New auto-detection 3D x-rays at borders to stop biosecurity risks

New auto-detection 3D x-rays at borders to stop biosecurity risks

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The new 3D x-rays come amid a push from the agriculture industry to make overhauling and upgrading the nation's biosecurity system a key priority in 2021.

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IN A world first, 3D x-rays in Australia's two busiest airports will use auto-detection algorithms to catch risky biosecurity material at the border.

The 3D x-rays are twice as effective as the current airport detection methods and three times more effective than the system used in mail centres.

The deployment of the new auto-detection algorithms in Sydney and Melbourne airports comes amid a push from the agriculture industry to make overhauling and upgrading the nation's biosecurity system a key priority in 2021.

The National Farmers' Federation will be lobbying the government for a national biosecurity strategy.

At the moment, there is no overarching national policy statement or strategy for biosecurity, which has been pointed out to the government in reports as far back as 2017.

A national strategy would greatly improve coordination between the states - who each have their own biosecurity strategies - and the Commonwealth.

"The industry feels like we've been lucky, and our fear is that our luck will run out," NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said utilising new technology, such as the auto-detection algorithms, would be key to keeping agriculture safe from biosecurity incursions.

"Our clean green reputation makes Australian produce valued overseas and we have to protect that," Mr Littleproud said.

"Australia is a world leader in biosecurity, and we will always strive to be better. Technology like this plays an important role in keeping pests out."

The government has also engaged in several spin-off projects to manage emerging risks, such as a specific x-ray unit for seed detection.

"In July and August 2020, my department began to receive reports of people receiving unsolicited seeds in the mail," Mr Littleproud said.

"Since gaining attention, there have been 298 confirmed reports of unsolicited seeds being sent to Australian residents from overseas.

"Seeds make up approximately 80 per cent of all detections in the mail pathway and could potentially be an invasive species or carry plant diseases that could threaten backyard gardens, agriculture industries and the environment."

Last year, 78 million international mail articles arrived into Australia and over 72,000 mail articles were identified to contain actionable biosecurity risk material.

Biosecurity risks will continue to increase with the volume of goods entering Australia expected to double between 2015 and 2030.

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