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CeRDI Newsletter Autumn 2022

Message from the Director

Associate Professor Helen Thompson - Director CeRDI  

Associate Professor
Helen Thompson
Director, CeRDI


CeRDI places great value on sharing the results of our research. An important part of our work is sharing insights and new knowledge, arising from our work. As a research Centre and tertiary institution, we strive to disseminate research outputs through both traditional methods (such as reports, journals articles and conference presentations) and non-traditional pathways (such as podcasts, webinars and newsletters), to ensure information is shared to industry, and the broader community.

Following the traditional path, our recent journal publications have included a paper co-authored by Professor of Environmental Accounting Dr Francisco Ascui which is examining ‘Green Steel’ and the automotive industry, and another written by Dr Basharat Ali and Assoc Prof Peter Dahlhaus which investigates agricultural practices in sustainable agriculture. Assoc Prof Peter Dahlhaus has also recently released a report on the first phase of the Visualising Australasia’s Soils project. This report is available from the website of the Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC). Other publications authored by CeRDI researchers are currently in press and the details of these will be shared in forthcoming newsletters. 

The value of non-traditional pathways is that they can deliver the information to a much broader audience, especially for those that may not have access to academic publications. For example, Assoc Prof Peter Dahlhaus recently participated in a podcast contributing to the discussion around the bottled water industry. Similarly, Dr Birgita Hansen’s article about the migratory waterbird, the Latham’s Snipe , proved a popular story when it was published last year in The Conversation. These non-traditional outlets can deliver research findings to a different audience and garner much interest.


Valuing Urban Wetlands project

Latham’s Snipe in Port Fairy. Photo: Richard Chamberlain.  

Above: Latham’s Snipe in Port Fairy.
Photo: Richard Chamberlain.


Wetland conservation is nationally important, facilitating the preservation and protection of water ecosystems. This is particularly important in urban areas where natural environments tend to be small, isolated and degraded. In these highly modified environments urban wetlands are sometimes ignored, becoming a secondary focus to the planning and development of new urban centres. There is a growing interest nationally in understanding the value of urban natural environments not only for protecting urban-dwelling fauna and flora but also as places supporting the health and wellbeing of the human population. 

Dr Birgita Hansen, Senior Research Fellow in CeRDI is leading the Valuing Urban Wetlands Project. This is a collaborative project with Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN), Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), Federation University, BirdLife Australia and Melbourne Water. The project was awarded $100,000 to examine the value of urban wetlands for supporting bird life in built environments and to help quantify this using citizen science data.  It will employ citizen science data sources from the Atlas of Living Australia, a publicly accessible site facilitating wetland protection through knowledge sharing and awareness raising.

 Soil health and the pork industry

Soil health and the pork industry  

Australian Pork Limited (APL), a producer-owned industry body that supports and represents Australian pig producers, is working towards carbon positive and zero waste sustainability goals for the industry by 2025.

Within these goals, APL is funding research to assess the value of using pork industry effluent for improved soil health and the potential for carbon mitigation and storage. While the practice of spraying effluent onto farm soil is thought to be common, there is limited research investigating benefits or impacts on the environment in Australia. APL is interested to explore whether this use of effluent can contribute to the sustainability goals of the pork industry. 

Research is being conducted to look at factors such as soil health and whether there are benefits for soil carbon sequestration or overall greenhouse gas emissions. Pork producers will also be consulted as part of the project. This research involves across centre collaborations with the Future Regions Research Centre, CeRDI and with researchers from The University of Melbourne. Researchers at CeRDI will be conducting interviews with producers to gain insights into current practices, experiences and decision making in the management and use of piggery wastes.

Online Farm Trials

Online Farm Trials website  

Online Farm Trials website


Online Farm Trials (OFT) is a web-based system that provides open and free access to on-farm, or field based, cropping research trial data and information. Interactive maps, searching and viewing tools enable access to relevant information on a range of cropping topics, issues and methods.

The online portal is a collaboration between CeRDI and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and was launched in 2015.  The trials data available on OFT has been supplied by contributors, including grower and farming systems groups, government researchers, universities and private industry across Australia. 

Recent work has been undertaken to increase the FAIRness of the data, that is to make the trials data more Findable, Accessible, Reusable and Interoperable. The OFT system was extended to allow the rich metadata stored for trials to be harvested by Research Data Australia (RDA). As a result, 5500 farm trials are findable through RDA. To achieve greater interoperability, the OFT team have created a standardised list of treatment and crop types for contributors to use when entering their trial on the portal. This has involved the re-categorization of treatment and crop types, using the vernacular of the grain industry. It is anticipated that this approach will make it easier for contributors to upload their data onto the system and improve the findability of data for public users of OFT. 


Visualising Australasia’s Soils

Visualising Australasia’s Soils (VAS) data portal  

Visualising Australasia’s Soils (VAS)
data portal



Visualising Australasia’s Soils (VAS) aims to provide Australasian farmers, agronomy practitioners, agricultural researchers and agribusinesses with place-based information via an online platform access to data, information and knowledge on Australasian soils. Increased availability of soil data will encourage and enable the generation of new research ideas, collaborations and investment, both locally and globally. In doing so, the purpose of VAS is to enhance decision making and generate new insights into the profitability and resilience of Australian agriculture.  

The VAS project, led by CeRDI under the direction of Principal Research Fellow Assoc Prof Pete Dahlhaus,  includes an important feature, a data stewardship and governance model that allows those who contribute data to the system to set the rules about who has access to their data. 


Soil-Stewardship and knowledge sharing project

Soil-Stewardship and knowledge sharing project  

Soil-Stewardship and knowledge
sharing project


Soil is a fundamental resource on which much depends, and the careful and responsible management of soils (soil-stewardship) has an important role in agriculture. The Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC) reported that research shows that effective processes of knowledge-sharing among farmers, scientists and key knowledge brokers are essential for improving soil-stewardship and has provided funding for a research project titled: Knowledge-sharing for good soil stewardship.

The project aims to address the challenges and opportunities associated with knowledge-sharing for improving the uptake of new innovations and best-practice in soil management. The project will examine the effectiveness of the knowledge sharing for improved soil knowledge synthesis in Australian agriculture-ecosystems. CeRDI is a partner in the project which is led by Southern Cross University.


Digital Agrifood Summit 2022 

Digital Agrifood Summit 2022  

Digital Agrifood Summit 2022 


The Digital Agrifood Summit 2022 was held in Wagga Wagga, 1-2 June, and focused on digital trends and technologies transforming Australian agriculture. The summit explored the key themes of hands-free farming, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), carbon and natural capital, and the circular economy. The events offered an up-close and practical examination of the digital trends and technologies transforming Australian agriculture. 

Summit partner, Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (Food Agility CRC), has strong ties with Federation University and CeRDI. Federation University is a major participant in the Food Agility CRC through projects including Optimised Carbon and Nutrient Management, Rangelands Carbon and  Sustainable Agribusiness Adaptions. CeRDI’s Senior Research Fellow Dr Birgita Hansen is the lead for the Better Data for Better Decisions Constellation, a Food Agility program that aims to improve the collection, management, sharing and use of farm data in the agri-food sector. 


CeRDI research update and seminar series

Centre staff attend the April CeRDI research meeting held at the iiNet Conference room, Greenhill Enterprise Centre, Federation University.  

CeRDI research meeting held at
the iiNet Conference room,
Greenhill Enterprise Centre,
Federation University.


As we step beyond the pandemic, it is exciting to have CeRDI staff back on site at Mt Helen. 

In April, CeRDI held its first research update for the year. Centre members attended in person to learn more about the University restructure, and to contribute to discussions about CeRDI’s future directions and initiatives to support Centre growth and development aligned with the University’s Strategic Plan and global eResearch Direction and Initiatives. 

Our fortnightly CeRDI seminars, which commenced online during the height of the pandemic, are now also being held on site, providing the opportunity for face-to-face learning, networking and discussions. Recent seminars have included the following presentations:

  • Professor of Environmental Accounting Francisco Ascui presented on his research and its contribution to a standardised approach for natural capital risk assessment.
  • Federation University’s Janette Wright, Library Director, and Kay Steel, Manager Research and Strategic Projects outlined the Research Data Management Framework project. The session provided context about the project and Federation University’s involvement and trialing of new data management practices.

Staff profile: Azeem Sadiq

Azeem Sadiq Research Data Specialist   

Azeem Sadiq
Research Data Specialist 


Many CeRDI projects involve the development of systems that collect, store and analyse very large quantities of digital information. In particular, the proliferation of sensors in agriculture leads to the generation of large volumes of data for agricultural research projects. Management of these complex datasets requires the development of comprehensive data management plans. 

In March this year, CeRDI appointed Azeem Sadiq as Research Data Specialist to lead the development a comprehensive data management plan for the Rangelands Carbon Measurement project. In view of the current high cost of measuring soil carbon, the project aims to use biomass and vegetation measured via satellite imagery, as a more affordable proxy for soil carbon measurement. Azeem will be developing the data management plan for this project and will address data supply chains, information and technical architecture of existing and future enhancements. 

Azeem is also contributing his skills to other CeRDI projects including Visualising Australasian Soils and AgReFed. 

News snippets

Food Agility Workshop
Dr Birgita Hansen and Gabi Ceregra delivered a workshop on Big Data and Business at the Morwell Convention Centre on 7 June 2022. Convened by the Food Agility CRC in collaboration with Federation University and Food & Fibre Gippsland, the workshop covered topics about the importance and value of data for business and maximising the benefits from data. For further information about this event visit:

Higher Degrees by Research news

Industry Internship

CeRDI PhD candidate Dr Rekha Attanayake  

CeRDI PhD candidate
Dr Rekha Attanayake


Industry internships are an important vehicle for bridging the gap between formal education and real-world experience. Earlier this year, CeRDI PhD candidate Dr Rekha Attanayake completed a three month internship with Agriculture Victoria. 

The internship involved conducting experiments to investigate interactions between aphid vector, virus and crop plants under current and future predicted CO2 levels. Rekha was mentored during the internship by CeRDI’s Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus and Dr Piotr Trebicki, Senior Research Scientist, Plant Vector-Borne Diseases, Agriculture Victoria Research. Rekha recently presented an update on the research experiments she is conducting and outlined the research conditions, plant propagation and growth, and the monitoring of insect and virus cultures in the field. 

Rekha has valued the learning experience and the supportive environment for gaining news skills and experiences through the internship, stating “this has been a fantastic opportunity which gives me more chances to learn different techniques in plant pathology-related studies”. In addition, Rekha is contributing to and supporting ongoing AVR project: “this has helped me learn more techniques, gain new experiences and develop my skills. I am very pleased to have had this internship opportunity and to have gained new skills and research experience which will further support my PhD research”. 

About CeRDI

The Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation (CeRDI) is a research centre at Federation University Australia focused on:

  • the application of information and communications technology (ICT) and the development of innovative, world class knowledge management systems;
  • significantly advancing the digital literacy and knowledge management capabilities of partner organisations;
  • fostering partnerships for the development and implementation of eResearch with industry, government and academia; and
  • measuring the impact of eResearch and digital innovation through longitudinal research.

Contact CeRDI

For further details about CeRDI’s diverse portfolio of research please visit our website:, or contact Director, Associate Professor Helen Thompson:

Mailing Address

Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation
Federation University Australia
PO Box 691
Ballarat Vic 3353

Office Location

Suite 15, Greenhill Enterprise Centre
Ballarat Technology Park
University Drive
Mount Helen Vic 3350

Phone: +61 3 5327 9314
Fax: +61 3 5327 9895

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