The Mallee Regional Innovation Centre (MRIC) is a hub for research, innovation and collaboration located in the heart of one of Australia’s most productive food bowl regions – the Mallee in northwest Victoria. Established in 2019, the Centre brings together industry, community, government and leading research institutions to address key challenges and opportunities facing the region.
Overview of the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre
The Mallee Regional Innovation Centre is a partnership between the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and SuniTAFE. It is supported by the Victorian Government’s Regional Partnerships program.The Centre is located at La Trobe University’s Mildura campus, with a vision to position the Mallee as a global leader in research, innovation and sustainability across the key pillars of horticulture, water, energy and the environment 1.With over $5 million in funding, the Centre brings together industry partners, researchers and innovators to collaborate on projects that will drive growth, productivity and sustainability in the region 2.The Mallee Regional Innovation Centre is led by Chief Executive Ms Rebecca Wells and supported by an Advisory Board consisting of industry leaders and experts 11.
Key Focus Areas
The Mallee Regional Innovation Centre focuses research and innovation efforts on four interconnected pillars that are vital to the region’s growth and sustainability:
As a leading food bowl, horticulture underpins the prosperity of the Mallee region. The Centre works to drive research and adoption of new technologies to improve productivity, efficiency, crop quality and access to markets. This includes a focus on climate resilience.
With scarce rainfall, optimising water use efficiency is crucial for the region. The Centre facilitates research into water management, irrigation, drainage and salinity to ensure long-term viability of food production.
Transitioning to renewable energy and improving energy productivity is a priority. The Centre partners with industry to pilot and demonstrate clean energy solutions tailored for regional businesses.
Protecting the natural environment and ecosystems is vital for sustainability. A key focus is integrating production with biodiversity conservation and regenerative practices.
Major Projects and Research
The Mallee Regional Innovation Centre initiates and supports a wide range of research and industry-led innovation projects across its four pillars. Some current initiatives include:
- Horticulture robotics trials – Partnering with SwarmFarm Robotics to trial autonomous robots for targeted spraying, weeding and data collection in horticulture.
- Soil moisture monitoring – Developing real-time soil moisture monitoring to optimise irrigation and reduce water use in vineyards and orchards.
- Solar pumped hydro energy storage – Feasibility study for a solar PV pumped hydro facility to support renewable energy in the region.
- Carbon farming trials – Working with farmers to demonstrate carbon farming practices like compost application, erosion control and revegetation.
- Mallee Hydrogen Cluster – Facilitating a consortium of industry partners to scope development of a renewable hydrogen ecosystem in the region 6.
Partnerships and Collaborations
The Mallee Regional Innovation Centre strategically partners with leading research institutions, industry groups, government agencies and community organisations. These connections help mobilize expertise and resources to address regional challenges and opportunities.Key partners include:
- La Trobe University
- University of Melbourne
- Agriculture Victoria
- Mallee Catchment Management Authority
- Mildura Development Corporation
- Murray Darling Association
- Regional Development Victoria
- SMEs, farmers and industry groups across the Mallee region.
The Centre also facilitates connections with national and global partners to access world-leading research and innovation 3.
Education, Training and Events
The Mallee Regional Innovation Centre aims to cultivate an innovative and entrepreneurial culture across the region. Initiatives include:
- Student internships – Providing paid summer internship opportunities for university students to work on industry-linked projects at the Centre 10.
- Mallee Rising partnership – Collaboration to deliver STEAM education programs to school students 9.
- Industry events and workshops – Hosting conferences, field days, seminars and training programs to facilitate learning, upskilling and collaboration.
- Innovation Launchpad – Supporting startups and developing an entrepreneur and innovation ecosystem across the Mallee region 9.
Impact and Achievements
Since its launch in 2019, the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre has accelerated research and industry partnerships in the region. Some key achievements include:
- Over $2 million in research funding attracted for priority projects 4.
- 11 industry-research partnerships established in horticulture, water use efficiency and soil health.
- Over 50 industry engagement events held, reaching 500+ stakeholders.
- 30 university student internships supported.
- Launch of the Mallee Hydrogen Cluster to position the region as a renewable hydrogen hub 6.
The Mallee Regional Innovation Centre has an important role to play in driving the region’s productivity, sustainability and climate resilience. Looking ahead, the Centre plans to:
- Attract further investment and project funding to the region.
- Grow industry and research collaborations