‘Paddock to plate’ research experience for local high school students

High school students from around the Riverina have discovered the true meaning of ‘paddock to plate’ at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation’s Science and Agriculture Enrichment Days.

More than 100 students from high schools across the Riverina were given the chance to gain practical experience at the annual event. Each day is a chance for students in Years 9 and 10 studying agriculture, primary industries or science to interact with professional agricultural and animal scientists, and get hands-on with some of the tools and technology used in the industries.

Interactive learning sessions

Throughout the day, students participated in three interactive sessions – all aimed at showcasing the exciting world of agriculture and science to inspire the minds of these future researchers and scientists.

Activities included assessing plant root growth in an underground laboratory, experiments to find out how different grains can be affected by processing, a live animal assessment to identify where lamb chops come from and then tasting lamb in a consumer sensory analysis.

Plant roots – the hidden half

In this session, students got a prime view of live plant roots by inserting a tiny video camera underground, deep into the soil. Students were also given the chance to use a microscope to get up close with young, growing roots. This session was held in the rhizolysimeter – one of the largest root growth and soil water research facilities in the Southern Hemisphere!

Food science and sensory evaluation

We all know food is essential to our everyday life. But have you ever wondered why we have so many high-quality food options in today’s society? This workshop allowed students test their knowledge of food quality and included a range of practical exercises, like:

  • making dough
  • frying with different oils
  • testing their knowledge of rice varieties
  • learning the basics of sensory evaluation
  • getting acquainted with instrumental texture analysis.

What’s your beef?

This workshop delved into the process of converting a live animal into meat. Students headed off to the cattle yards at Charles Sturt University where they assessed a live animal, identified which cuts of meat come from where and participated in a sensory meat tasting panel.

Inspiring tomorrow’s researchers

Graham Centre Partnerships and Engagement Manager Ms Toni Nugent explained the idea behind the event. “The aim of the Enrichment Day is to showcase the work of professional agricultural and animal scientists, to explain some of our research and to encourage students to consider careers in primary industries.

“The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation’s research aims to improve the profitability of grain and red meat industries throughout the value chain.”

Students get to see this research in action by taking part in practical activities, mentored by the centre’s scientists and PhD research students.

“It’s also an opportunity for the students to get a taste of what higher education is like and to be able to use some of the excellent research facilities at Charles Sturt University,” Ms Nugent said.

The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is a collaborative alliance between the university and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Its goals include making grain and livestock industries more profitable while protecting natural resource degradation and supporting a sustainable economic future for agriculture on regional, national and international levels.

Want to learn more? Charles Sturt University has a range of undergraduate agriculture and science degrees. Explore your study options and make a difference to our society’s future.