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HDR Scholarship - Regenerative agriculture: knowledge and information systems

   Faculty of Arts and Education

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  Prof M Kelly, Dr R Permani  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Regenerative agriculture: knowledge and information systems'.

Research topic

Regenerative agriculture, incorporating holistic land management practices, focuses on soil health as core to a soil/water/food/energy nexus.  This addresses the consistent decline in soil health from mainstream agricultural practices. It is positioned firmly within the discourse on soil/water/energy/food nexus. Regenerative agriculture has gained significant traction both in Australia and internationally in recent years, primarily led by farmers.  Although there are variations in details of regenerative agriculture, core principles of regenerative agriculture tend to include keeping soil covered, minimisation of soil disturbance(no-till), maximisation of biodiversity (crops and soil/root ecology, microorganisms), and integration of animals. These principles position soil conservation as the entry point to regenerate and contribute to multiple ecosystem services.

The benefits of Regenerative Agriculture are widely noted in terms of soil health, increased carbon sequestration, improved farmers resilience and livelihoods, water quality and efficiency use, animal welfare/health and much more. The focus of regenerative agriculture on increasing soil carbon is of significant relevance in contemporary farming systems. However, debate around regenerative agriculture is heavily polarised in a contemporary context including on the role of livestock in climate change. For Australia, this is a point of significant contention given that agriculture in Australia is subject to market forces, and, therefore increasing efficiency and productivity drivers is critical for survival.

Regenerative agriculture has been largely seen as ‘a grassroots movement’ permeating the farms and consciousness of Australian farmers. However, there is a significant deficit in scholarly discourse around regenerative agriculture. For instance, despite increased interests among scientific scholars in regenerative agriculture, a clear scientific definition is lacking. Also, despite promising ecological benefits from its implementation, little has been done to understand the socio-economic impacts of adopting regenerative agriculture practises and identify how the current agricultural industry structure would respond and can support progress in regenerative agriculture.

You can find more information here

Project aim

This research sits at the forefront of conceptual and practical reframing of sustainable and innovative food systems.  The aim of the research is to analyse agricultural knowledge and information systems with specific reference to the conceptualisation and practice of regenerative agriculture to determine:

  • Where and how regenerative agriculture is emerging in the South West of Victoria, and how this relates to national/global debates
  • What potential does this offer for a more sustainable innovative food system taking into account environmental, socio, and economic pillars,
  • What are the potential opportunities or limitations to innovation and uptake in this space,
  • What is the role of knowledge and information systems in supporting regenerative agriculture.

The proposed methodology is likely to be pragmatism, drawing on mixed methods. Qualitative data will centering on key stakeholder interviews, focus groups and participant observation to conceptualise and identify practice and knowledge, information and communication gaps, thus focusing on the bridge between science, policy-making, and stakeholder involvement  in regenerative agriculture. The use of quantitative methods will also be considered to construct a structured online survey to capture the perceptions of not only farmers in South West Victoria but also relevant supply chain actors such as input suppliers, services providers (agronomists, animal nutritionists, extension officers, agricultural machinery companies, etc) about their current farming/business practices (that may be considered as relevant to regenerative agriculture principles), understanding of regenerative agriculture, and barriers to adoption of regenerative agriculture practices in addition their basic farm information and resource use. Data from this online survey will allow the proposed study to derive an economic model of the relationships between farming practices and farm business performance.

While the proposed study will focus on agriculture sector in South West Victoria, given the lack of scientific work on regenerative agriculture, conceptual frameworks, qualitative analysis and economic modelling generated from this study will contribute to both scholarly work and policy discussions particularly in Australia, and globally


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,600 per annum tax exempt (2021 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500 - $1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be a domestic candidate currently residing in Australia. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • Honours/Masters degree in related areas such as (but not limited to) social science, economics, public policy, development studies, agricultural science, biology, environmental science, etc; and a passion for sustainability in general and regenerative agriculture in particular.
  • previous work or research experience in agriculture.


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