Wollongbar Agricultural Institute

Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute entrance

Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute is a major research centre for NSW Department of Primary Industries located on the NSW Far North Coast.

The Institute supports profitable and sustainable agriculture, fishery and plantation forestry industries and rural communities through research, extension, compliance and education.

Internationally recognised scientists at the Institute collaborate with a range of industry, Government and other organisations to conduct cutting edge research covering a range of disciplines including soils, horticulture, forestry (biofuels), food safety and animal health.

Other professional officers at the Institute work closely with local government, other State agencies and community across a range of resource management themes such as aquatic ecosystems, water, land use planning, development and climate. Research and other professional staff at the Institute are supported by internal services such as ICT, information, media, biometrics and administration services.

The Institute is well placed to support primary industries with approximately 100 expert staff, state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and more than 500 hectares of prime agricultural land used for research and production activities.

Find us

Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute is located at 1243 Bruxner Highway, Wollongbar NSW 2477. Contact telephone number is 02 6626 1200.

Primary Industries focus at Wollongbar

Agriculture

Biosecurity

Fisheries

Communications and stakeholder engagement

NSW Office of Water

Facilities and resources

The Hudson Conference Room is regularly used for conferences, meetings and training of up to 100 people and offers

  • data projector
  • whiteboards
  • tea/coffee making facilities.

Contact Reception on 02 6626 1200 for conference room details or hire arrangements.

View or download the site map (PDF 362.2 KB).

Testing laboratories

The well-appointed testing laboratories for soil and inorganic chemistry are ISO 17025 (NATA) accredited. Contact the Analytical Services customer service line on 1800 675 623.

Beef cattle

Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute runs a 500 head commercial beef cattle breeding and fattening operation. Sustainable agriculture practices are employed in the management of the property and include restoration and enhancement of a patch of Big Scrub rainforest as well revegetation along Marom Creek.

Field stations

Linked to Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute are field stations located nearby at Alstonville, Duck Creek and Pearces Creek.

NSW DPI Centre for Tropical Horticulture at Alstonville

This is the principal horticulture research station in Northern coastal NSW. The research at the station consists of ongoing horticultural research in macadamias, blueberries, bananas and tea tree. The macadamia germplasm collection is located at Alstonville. Leading research includes canopy management, integrated pest management, orchard floor management and soil health.

History

In the 1880s the local Member of Parliament, Mr Thomas Ewing, made an appeal to the Minister of Mines, Mr James Fletcher, to select a site for an experimental farm in the Richmond, Tweed Rivers area.

Mr W.S. Campbell was asked to choose a site and in May 1886 he started an expedition to secure a suitable location. The trip on horseback and foot took six weeks and covered between 600 and 700 miles.

Mr Campbell's description of the district over 100 years ago is worth quoting in brief:

"I found very little clearing of ground had been affected. The fertile volcanic soil was covered with the most luxurious vegetation of huge trees and dense undergrowth. Many of the roads of access were narrow tracks like tunnels bored through the vegetation. The district is simply magnificent and its natural fertility is almost unequalled. Nearly all of the county of Rous is admirably adapted, when judiciously cleared, for the rearing of cattle, horses, pigs and possibly some form of sheep, for dairying, for fruit and a great variety of economic plants."

After selecting land at Marom Creek, in 1894, Wollongbar became the second Government Experimental Farm to be founded in New South Wales after Wagga Wagga. The original selection of 106.5ha was covered by dense rainforest vegetation referred to as the "Big Scrub". This area was covered with "a dense growth of saplings, wild raspberry, inkweed, Scotch thistles, and other plants, which, in many places, formed almost impenetrable thickets presenting anything but an attractive appearance".

In the first year, land was cleared "to plant a number of canes and other plants received from Kew Gardens (England)". Despite water having to be carried half-a-mile in buckets, all but one of the cane varieties survived and the following season surplus sets were distributed to local growers.

Experimental work in the first few years of the farm's existence dealt almost wholly with plants. A great variety were tried, including subtropical species, cereal crops, crops for oil and fibre, sugarcane, pulses, fruit and vegetables. Trials with pasture grasses, legumes and fodder crops were also undertaken.

Livestock was first mentioned in 1898, when an Ayrshire bull, imported from New Zealand was received at the farm. The initial experimental work on stock was on the disease tick fever, but in the early years of last century the emphasis shifted to dairying where it was to remain for many decades.

In accordance with the emphasis on education, a large two-storeyed wooden accommodation building was constructed in 1901 and the first students were enrolled in March 1902. Commencing in 1911, young boys from Britain came to Wollongbar as part of the Dreadnought Scheme. These boys received agricultural training for three to six months before moving into the local workforce.

Activities at Wollongbar between the wars continued along the same general lines of cattle and pig breeding, experimentation and education. Great pride was taken in the farm's Guernsey cattle and Berkshire pig studs with animals regularly and successfully shown at the Royal Sydney Show.

After World War II there was a gradual move away from the studwork as the farm became much more orientated towards research. Early work involved the initiation of research into problems associated with the decline of soil fertility and the establishment and utilisation of legume-based pastures for the local dairying districts.

In the 1960s, the station was involved in pig-production research and the development, in conjunction with CSIRO, of a breed of dairy cattle (Australian Milking Zebu) suitable for tropical climates. In 1968, the Regional Veterinary Laboratory was established to provide a diagnostic and research service for the animal industries of the North Coast.

In the 1970s an extensive building program commenced which was to transform the station. Old buildings were demolished and new laboratories, offices and research facilities were built.

In the new century, as part of the Department's rationalisation and consolidation program, the Chemical Residue Laboratory at Lismore was closed in December 2004 with staff and functions transferred to Wollongbar. The Fisheries Aquatic Habitat Unit was relocated from Ballina to Wollongbar in June 2005, with upgraded office accommodation provided in the Administration Building for eleven staff. Following 106 years of continuous production the Wollongbar Dairy closed in June 2005 with 105 high genetic performance cows transferred to Camden and 27 heifers transferred to Tocal.

With over 110 years of service to the local, national and international community, Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute - renamed in July 2008 to reflect the presence of fisheries officers - is continuing to provide high quality research, advisory, regulatory and laboratory services.