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Australia: Enhanced molecular technology set to improve and better safeguard Vic agriculture

Agriculture Victoria has received an infrastructure boost to its metabolomics and proteomics facility at the AgriBio Centre for AgriBioscience in Bundoora, Melbourne.

The enhancements represent a $1 million investment by the Victorian Government and include new robotics for automated sample preparation and a new mass spectrometer for high-throughput analysis of samples.

Molecular Phenomics Research Leader Simone Rochfort said the new enhancements made it the largest metabolomics and proteomics facility dedicated to agribioscience for agriculture productivity and biosecurity outcomes in Australia.

"The facility is now more accurate, faster and has the capacity for automated handling of samples for higher throughput," Dr Rochfort said.

"The technology allows Agriculture Victoria scientists to take samples from agricultural products, such as milk, blood and plant extracts, and study the small molecules involved in biological processes, such as the sugars and amino acids, and the proteins."

"For example, we use metabolomics and proteomics to identify differences in milk components in order to maintain milk quality. This has led to the discovery of molecules in cows' milk that can be concentrated and used to improve infant formulas."

Dr Rochfort said Agriculture Victoria scientists at AgriBio used metabolomics and proteomics in complementary ways with genomics techniques.

"Tests for grain quality that have been developed in the metabolomics and proteomics facility are now being used in association with genomic selection to improve the performance of grains crops," Dr Rochfort said.

"The capabilities also allow for the rapid identification of potential new or emerging invasive pest and disease threats, so they can be conclusively identified and eradicated or contained."

"Microbial pathogens linked to animal and plant diseases can now be identified in just a few minutes; a process that used to take up to three days."

The metabolomics and proteomics facility is part of the suite of bioscience platforms at AgriBio, where Agriculture Victoria scientists work in close collaboration with other innovation assets across Victoria including grains experts in Horsham, pasture breeders in Hamilton and dairy experts at Ellinbank.

The research supports the Victorian Government's goals of improving productivity in Victoria's agriculture industries, and improving biosecurity to protect our export markets.
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