Project Leader, Organisation

Kerrie Rubie, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries




The Queensland DAF Hermitage Research Facility Schools Plant Science Competition offers engaging ways for students to gain understanding and skills in key areas identified within the Australian Science Curriculum.  Encouraging the next generation of people who will be involved in agriculture and rural industries as scientists, farmers (and a range of roles in between) is crucial to how we will face the future and is a key purpose of the competition.

The competition is highly regarded amongst educationalists and attracts between 100-200 schools from across Australia annually and over its 23-year history has reached over 105,000 students (from years prep to twelve).

The Foundation was also pleased to support the Plant Science competition in 2019 and 2020 (PBSF007, PBSF021)

The result …

The 2021 competition, titled ‘Grow it, Taste it, Don’t Waste it!’, focussing on fruit and veggies and the role science and agriculture plays in the sustainable production of nutritious and healthy food for the world’s people, began on Tuesday 29th January in celebration of the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables.

Students from all year levels (P-12) from across Australia, partaking in the ‘Plant Science Awards’ section of the competition conducted hands-on experimental investigations on vegetable plants, researched horticultural pests and diseases, undertook interesting taste testing and food spoilage experiments and pitched a new idea or concept to help combat global food wastage.

The ‘QuestaGame Pest Invaders BioQuest’ section of the competition immersed students in a fun, citizen science adventure, using a mobile gaming app to spot and identify pests that impact plant life and interfere with agricultural production.

Students with a flair for art entered the ‘Art in AgRiculTure Awards’ section that combines science and art in a fun, interesting and creative way to enhance their learning of fruit and veggies and how important they are for a healthy and nutritious diet. The art project was linked with the National Science Week theme for students ‘Food: Different by Design’ and students were asked to create a “superhero” character to help promote a new super fruit or veg that had been developed in a science lab.

The competition attracted more than 3,600 participants from 130 schools across all states of Australia (except ACT) and 155 competition entries were received from Queensland, New South Wales and South Australian schools.

Once again, Covid-19 forced lockdowns in southern states of Australia during the year and threatened to lockdown SE Queensland while preparations for our annual Awards Day & Ag Science Expo were underway. Due to the uncertainty around cases potentially spilling over from northern New South Wales into Queensland and the threat of impending snap lockdowns, the competition organising committee made the decision to hold our Awards ceremony virtually again and pushed the date back from 17 August to 12 October (to allow extra time for adjusting the planning from an in-person event to an online one).

In order to bring some of the popular elements from our in-person event to the online platform, a ‘virtual awards week’ was organised with 3 webinars (held on 3 different days) scheduled for students and guests to join:

1) DAF Virtual Awards Ceremony | 12 October 2021
2) QuestaGame Pest Invaders ‘Play to Protect’ session | 13 October 2021
3) Street Science ‘Future of Food’ online show | 14 October 2021

The DAF Virtual Awards Ceremony attracted 60 registrations with an estimated wider audience of 330 students from across Australia watching the event live. This well exceeded the numbers joining in for our 2020 virtual Awards Ceremony. The session featured pre-recorded messages from Qld Minister for Agriculture Industry Development and Fisheries and Rural Communities, Mark Furner MP, DAF’s Deputy Director General, Bernadette Ditchfield and UQ’s Professor Neena Mitter who attended live as our keynote presenter, talking to students and guests about her pathway to an exciting career in agriculture and her horticultural research work, and she also participated in a Q&A session with attendees.

Competition winners were announced during the DAF Virtual Awards Ceremony and prizes including $1000 tertiary education scholarships, $1000 conference awards, $1000 QuestaGame travel scholarship, $500 scientific journal subscriptions, gifts cards valued at between $30 to $350, $500 UQ FEAST camp scholarships, educational/science/gardening/art goods, trophies and medallions were posted to schools.

The ‘Grow it, Taste it, Don’t Waste it!’ competition attracted widespread traditional and social media attention (as noted below under Achievements, Impacts and Outcomes) and registrations are already flowing in for the 2022 competition.

Find the Final Report here, and a summary of all media here.