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The keys to further unlocking the north


There are a range of competitive industries in northern Australia, including agriculture, mining and gas production. Each of these have their own set of economic factors that need to be considered to maximise the development potential of the north.

Expanding agricultural development in northern Australia requires:

  • sourcing significant capital investment to cover the high up-front cost of new ventures
  • the identification of crops with efficient supply chains that can be cost-effectively and sustainably grown in the northern environment
  • the establishment of new and viable export markets where these cannot be simply accommodated by existing global trade.

Our work, in collaboration with partners, provides policy makers with a clear indication of the location and scale of medium and longer term opportunities for agricultural production, and critical supply chain and infrastructure investment issues that may help to foster those opportunities.


Water is integral to the success of the development of the north.

We have recently completed the first and only account of water availability for northern Australia and found that every year, out of the 2 million GL of water arriving in NA, around 15,000 GL - enough to irrigate almost 1.5 million hectares - could be made available for irrigation.

Our detailed catchment assessments can accurately identify how much water can be sustainably used an ongoing basis for irrigation and other uses.

Transport Logisitics

Underdeveloped transport infrastructure and long distances have presented a consistent challenge to development.

Our transport logistics tool, TRANSIT, is helping industry to save transport costs and increase efficiencies. TRANSIT identifies least-cost pathways for producers using existing infrastructure and identifies cost-effective investment options for strategic infrastructure, such as relocated holding yards and truck rest stops as well as configuration of roads, processing facilities and ports.

Land Tenure

Northern Australian tenure systems are complex and unique in the national context. There are multiple and often overlapping tenure types for the same piece of land.

We have identified pathways for improvement that reduce complexity, improve the efficiency of regulation, and improve the effectiveness of land and resource planning.


Soil data are considered the most important environmental factor determining the suitability of land for agriculture.

We recently constructed the first soils maps covering all of northern Australia, and the suitability of soil for over 70 different crops. Those maps show where there’s at least 16 million hectares of soil that’s suitable for intensive agriculture.

Health and Biosecurity

The diversity and scale of proposed developments in our north poses a number of biosecurity challenges, including how to protect our agricultural assets from new pests and diseases entering, emerging and/or spreading in Australia.

As is true of any biosecurity threat, it is better to pre-empt and avoid than have to deal with the costly consequences.

With a long history of biosecurity research, we have access to critical expertise and new technologies in smart surveillance and rapid response to protect our farmers, communities and environment in our north from the impacts of exotic pests and diseases.

We're guiding successful development

We've pulled our research and capacity together to develop a formula for identifying specific development opportunities in the north.

This formula, first demonstrated through the Flinders and Gilbert Agricultural Resource Assessment is used to:

  • rapidly and economically quantify current water availability,
  • identify water storage options,
  • construct soils maps of high precision, and
  • combine results to establish estimates of regional agricultural production potential.

These approaches provide a blueprint across priority sites for future irrigation development.

Current research

Our current research in northern Australia includes projects to assess land and water resources, help attract investment for new and established industries, assess biosecurity risks and improve agriculture.

Contact us to find out how we can help your business thrive

Contact Dr Chris Chilcott via email or phone to discuss how we can help you develop opportunities in the north.

Phone: +61 8 8944 8422


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