12 million cattle and 3000 sugar farms bringing in more than $3 billion each year.

But this only represents a fraction of the region’s agricultural potential.

"With its highly variable landmass and four distinct climatic zones, northern Australia can support all sorts of agriculture and horticulture," CSIRO Research Director Dr Peter Stone said.

Following the release of the Federal Government's Developing Northern Australia and Agricultural Productivity White Papers in June last year, CSIRO has been focussed on unlocking the potential of the area that stretches from the Pilbara to Rockhampton.

"More than 100 researchers are currently supporting the Australian Government to deliver on these commitments – looking at opportunities to innovate along the entire value chain, from the soil and water availability through to expanding market opportunities," Dr Stone said.

The conference, hosted by the Northern Territory Farmers Association, will be held over the next two days, featuring expert panellists discussing topics such as regional and global investment, crop production and supply chains.

Delegates will be welcomed to the conference tonight at an event to be held at Northern Territory Parliament House, hosted by the Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries Gary Higgins.

CSIRO Chief Research Scientist Dr Andrew Ash will join other panellists in a discussion exploring new agricultural opportunities from midday tomorrow at the Darwin Convention Centre.

"A number of opportunities have stimulated renewed interest in agricultural development for northern Australia," Dr Ash said.

"These include proximity to Asian markets, increasing global demand for food and natural fibre as well as the development of economically sustainable regional communities."

"Understanding the agronomic opportunities and constraints in conjunction with development and operating costs and market drivers is crucial for northern Australia’s developing irrigated agriculture sector to be competitive and profitable," Dr Ash said.

Dr Ash and his team are currently investigating development opportunities for irrigated agriculture in the region including sugarcane, cotton, peanuts and grains.

Food Futures follows the success of the inaugural Northern Australia Food Futures Conference in 2014.

Information on the 2016 conference can be found at Northern Australia Food Futures website .

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  • Agriculture expansion: Northern Australia is already home to 12 million cattle.

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