The University of Melbourne will contribute $200,000 alongside the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) to establish the Innovation Seed Fund, announced today as part of the Department’s new Horticulture Centre of Excellence.

The $400,000 fund will underpin research to help develop Victoria’s horticultural industries over the next three years, with a focus on improving productivity, competitiveness, marketing and business management.

Professor Ian Anderson, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement), said the fund underlines the University’s commitment to the Goulburn Valley region, formalized in a specific regional strategy earlier this year.

“Horticulture is a significant part of the region’s future, which is a good match for the University given our existing strength in horticultural research.  We have worked hard over the last six months to ensure that the University could put in place a number of strategic activities over the coming years that would contribute to the region’s economic, social and cultural development,” he said.

“This seed fund is one such activity.  We are absolutely committed to the fact that our research capability can give local growers and industry stakeholders the know-how to grow and develop their businesses accordingly, and have lasting regional impact”.

Researchers at both organisations will work together to develop collaborative projects that tackle issues such as the improved management of disease detection and response to export marketing or industry transition.

Individual projects will start in January 2015, with funding of $5000 to $25,000 available.

The Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh formally announced the fund at the Horticulture Centre of Excellence launch in Tatura earlier today.