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CeRDI Newsletter Winter 2022

Message from the Director

Associate Professor Helen Thompson  

Associate Professor
Helen Thompson
Director, CeRDI


This newsletter presents stories that capture a cross section of the many varied projects and research being undertaken in the Centre. This range of diverse research activities and outputs is testament to the skills and expertise of the Centre’s research and technical staff.

It’s particularly exciting to see a culture of research flourish within the Centre, and our research reputation continues to grow through our involvement in conferences and workshops. CeRDI staff and PhD candidates had an active presence at two recent national workshops; the Digital Agrifood Summit 2022 in Wagga Wagga that explored the future of farming, and the Soil CRC Conference in Adelaide which showcased Soil CRC’s collaborative soil research projects. Our attendance and involvement in the discussions at these important national workshops demonstrate our commitment to collaborative research in areas including soil, agriculture and food production.

We are establishing regular sessions for our staff to showcase their work, research skills and knowledge. The fortnightly CeRDI seminars are well received, providing Centre members and guests an opportunity to discuss research activities and be inspired by presentations from guest speakers. Recently, Andrew Bennett, Professor of Ecology at Latrobe University, gave an informative session on developing research publications while in another workshop, CeRDI’s Gabi Ceregra conducted a fascinating interactive session exploring the use of design thinking for research planning.


Tackling family violence in the Central Highlands: DataPRESS project

DataPRESS project Spatial Portal  

DataPRESS project Spatial Portal


A major project milestone associated with the DataPRESS project has culminated in the development of a regional family violence data portal for the Central Highlands region. The DataPRESS project was initiated by the Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee (CHIFVC) in partnership with Ballarat Health Services and CHIFVC member agencies from the region.

CeRDI has been instrumental in designing and developing the DataPRESS portal. Commencing in 2019, the project was established to federate local data and public health data within a comprehensive online repository, with the aim of improving operational and strategic decision-making through the availability of data. Features of DataPRESS include spatial mapping of integrated sector data provided by CHIFVC members, the ability to draw together a variety of data to support comprehensive demographic and service user profiles and the generation of community profiles based on service needs, drivers and impacts of family violence.

My Farm Dashboard

My Farm Dashboard  

My Farm Dashboard


My Farm Dashboard assists farmers to make better decisions based upon critical support information and data about their property. CeRDI has been instrumental in the development of the portal. The project involves extensive collaboration with industry organisations and is funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Grains and Research Development Corporation. Southern Farming Systems is the lead partner on the project. Other high rainfall zone cropping project partners include Victorian Limestone Producers Association, Precision Agriculture, Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority, Agriculture Victoria, Agriculture Kangaroo Island and the MacKillop Farm Management Group.

Developed in consultation with farmers, the My Farm Dashboard provides a series of information cards representing different farming decision needs. Users delineate their farm and paddock boundaries using editing tools in the mapping system, and then select cards that bring together the data and reports that suit their decision needs. This allows users to control the information they access and display. Climate records and seasonal forecast data from the Bureau of Meteorology, satellite derived pasture biomass estimates from Cibolabs, and historical commodity price data is available through the dashboard. The decisions available to farmers can thus be tailored to the farm location using the available data. Information can be readily changed and rearranged to reflect desired decision pathways.

Improving water security for farms and lakes

Figure 1. Farm dam with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) DEM, drainage lines, flow direction and sub-catchments.  

Figure 1. Farm dam with LiDAR
(Light Detection and Ranging) DEM,
drainage lines, flow direction
and sub-catchments.


CeRDI’s Summer 2022 newsletter featured a story about work to improve farm water security and farm resilience in response to climate change in the Lake Corangamite area. Extensive work has since been completed leading to the development of spatial portal that provides landholders and farmers with access to information and data about water resources.

Ten landholders in the Cundare-Duverney and Leslie Manor Landcare areas are participating in the project. Each landholder completes an inventory of water use for their property. This data provides a benchmark of current water requirements in the district and will be used to generate an approximate water balance.

Led by CeRDI’s Rick Pope with Assoc Prof Peter Dahlhaus and Lismore Land Protection Group’s Landcare Facilitator Alicia Merriam, a high-resolution terrain model (digital elevation model or DEM) has recently been prepared for the region. It incorporates models for drainage lines, sub catchments and surface water flow directions as displayed in Figure 1.


Visualising Australasia’s Soils: Award Finalist

Visualising Australasia’s Soils: Award Finalist  

Visualising Australasia’s Soils: Award Finalist 


Visualising Australasia’s Soils was a finalist in the Best Agriculture Project category for the 2202 iTnews Benchmark Awards.

The iTnews benchmarking awards recognise leading information and technology projects in Australia across 12 categories. VAS was nominated for the Best Agricultural project, alongside two other finalists: Bartle Frere Bananas' Data-Driven Sustainable Smart Farming project; AgBioEn and LAB3 solution deployment for renewable energy.  Finalists were selected in this category for progressing and improving access to, and use of, data that benefits our environment and agriculture sector.

Visualising Australasia’s Soils (VAS) uses an online platform to provide Australasian farmers, agronomy practitioners, agricultural researchers and agribusinesses with access to data, information and knowledge about Australasian soils. Increased availability of soil data will encourage and enable the generation of new research ideas, collaborations and investment, both locally and globally.

Aboriginal Heroes: Documentary film

Associate Prof Fred Cahir discusses the research during filming of ‘Acts of Heroism”  

Associate Prof Fred Cahir discusses
the research during filming
of ‘Acts of Heroism”


Associate Prof Fred Cahir recently collaborated with Wind and Sky Productions in the production of a documentary film entitled 'Acts of Heroism '. The film explores the history of Aboriginal people in Victoria providing emergency rescues and assistance for non-Aboriginal people. The film represents an important milestone associated with the Aboriginal Heroes of Fire, Flood and Food project.

A citizen history approach was developed in collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, historians and historical societies to conduct a comprehensive research program documenting Aboriginal acts of heroism. According to historians Associate Professor Fred Cahir and Dr Dan Tout from Federation University, hundreds of colonists in 19th century Victoria were rescued from bushfires, flooded rivers or from being lost in the bush by Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Heroes project involved searching and documenting the stories of Aboriginal heroes in shaping Victoria’s history between 1790 and 1930.

Higher Degree by Research profile: Andrew MacLeod

Andrew MacLeod  

Andrew MacLeod


Andrew, who has been CeRDI’s Manger Technical Projects since 2002, is now using his extensive experience to guide a program of research as part of his studies towards a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Andrew commenced his PhD at CeRDI in 2021 and is utilising both his technical expertise and research interests in an exploration of how disparate data streams, such as climate, soils, water and topography can be harmonised using the principles of Linked Data. He aims to advance semantic interoperability across complex agricultural and environmental data holdings. His supervisory team includes CeRDI’s Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus (principal supervisor), Dr Birgita Hansen, Dr Nathan Robinson and CSIRO’s Dr Simon Cox.

Food security is a global challenge necessitating more sustainable and productive methods to farming. The use of data to drive evidence-based decision making in agriculture is crucial. Despite the increasing availability of data, the transformation of these data into pragmatic actions to, for example, improve soil, plant and water management has proven difficult. This is largely due to the distributed custodianship and heterogeneity of agri-environmental data, with a lack of interoperability making it difficult to integrate, establish shared meaning, and thereby turn data into knowledge.  

News snippets

Dr Nathan Robinson delivers a presentation at the Soil CRC Conference  

Dr Nathan Robinson delivers a presentation
at the Soil CRC Conference


Online Farm Trials: Online Farm Trials (OFT) is a web-based system providing open and free access to on-farm, or field based, cropping research trial data and information. It is a collaborative project between CeRDI and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). OFT contains interactive maps, searching and viewing tools that enable users to access relevant information on a range of grains trials research on specific topics, issues and methods.

Recent enhancement to OFT include the launch of Trials in Progress . This new feature enables contributors to upload data from their current grains trials to a template which is then uploaded into OFT. Data includes trial design details, treatments, and soil types. Researcher details can also be added to Trials in Progress, providing an opportunity for contributors to network with others in the industry about their current grain trials. The OFT portal contains trials from various organisations, including but not limited to Southern Pulse Agronomy, Birchip Cropping Group and McKillop Farm Management Group.

Higher Degrees by Research news

Conference attendance: Peter Weir attended and presented at Soil Science Australia - Soil Physics Workshop, Wagga, 23-24 June 2022. His presentation ‘In-paddock soil moisture spatial variability for dryland cropping’ is informed by his PhD research which is examining in-paddock variability of plant available water:

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

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