HIA to build fruit fly centre

The world’s first research centre dedicated to combating Queensland fruit fly is a step closer, with the state government signing an agreement with Horticulture Innovation Australia to build and manage the $3.8 million National Sterile Insect Technology facility at Port Augusta. Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell said the facility would prove to be a game-changer for the future management of Queensland fruit fly.

“HIA is contributing $800,000 to this venture on top of the $3m state government commitment,” he said. “Once completed and commissioned, the facility will produce 50m sterile male fruit flies each week, which will be released to mate with wild females, thereby collapsing the population of the fruit flies. This will make a huge difference to keeping SA fruit fly free, and will help to reduce fruit fly populations in major horticulture regions in the eastern states.”

HIA is a key partner in the development of the Port Augusta facility, along with the CSIRO, Plant & Food Research Australia, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Macquarie University. The SIT facility is supported by SITplus, a national research and development effort, which now has a combined program budget of nearly $50m.

HIA chief executive John Lloyd said the organisation was in the process of appointing a program director who will be responsible for ensuring SITplus delivers high quality research and appropriate outputs and outcomes. “We anticipate that once fully operational this new national facility will be employing up to 10 full-time equivalent positions,” he said.

The facility will initially be used for research purposes to develop the best method for producing sterile male Q-fly pupae and cost-effective production processes for commercial production and release in Australian horticultural production areas, for both eradication and maintenance of low pest prevalence status. The design of the facility allows for the requirements of a second phase, when a commercial operator is expected to take over the enterprise.

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