01 Nov Ben Hammill
Mr Ben Hammill, Principal Project Officer within the Reef Innovation and Partnership team of the Office of the Great Barrier Reef.
Improving water quality run-off from terrestrial sources is critical to building the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. Excess nitrogen run-off from broad scale land use is attributed with impacting on the reef environment, including altering the balance between marine algae and corals as well as increasing outbreaks of crown-of-thorn starfish. To address water quality issues, fine scale water quality monitoring in the catchments is needed to provide landholders and other key stakeholders timely data to demonstrate the water quality outcomes of their management practices. This data also helps to assess progress against Great Barrier Reef water quality targets. The current high cost of nitrogen sensors prohibits the broad scale roll out of on farm and sub-catchment monitoring, resulting in limited spatial coverage across the Great Barrier Reef catchments.
Through the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) initiative, a call was put to the market for the development of significantly cheaper water nitrogen sensors in order to increase the potential coverage of the Great Barrier Reef catchment monitoring network. The process attracted innovators not traditionally involved in the management or monitoring of the Great Barrier Reef water quality, bringing fresh thinking to the challenge.
Under the program, two applicants were selected for a feasibility study which included on-ground trials comparing the performance of prototype sensors with the expensive products currently available. Following on from the feasibility study, a successful applicant was selected for a 12 month proof of concept stage, which will include trialing the cheaper sensor prototypes across numerous catchments and conditions. The process is due to conclude in January 2019, with the Queensland Government eager to acquire the instruments for future projects should the prototype prove to be successful.