Projects redefining the static museum visit into an interactive experience, building more secure smart farming infrastructures, and working with marine scientists and experts to bring the Sydney Rock Oyster reefs back from extinction have successfully secured funding in the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) grant awards. 

The three UNSW projects received more than $1.2 million in the latest round of the ARC Linkage Project scheme announced today by Minister for Education Dan Tehan. In total, 12 projects from universities across Australia shared $4.9 million in research funding. 

Art & Design Scientia Professor Dennis Del Favero is lead researcher on a project awarded $463,634. This museum project will allow audiences to interactively experience, explore and interconnect with a vast range of physical artefacts and digital data across the diverse venues of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Ultimo, Millers Point, Castle Hill and Parramatta, and each location’s diverse geographical context.  

For example, audiences using a specially design smart phone application will be able to digitally save their physical experience of a collection of 21st century spatial instruments at Ultimo, then continue their journey to the Royal Mint in Sydney and its collection of 19th century survey tools, then visit Ku-ring-gai National Park in Castle Hill to explore rock engravings of eclipses within local Indigenous astronomical knowledge. 

“The research engages the new digital opportunities that are poised to artistically and technologically advance the development of the Australian museum sector in the 21st century,” said Professor Del Favero, who is director of the iCinema Research Centre and the Expanded Perception Interaction Centre (EPICentre). “These advances will provide Australian museums with a global competitive edge in the development of accessible database systems and growth of their audience base.” 

In another successful project, UNSW Professor Jiankun Hu and his team are working with telecommunications consultancy Telsoft and wool supply company WoolConnect to develop an innovative security infrastructure to strengthen data privacy and cyber security mechanisms in the smart farming industry. 

Smart farming uses modern technology to increase the quantity and quality of agricultural products. While smart farming has many advantages from providing accurate water irrigation and spreading of fertilizers to save farming resources, monitoring cattle’s well-being and enhancing quality control, there are potential security risks involved. Recently, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning that the lack of cyber security awareness in the farming industry for smart farming could expose the nation’s agriculture sector to the risk of hacking and data theft. 

Professor Hu said his project, which secured $450,000 in ARC funding, will use blockchain technology to address this issue.  

“This project aims to establish an innovative secure data infrastructure for smart farming, including secure and automated supply-chain management,” said Professor Hu. “This data infrastructure will be the first of its kind which will lay a solid foundation for smart farming technology.”  

The third successful project from UNSW will help bring Sydney Rock Oyster reefs back from extinction. Associate Professor Paul Gribben is leading a team of collaborators from UNSW; Sydney Harbour Research Program (SHRP) at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS); University of Sydney; Macquarie University; the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries; the Nature Conservancy; and the SIMS Foundation.  

Professor Gribben said oyster reefs are the corals reefs of temperate ecosystems. They provide coastal areas protection from waves and storms, act as the kidneys of estuaries by filtering excess nutrients and contaminants from the water and provide habitat and nursery grounds for many important species.   

But like coral reefs, oyster reefs are dying. Across Australia, more than 90% of oyster reefs have been lost due to pollution and physical extraction for food and lime.  

The $330,000 ARC grant will enable Professor Gribben and his collaborators to develop a framework to recover the functionally extinct Sydney Rock Oyster reefs and reinstate their key ecosystem services.  

“This project will provide significant benefits, such as the development of key strategic alliances to enhance management of estuaries, and re-establish the environmental, economic and social benefits of oyster reefs,” Professor Gribben said. 

UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Nicholas Fisk, congratulated the University’s researchers on securing grants for research that benefits a range of industries across Australia. 

“Our talented investigators across a diverse range of areas are dedicated to solving problems locally and around the world,” Professor Fisk said. “I congratulate all of the successful parties and look forward to following the progress and outcomes of these world-class projects.” 

The ARC Linkage Project scheme brings together higher education and industry to conduct research into pressing issues affecting Australians.