News and Media

[NOW CLOSED] Call for applications: Education

To build upon APRIL’s current research and education and training investments, APRIL is currently seeking applications to support its education program and assist in further building human capacity for the Industry. A number of different opportunities exist for undergraduate and postgraduate students/potential students within APRIL, as follows:

  1. Scholarship Awards for Honours students.
  2. ‘Top-ups’ for postgraduate research students (PhD, MS/MSc/MPhil) in an APRIL-funded research project (or related).
  3. Support for DVM/undergraduate Veterinary Science projects.
  4. Support for MS/MSc/MPhil students, where a research project is an incorporated component of the program of study, in an APRIL-funded research project (or related).
  5. Part-support for PhD students.

For full details and to download the application forms and guidelines, please refer to the Funding Opportunities page.

Applications open: 19 October 2020
Applications close: 15 January 2021

New APRIL Industry Placement Program awardee starts at the SunPork Group

New APRIL Industry Placement Program awardee starts at the SunPork Group

APRIL is pleased to announce that Lauren Staveley has commenced her Industry Placement Program with the SunPork Group in South Australia.

a young woman dressed in a dark blue coverall holding a piglet on a farm
IPP awardee Lauren Staveley

Lauren began her interactions with the pork industry in her second year of undergraduate Animal Science studies at The University of Adelaide through the Pork CRC student placement program, where she was placed at the McMahons McPiggery in Lameroo. After a brief detour into sheep parasitology (Honours project), Lauren worked as a Technical Officer at The University of Adelaide for Dr Will van Wettere, spending most of her time on sow reproduction and welfare projects. This eventually led to Lauren commencing a PhD focussed on the potential use of a suite of early (pre-weaning) indicators to aid in the selection of replacement gilts, titled Conception to culling – effective management of the gilt to optimise reproduction and longevity. The main aim of her postgraduate studies is to reduce the high replacement rate of sows in Australian breeder herds. Lauren plans to submit her PhD thesis within the next 6 months.

Lauren currently works for the SunPork Group as a production Management Trainee based at a 5,000 sow breeder farm. Lauren has already been exposed to many aspects and production stages of the business; however, Lauren said that the  APRIL Industry Placement Program awardwill allow her to gain more in-depth knowledge of pork production whilst facilitating her involvement in reproduction and welfare experiments. The Industry Placement Program will provide Lauren with the opportunity to question and evaluate current production practices, and she looks forward to developing a greater understanding of pork production and research.

A message from the Chair: July 2020

Welcome to this edition of the APRIL Newsletter.

I would like to update everyone in relation to some issues arising from APRIL Board meetings held in April and June.

At the Board meeting held in April, the Board accepted a majority of the recommendations from the Research and Development (R&D) Advisory Committee for funding of Industry Priority and Transformational Projects – but not all of them. There were a number of issues arising that the Board felt it had to disagree with concerning the recommendations. Broadly, these fell into a couple of categories. First, there were concerns about some projects where joint funding with Australian Pork Limited was contemplated but not agreed upon, and second, a few projects fell into a category of essentially “product testing” where the Board felt APRIL investment was not warranted or of marginal value.

The APRIL Board never intends becoming a “rubber stamp” to the recommendations of the R&D Advisory Committee, but nor do we want to routinely reject projects that have already had so much work put into them. Besides the obvious work of the researchers/research teams in writing up significant proposals, APRIL is privileged to have a very willing group of reviewers. Some projects have had as many as 10 scientific reviews before reaching the R&D Advisory Committee Subcommittee, then the full R&D Advisory Committee, and then the Board, and yet the Board has not felt confident to invest in them. Why is this happening?

The Board decided on three actions to try and make the process smoother in the future. These are:

  • Undertake a review of the APRIL processes associated with the submission of research projects. We have now completed this internal review and at its June meeting, the Board has asked the CEO to introduce a preliminary research proposal (if applicable) to provide an opportunity for feedback before researchers or reviewers have put in many hours of effort; we have also decided to discontinue the R&D Advisory Committee Subcommittee. We felt this step would empower the full R&D Advisory Committee and eliminate “double handling” of the applications;
  • Greater coordination between APRIL and APL. Margo Andrae, John Pluske and I will look at how we might achieve tighter coordination of projects where APRIL and APL have a common interest. A number of issues arose in the Industry Priority and Transformational Project applications including possible duplication of past or current work; differing views on the relative importance to industry (both where proposals to the APRIL Board were deemed to be making a relatively simple issue into a significant and costly one, and where only a small project was addressing an issue that warrants a whole program of coordinated investment); and on budget approaches. APL has moved to appoint a Director of Research and Innovation, and the APRIL Chief Scientist/CEO will work closely with that person once in place.
  • Encouraging stronger feedback mechanisms. In this funding round, on every occasion that the Board rejected a proposal, someone had already raised our concern before it made it to the Board. Should we allow for a period of adjustment to research proposals in light of the feedback from the reviewers and/or R&D Advisory Committee? We tend to be asking our Chief Scientist to take on board too much of the feedback to develop projects, and not distinguishing between feedback that is simply helpful in project development (“you need to include another experimental treatment”) versus feedback that should either stop the proposal or trigger a major re-think (“you can buy that in Europe today” or “APL already has that information”). We need everyone involved in the process to feel empowered enough to speak up if a project proposal needs a serious re-think. In this regard, the Board is encouraging every member of the R&D Advisory Committee to voice any concerns. Managers within APRIL and APL are in a good position to see duplication or under- or over-investment in an area, and we are encouraging them to be proactive and voice concerns.

In other news, the Board was pleased with the development of the CRC-P application and the Australian Research Council-Linkage application, and felt there was real expertise and deep thinking applied to the challenges raised in the Strategic Plan. We were delighted with the successful outcome of the Linkage application and obviously disappointed by the failure of the CRC-P application to be funded. However, the CRC-P round was hyper-competitive and APRIL’s application was rated in the top quartile. It can be worked on and resubmitted for the next round, which should open very soon.

In personal news, I have resigned my full-time role with the Cooperative Research Centres’ Association (CRC-A). I hit the 10-year mark and felt it was time for someone else to take over. From now until Christmas, I’ll go part time with the CRC-A as we search for a replacement. I expect the move will give me more time for the APRIL role, and I’ll look at a few other non-executive roles. 

Dr Tony Peacock

New APRIL Industry Priority Projects

APRIL received a total of 16 Industry Priority Project proposals, one Commercialisation Project proposal, and five Transformational Project proposals from its call in late 2019/early 2020. The Board is now pleased to announce that it has approved funding for the following five Industry Priority Projects that will commence in the second half of 2020 (Covid-19 permitting):

  1. Heat tolerance (HT) in lactating sows: dietary strategies, metabolic biomarkers and microbiome signature (Project Leader: Professor Eugeni Roura, The University of Queensland).
    • Aims:
    • Test selected dietary supplements to increase the heat tolerance of the lactating sow.
    • Identify individual variations in metabolism between heat tolerant and less heat tolerant sows during lactation (metabolic and microbiome markers in resilient compared to the most vulnerable individuals).
  2. Hot and bothered! Long term impacts of late pregnancy heat stress on sows and progeny (Project Leader: Dr Kate Plush, CHM Alliance).
    • Aims:
    • Demonstrate that heat stress results in a longer duration of farrowing.
    • Identify the impacts longer farrowing duration has on (a) the sow and (b) the piglet, and how this impacts impact long term performance.
    • Test dietary/water additives for reducing farrowing duration during times of heat stress, and determine the production advantages at a commercial level.
    • Conduct a cost:benefit analysis and assessment of farrowing room cooling in the hotter months.
  3. Easing the weaning transition: large piglets from large pellets (Project Leader: Mr Robert Hewitt, CHM Alliance).
    • Aim:
    • Reduce weight variability around weaning through combining two complimentary technologies, large pellets and semi-moist extruded feed, to improve feed intake in the period immediately post-weaning, sustaining weight gain.
  4. Use of thermographic technology to detect reproductive state in sows and improve piglet performance in a commercial farrowing house [Project Leader: Dr Jessica Craig, Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd].
    • Aims:
    • Identify the optimum position on the sow for surface temperature measurements in order to predict success in lactation of sows, their health status, as well as the viability of their piglets at birth.
    • Early detection of at-risk piglets, farrowing difficulties, and/or MMA to provide producers with the tools for early intervention for sows and piglets at risk.
  5. Food Waste to Pig Feed – Safe and Bio-secure (Project Leader: Dr Valeria Torok, SARDI; a joint project with the Fight Food Waste CRC).
    • Aims:
    • Address novel approaches to allow increased use of food wastes in pig feed.
    • Identify food safety/biosecurity risks and strategies to mitigate perceived risks of utilising food waste streams into pig feed.
    • Identify waste streams with the least variability in quality and quantity.
    • Determine the economic feasibility of utilising food waste for pig feed in key regional production areas.

The Board also approved a Commercialisation Project submitted by Anatara Lifesciences and Ridley that will examine an in-field practical delivery mechanism (i.e., semi-moist extruded creep feed) of Anatara Lifesciences’ non-antibiotic product (bromelain) for improved post-weaning pig performance.

The successful projects demonstrated great value for money, strong industry support and application and excellent science. APRIL looks forward to these projects commencing.

Unfortunately, and as alluded to above, the APRIL-led Cooperative Research Program-Project (CRC-P) application submitted in March 2020, Pathways to rearing pigs with tails to maximise returns for pork producers, was not supported by the Australian Government. Feedback from the CRC Advisory Committee indicated that although the proposal was well articulated and presented a good potential outcome, that the partner combination was excellent and the methodology was well articulated, with good education opportunities and risk management approach, it rated less competitively than some other applications received in this round.

The application ranked in the top quartile of applications not funded; however, the overall success rate in this CRC-P round was 8%. This percentage is significantly below other competitive funding schemes that are available to APRIL, that typically range from 20-50%. This highlights not only the extremely competitive funding environment in Australia for industry-related research, but also the need for APRIL to be flexible in exploring its external funding leveraging opportunities. APRIL welcomes any feedback and suggestions for such prospects.