A Cooperative Research Centre (CRC)

for Pollination Security

The Cooperative Research Centre for Pollination Security will bring together industry, research organisations and communities to improve Australia’s pollination capabilities.

The CRC will undertake research and extension activities to increase awareness and understanding of the role of pollinators in agriculture and the environment, and associated risks; build capability within the beekeeping industry and pollinator-dependent sectors across agriculture; and encourage practice change to improve pollination capability and outcomes, and strengthen Australia’s food security and ecosystem health

Wheen Bee Foundation has offered its services to act as an independent secretariat to support the CRC for Pollination Services ‘Core Bid Group’.
The ‘Core Bid Group’ is to be made up of co-investment partners who will work to develop a strategic CRC bid for submission in 2022 to CRC Round 24.

The Foundation has no commercial interest in any outcomes from the work of the CRC but is strongly committed to supporting the CRC because of the importance of pollination services to agriculture and the environment.

Background

The Australian Government’s CRC Program supports industry-led collaborations
between industry, researchers and the community. The program aims to:

  • Improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian
    industries, especially where Australia has a competitive strength, and in line
    with government priorities.
  • Foster high quality research to solve industry-identified problems through
    industry-led and outcome focused collaborative research partnerships between
    industry entities and research organisations.
  • Encourage and facilitate small and medium enterprise (SME) participation in
    collaborative research.

Since its inception in 1990, the CRC program has committed $4.6 billion in funding to support the establishment of over 221 CRC grants and 76 CRC-P Grants – a total of 297 collaborations funded over the program’s lifetime

The role of a CRC for pollination security

The CRC Bid Scope has three key focus areas:

  1. The Environment:
    Sustainable management of the pollination ecosystem
    This key focus area addresses the pollination environment, including natural habitat and farm habitats to increase the number and diversity of wild pollinators and other beneficial insects in the landscape.
  2. The Managed Pollinator:
    Improved management of the pollinator and supply chain
    This key focus area addresses the capabilities and capacity of Australia’s current pollination providers, including managed honey bees, managed native bees and other managed pollinators.
  3. The Crop:
    Increased pollination efficacy
    This key focus area addresses pollinator-dependent crops and plants and how improvements can be made at the plant or crop level to improve pollination outcomes.

Outcomes

Within each of the three key focus areas, the CRC’s research and extension projects will:

  • Increase national awareness of pollination security and improve coordinated risk management
  • Build capability across pollinator-dependent sectors
  • Implement practice change across agriculture and bee industries

Research and extension activities

Each theme has key areas of focus for research and extension activities. These include:


Sustainable management of the pollination ecosystem — the environment

  • Improving agriculture landscapes beyond the crop bloom period to increase pollinator survival
  • Integrating pollinator needs with best practices for agriculture
  • Meeting increased resource needs of bees and other pollinators for habitat
    and nutritional requirements
  • Augmenting pollination services – utilising native bees and wild pollinators to enhance commercial pollination services
  • Safeguarding bees from the harmful effects of chemicals and pesticides
  • Discovering and documenting Australia’s remaining native bee species and
    evaluating their value as pollinators
  • Evaluating and implementing technologies for improved landscape management, including mapping, remote sensing, artificial intelligence
  • Valuing natural capital and conserving protecting areas of native remnant vegetation to encourage an increased number and diversity of beneficial insects, including pollinators
  • Improving ecosystem health through better integration and management of biodiversity

Improved management of the pollinator and supply chain — managed bees and pollinators

  • Assuring the delivery of healthy pollinators to meet Australian agriculture needs
  • Improving the health and efficiency of managed pollinators through better
    husbandry, nutrition and breeding
  • Mitigating biosecurity threats
  • Increasing Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management strategies to reduce reliance on chemicals
  • Collecting trait data and selectively breeding to improve pest and disease resistance
  • Understanding the national demand for bees and other pollinators across sectors, over time including how a Varroa incursion changes the national supply chain for bees and other pollinators
  • Managing stocking rates and timing of hive supply
  • Evaluating and implementing technologies that support beekeepers to meet
    pollinator demand
  • Identifying and developing alternative pollinators suited to providing commercial pollination service, eg stingless bees, flies, hoverflies
  • Increasing and optimising information on chemical used in agriculture

Increased pollination efficacy — crops and plants

  • Optimising plant pollen delivery to improve crop yield and quality
  • Optimising pollination services to suit individual crop needs
  • Rotating pollination services to optimise crop yield and quality
  • Understanding crop loyalty and crop foraging behaviour among pollinators
  • Trialing robotic, mechanical and other artificial pollination strategies
  • Selecting cultivars to reduce reliance on pollination
  • Integrating companion planting to optimise pollination services
  • Identify conditions for optimising pollination in protected cropping systems
  • Design new technologies for pollination monitoring and data-driven precision pollination
  • Understanding and optimising the impacts of agronomic practices on crop pollination outcomes

Proposed funding model

This proposal for CRC for Pollination Security seeks to attract funding of $100–120 million over 8–10 years.

Investment partners: The CRC for Pollination Security is seeking co-investment from industry organsations, corporate sector, research institutes, and state and federal governments.

The CRC Core Bid Group has already received cash and in-kind support for the Bid Process, and pledges of intent to co-invest from universities, industry organisations including apiary organisations, agriculture businesses, peak bodies; corporate entities including seed businesses, agriculture companies, and state and federal governments.

These include NSW Department of Primary Industries, University of New England, University of Sydney, Australian National University, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Australia, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Australian Almonds, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, Australian Native Bee Association, Bejo Australia, South Pacific Seeds, Australian Lychee Growers Association.

The proposed co-investment strategy for the CRC for Pollination Security is pictured below:

Return on investment

Details of co-investment funding and return on investment models will be finalised in the Bid to be submitted in August 2022.

Timeline for the CRC

  • July 2021: The proposal for a CRC for Pollination Security was launched in July 2021 when the Wheen Bee Foundation conducted a virtual workshop on behalf of a number of industry stakeholders.
  • The workshop was attended by 120 people representing pollinator-dependent industries, beekeeping associations, financial institutions, universities, state and federal agriculture departments.
  • A Core Group of co-investment stakeholders was established to advance the bid, identifying a framework for future research and working to formalise a future bid.
  • November 2021–January 2022: Stakeholder consultations held in Vic, Tas, NSW, SA, WA, NT and Qld
  • February 2022: Consultation findings circulated
  • February–June 2022: Formalise co-investment partnerships and appoint
    CRC Bid Chair and CRC Bid CEO
  • August 2022: The CRC Bid will be submitted in August 2022.

Contact

For further information on the CRC for Pollination Security, email crcbid@wheenbeefoundation.org.au.