University of Melbourne Magazine

Land rites

  • The new faculty will continue to offer the Bachelor of Agriculture, along with masters by coursework programs that include Masters in Agriculture, Animal or Food Science.

    “There’s also a one-year full-time pathway program offered here at Dookie called Diploma in General Studies,” Gall says. “Students can live on campus, and articulate from that into agriculture.

    Picture: Paul Rovere

    Dookie Campus Director Ros Gall (BCom 1985). Picture: Paul Rovere


    ‘It’s particularly designed as a cost-effective way to allow rural and regional students to get a taste of tertiary study, because it’s pretty expensive to have to relocate to Melbourne.’

    “The idea is that you can do a generalist undergraduate degree, then build on more discipline-specific studies as part of your masters.”

    Dookie Campus is an extraordinary hive of education and experimentation, with contemporary classrooms, student accommodation, laboratories and agricultural projects bristling with advanced technology mixed with historic farm buildings.

    Researchers are using a six-metre long tethered blimp with optical and thermal cameras to monitor variations in plant water stresses from up to 90 metres above the campus’s dairy paddocks and automatically irrigated orchard.

    A new robotic dairy allows cows to wander in to be milked whenever they feel like it. Troughs of grain entice them into cubicles where sensors automatically position suction cups on their udders. After sensing no more milk is being produced, the mechanism gently withdraws, the cubicle doors open, and for good measure the cows are given an enjoyable rub by a rotating bristle brush on their way out.

    “New technologies are increasingly used on farms, and are taking over some manual routine operations,” says Campus Manager, Bill O’Connor. “People talk about self-drive cars in the future, but self-drive vehicles have been on farms for nearly a decade.

    “All the tractors coming on to the market now have auto-steer on them. They can be programmed to drive down a paddock with an accuracy range of two centimetres. They have maps stored in their computer systems, so parts of the paddock that are more productive can have more fertiliser and more seed automatically put onto them.

    “This is a big open laboratory. Third-year research projects can be set up here under the guidance of an academic, and veterinary students can explore animal health and production while also gaining hands-on experience with livestock.”

    The campus includes a broad-acre cropping and sheep enterprise as well as an apple orchard on the southern slopes of Mount Major, which are all used as part of the teaching and research resources. There’s also a nationally significant 270-hectare bushland reserve that enables education and research involving fuel reduction, flora and fauna conservation and pest, animal and plant management.