IN JUST three years, Southern Cross University's regenerative agriculture course has been named among the top agriculture degrees in the nation.
The Good Universities Guide released its ranks, with the Southern Cross University course - which is the first in the world to teach regenerative ag - topping all ag degrees based on students' ratings for teaching quality, skills development and graduate income.
SCU senior lecturer Hanabeth Luke was thrilled the fledgling course was being recognised as one of the best in the country.
"What sets this ag course aside is it's based on a different philosophy of how things work," Dr Luke said.
"We have a philosophy of holism - looking to understand how the farm, crop or production system works with the natural environment and landscape."
Another important factor setting the degree apart, is the ag course is embedded in a bachelor of science.
"Our students learn about science underpinning agriculture as well," Dr Luke said,
Soil ecology and building resistance to climate change are a big focus of the course, and Indigenous knowledge has been threaded throughout the course
There is plenty of hands-on learning with research projects on multi-species cover cropping, and building and measuring soil carbon.
"We tell our students, here is a suite of practises that have a strong and long evidence base, and here are some that are new and emerging," Dr Luke said.
"It's up to us as researchers to look at what farmers are doing, and test those assumptions."
Of the 300 students, about a third are already managing farms full time, and two-thirds come from various agricultural backgrounds.
"That leaves a third that are brand new to agriculture, which is the exciting part for me, it means we are bringing new people into the industry and capturing their imagination," Dr Luke said.
"It's a broad demographic with a nice mix of ages. There are a lot of mature age students as well."
Dr Luke said the regenerative ag students were "the most engaged students" she'd taught.
"They bring so much to the course and it's been a process of learning from each other," she said.
"Sure the lecturers know a lot, but so do the students. Often it's a case of 'how do we work together to solve this problem?'
"It's really creating a positive and exciting culture among the students."
The first wave of students will soon be graduating from the three-year course and Dr Luke expects them to be in high demand.
"Given the current climate, there are going to be some really important places for students to step into," she said.
"Along with their conventional understanding of soil and agriculture, they have the capacity to think critically in relation to the context of every farm they work with.
"They'll be armed with different models of thinking, different assessment methods and different regenerative practises.
"I really think they can bring change about for Australia, and can help to build resilience with new ideas to transform the ag landscape."