Protected cropping for premium berries

Premium berries: Data driven decision making for fruit quality in protected cropping environments

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Provide two or three concise paragraphs including scientific motivation and aims, nature of research activities, if working with industry or other features of the project.

Tasmania has seen a dramatic increase in the use of protected cropping growing systems that are facilitating rapid growth.  Farm gate value of protected berry production is currently over $200M pa. Yet there are significant knowledge gaps that must be addressed to enable industry to effectively manage these production systems to match sustainable resource use with optimum productivity and fruit quality.  Sustainable productivity is key to maintaining social licence given the visually obvious expansion of these industries in the landscape, often in peri-urban settings.

We propose a sustainability and production focused research project that addresses key (industry-informed) knowledge gaps for berry production in protected cropping growing systems:

  1. Optimised decision making algorithms for cop architecture, fertigation and irrigation. Research will investigate the plant physiological interface between climate, nutrient and water resource-use to improve light utilisation for improved berry yield and quality under hydroponic managed protected cropping environments
  2. Understanding and ground truthing big data on harvest predictability. Research will build confidence in the interpretation of data derived from recent technological advances in fast yield prediction (automated flower, bud and fruit counts estimated from algorithms applied to visual data) through investigation for understanding carbohydrate accumulation and utilisation alongside ground truthing of actual yield components to support growers in making harvest based decisions.

This project will be undertaken in world class commercial berry farms grown under a variety of protected cropping structures.  The project is part of a larger program of research in Cool Climate Horticulture for Sustainable Profitability and is co-funded by Hort Innovation,  UTAS and Industry.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Nigel Swarts


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • General horticulture skills, plant physiology

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Nigel Swarts to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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