Cool science to beat the heat in Darwin and Asia

A new CSIRO Urban Living Lab will help transform Darwin into a best-practice example of tropical urban living and promote Australian cities’ expertise into Asia.

Darwin’s tropical climate, high temperatures and humidity present challenges for urban liveability and sustainability that are shared by countries across Asia.  As populations grow and cities expand in the region, the need for science-led solutions has never been greater, and our scientists are rising to the challenge.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new CSIRO Urban Living Lab on 16 November as part of the Darwin City Deal – a $200 million package of initiatives to be delivered by Australian, Northern Territory and City Council levels of government, over ten years.

Our Urban Living Lab will help cool Darwin’s future












Within $100 million of Commonwealth investment, about $5 million is earmarked for tropical city management processes like the cooling and greening of Darwin and the Urban Living Lab.

CSIRO Darwin-based Research Leader for Northern Australia, Chris Chilcott said the new Living Lab will help transform Darwin into a cooler and greener tropical city by working with all levels of government and the community over a 10 year period.

CSIRO’s Research Leader for Northern Australia, Chris Chilcott

















“Our teams will develop, road-test and evaluate the latest heat mitigation technologies and strategies as well as energy-efficient building designs,” Chris said.

“We will evaluate the use of new shade structures incorporating greenery such as vines and creeping plants, the use of water features throughout the CBD and new office buildings designed to be more energy efficient and reduce the heat.”












CSIRO Urban Living Labs are places where researchers, industry, community and government can work together to address the environmental, social, economic and technological challenges facing the urban sector.

CSIRO is moving to establish these Living Labs in a number of different urban, inner city and greenfields settings across Australia and it announced the first such venture with the launch of Sydney Science Park in February 2017. CSIRO Ginninderra is proposed to be a future Urban Living Lab under CSIRO’s Future Cities initiative.

Greening of cities and temperature management are important issues facing tropical cities throughout Asia and were among the key matters discussed at the Smart Cities Showcase as part of the recent East Asia Summit in Singapore.












The Australian Government highlighted the CSIRO Urban Living Lab in Darwin as important for tackling tropical city management design issues and in line with Australia’s role in the ASEAN-Australia Smart Cities Initiative.  As part of an effort to create ASEAN cities that are smart and sustainable, Australia will provide education, training, technical assistance and support for innovation in this space over five years.

“Together with the knowledge gained through our network of Urban Living Labs, the Darwin project will provide valuable insights into solutions for tropical cities and expertise for potential export into Asia,” Chris said.

Scientists and growers have a Field Day

Building on a long tradition of agricultural innovation, CSIRO scientists presented their latest research to local farmers and agronomists at a Field Day at Ginninderra Experiment Station this week.

When CSIRO first acquired the Ginninderra property in the late 1950s, Elvis Presley was an emerging rock star and CSIRO was busy making breakthroughs with rabbit control, Australia’s first computer (CSIRAC) and the invention of the atomic absorption spectrophotometer.

In the years since, the Ginninderra Experiment Station (CSIRO Ginninderra) has been home to agricultural research and until CSIRO’s new research farm at Boorowa is fully operational, that’s still the case today.

Each year, our staff at Ginninderra, sow, manage and harvest about 30,000 crop research plots. We run a merino flock as part of general site management and for specific grazing and dual purpose cropping experiments.

Over the years CSIRO Ginninderra has played a part in crop breeding success stories and generated significant food production benefits for the farming sector and Australia, for example through selective breeding of:

The groundbreaking research continues, and this week, growers and agronomists braved the rain to hear first-hand about some of the latest research from CSIRO scientists including:

Jessica Hyles, Rudy Dolferus and Harriet Sangma spoke about how wheat flowering behaviour can be matched to local climate conditions (on the Monaro) to optimise crop yields and minimise risks posed by frost, drought and heat.

Jess Hyles explains her research on phenology and mutation breeding to improve wheat varieties for the Monaro region.


John Kirkegaard discussed the latest farming systems research including the benefits from sowing canola and wheat for dual purpose grazing and cropping. “Sowing 15-20% of the farm to dual-purpose canola can improve productivity by around $100 per farm hectare,” John said.

Rebecca Stutz spoke about new work to assess different forage types for improving the liveweight of lambs over late spring and summer, when pasture quality and quantity typically declines. The experiments at Ginninderra will compare the performance, for lamb finishing, of brassica varieties against dual purpose canola.

Ben Trevaskis talked about an exciting project called OzWheat which will use ‘big data’ to uncover the secrets from a century of selective wheat breeding. The aim is to adapt wheat for Australia and boost our national and international food production and security.

Tom McLucas introduced the Ginninderra farm and the plans to move the focus of our agricultural research to a 290 ha site in the heart of Boorowa’s farming district.

“As CSIRO Ginninderra transitions to a new future as a sustainable urban development, our agricultural research is moving to a purpose-designed and state-of-the-art research farm at Boorowa, over the coming years,” Tom said.

“Construction of new buildings at Boorowa is almost complete and our plans for water storage and irrigation systems to support our future trials are well advanced.”

Project Update – October-November

CSIRO’s aspiration to deliver a sustainable urban development backed by science and innovation, at Ginninderra, has moved forward on several fronts in recent weeks.

Our science team has been busy consolidating the latest science and technology offerings that CSIRO brings to cities and urban life. Our lead scientist, Guy Barnett presented our Future Cities program to politicians and their teams during a CSIRO showcase event at the Australian Parliament in October. Our expertise in sustainable cities is being called on increasingly in Australia and internationally, with further events in the pipeline over coming months.

We have engaged with a number of agencies and organisations to work through matters relating to roads and traffic, environment and heritage, and urban planning and design principles.

We have also continued to meet with a range of community groups over recent months including most recently the Hall and District Progress Association, Gungahlin Community council and other local citizen groups.

We are looking to engage more broadly with the community in 2019 ahead of moving into further planning stages for Ginninderra.