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Completed project

A national map of protected cropping systems (AS20003)

Key research provider: University of New England
Publication date: Friday, September 22, 2023

What was it all about?

This investment, which ran from 2021 to 2023, delivered the first national baseline map of all commercial protected cropping systems (PCS) in Australia, published as the ‘Australian Protected Cropping Map Dashboard.’

The map identified 13,932 hectares of protected cropping systems. This includes 4,473 hectares of greenhouses (glasshouses, polyhouses and polytunnels) and 9,459 hectares of nets (shade houses and permanent nets).

The comprehensive map was created to intuitively display the locations, sizes (over 2000 m²), and types of over 8,000 features of protected cropping systems (PCS). The map also summarised the total production area based on the type of structures used, categorised by state, territory, and local government areas (LGA).

The map was developed using a combination of methods, including gathering and digitising existing industry data, utilising remote sensing analytics like machine learning and computer vision, involving citizen science through specialised location-based web apps, and validating information on-site. Importantly, the map is open acces, adheres to national standards, and ensures the privacy of growers by only revealing the location and type of PCS.

The spatial data in the map served multiple purposes. It not only established a current benchmark of industry size for the broader sector but also offered essential foundational data crucial for various aspects such as market development, planning infrastructure, managing labour and transportation logistics, ensuring traceability, strengthening biosecurity measures, and effectively preparing for and responding to natural disasters.

This 'Australian Protected Cropping Map Dashboard' has already been viewed over 11,000 times with the data used to inform the following applications:

  • Federal government coordination of the Harvest Trail program, connecting workers with farmers (
  • Response to the current Varroa mite biosecurity incursion in NSW. The mite – is the most serious pest of honey bees worldwide, impacting the pollination of horticulture crops. The map is presented in the Varroa mite Rapid Response Map ( including analysis for potential impacts to PCS based upon the emergency management zones.
  • The map has been used as a layer in other web map applications, including the Queensland Government’s AgTrends Spatial Tool, and the Greenlife Industry Association (Nursery) of Australia’s mapping application.
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are using the map to validate their Agricultural Census information and will use the data in future to support compilation of their national statistics for agriculture.
  • The map supports the update of national catchment scale land use mapping programs, across jurisdictions of the Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program (ACLUMP) and is published in national compilation of commodities data.