Study a Bachelor of Science with a regenerative agriculture major

Conventional, intensive agricultural approaches have left in their wake a growing number of serious environmental issues, degrading soils and reducing landscape water holding capacity. Looking to the future of food production demands that we rethink our approach to farming systems.

Drawing on the University’s specialist expertise in plant science, agronomy, ecology, agroforestry, environmental chemistry and socio-ecological systems, this major delves into the emerging practices of, and growing evidence-base for regenerative agriculture, examining human ecology, agroecology, regenerative agronomy and soil management as well as the planning of rural landscapes.

The Bachelor of Science with a major in regenerative agriculture develops specialist knowledge in a whole-of-system approach to food production and farm management.

It is designed for students who want to be a part of a new way of farming that better supports, and is supported by natural processes, building more resilient farms and farmers in a future of increased seasonal and weather variability.

Course snapshot 2020

Delivery

The course content is delivered online, with students coming together to build a portfolio of knowledge and skills through on-farm practical sessions and field-based residentials.

Career opportunities

Potential future careers are in farm management, regenerative agronomic consultancies, local government, carbon trading, regional land services and catchment management bodies.

Course starts

  • February
  • June

Major units

Register for our program-specific info sessions with expert advisers held 1-5 June.

There’s never been a better time to reset with a flexible Southern Cross University degree.

Register now
children in farmland with father

Developed with leaders in regenerative agriculture

This degree is a world first and was championed by the Regenerative Agricultural Alliance (RAA) and members of its Industry Advisory Group.  RAA exists to improve the holistic health and wellbeing of Australian landscapes, farmers and communities through research, education and collaboration. Extensive consultation was undertaken with Southern Cross University to develop a regenerative agriculture degree that builds ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to improve agricultural resilience and address complex real-world challenges.

Bruce Pascoe

Bruce Pascoe

“There is only a finite amount of soil and a finite amount of water. If you abuse either you are spending your children’s inheritance,” says Bruce Pascoe, award-winning author and Indigenous Australian of mixed Bunurong, Yuin and Aboriginal Tasmanian (Palawa) heritage. Bruce Pascoe is well-known for his groundbreaking book Dark Emu, which presents compelling evidence to show how Australian Aboriginal people have had 65,000 years of experience working a system that was regenerative. He explores how we can learn from these methods. 

Mr Pascoe is a member of the Regenerative Agricultural Alliance’s Industry Advisory Group and has consulted with the Alliance on its strategy and content of the degree.

Dr Terry McCosker

Dr Terry McCosker

Terry McCosker is an internationally acclaimed teacher and has worked in research, extension and property management in both government and private sectors for 45 years. Terry has published over 40 papers and made several world-first discoveries in the fields of bull fertility, ruminant nutrition and pasture ecology.  Terry co-founded RSC, which has set the benchmark for capacity building in rural and regional Australia.  He is responsible for the introduction of the GrazingforProfit TM School. 

One of his greatest lifetime achievements has been to effectively bridge the gap between the contesting paradigms of traditional agriculture and regenerative agriculture. As a member of the Alliance’s Industry Advisory Group, he has consulted on the content of the Regenerative Agriculture degree.

Dr Charles Massy

Dr Charles Massy

Author and regenerative farming revolutionary, Dr Charles Massy, is a well-known grazier from Cooma in the southern NSW. A man, who through a paradigm shift in a very tough drought, realised the limitations of conventional and industrial farming, has gone on to become a well-respected author and academic.

Charles has authored several books, including Breaking the Sheep’s Back and the best-selling Call of the Reed Warbler. Dr Massy, as a member of the Alliance’s Industry Advisory Group, has shared his valuable lived experience and research with the Alliance and to the direction of Southern Cross University’s world-first degree in regenerative agriculture.

Kerry Cochrane

Kerry Cochrane

Kerry Cochrane, President of the Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture Cooperative, has been instrumental in designing this regenerative agriculture degree.

A passionate educator, Mr Cochrane has paved the way in ecological education and as a thought leader in human ecology. A former rural reporter and course coordinator at Charles Sturt University, Kerry currently teaches into their postgraduate program.

Kerry is passionate about promoting the ecological approach to life as a key strategy in mitigating against climate change

Lorraine Gordon

Lorraine Gordon

Lorraine Gordon is the founder of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance based out of Southern Cross University. As Director of Strategic Projects at Southern Cross University and Associate Director of the University’s Centre for Organic Research, Lorraine acts as a conduit between industry and research, delivering sustainable and regenerative agriculture solutions nationally. Lorraine has been instrumental in bringing together leaders in regenerative agriculture to create and champion the development this world-first degree. 

Lorraine is a beef cattle trader at Ebor in the New England Tablelands and was awarded the 2018 Rural Community Leader of the Year for Australia and was a 2019 nominee and finalist for Australian of the Year for her work with farmers

Course structure

Students select four core units including an integrated project or internship. These double-weighted units allow students to either complete an on-farm research project or an internship based on their area of interest. These study options provide students with an opportunity to focus on a project of personal interest, supporting the implementation of real and practical change in a farming context.

Elective units allow students to choose from a range of areas including: Introduction to Geographic Information SystemsRemote Sensing and Spatial Analysis and Water and Catchment Management.  Read more about all elective units offered.

Major units

 Farming systems

Introduces the global extent and impact of food production systems through human history. Reviews different approaches to food production since the advent of agriculture. Presents a classification of food production systems, including Industrial; conventional; traditional; organic; and agroecology. Focusses on sustainability challenges of feeding the growing population. Introduces the concept of regenerative agriculture and the world of complex systems.

Content

  • A complex-systems view of food production
  • A long history of farming
  • The industrial agriculture phase
  • The (re)emergence of alternative agriculture and regenerative farming
  • The self as an integral element of the complexity paradigm
  • The role of the farmer in farming systems
  • Ecological dimensions of farming
  • Agroecology in action
  • Looking back and looking forward.

 Alternative farming systems

Explores key components of farming systems such as soil health and plant and animal productivity. Farming systems as part of the landscape in a geographic and human context will be introduced. Different farming styles and alternative farming systems will be discussed. Students will investigate a range of regenerative approaches and the demands on human capacity.

Content

  • Overview of key components of farming systems (water, soil, plants and animals)
  • Influence of climate, soils and topography on farming landscapes
  • The context of any farming system, including geography, population and infrastructure
  • Alternative farming systems (such as organic, holistic, regenerative and permaculture)
  • Pest, nutrient and disease management
  • Management requirements and human capacity on farms.

  Regenerative agriculture: strategies and practices

Evaluates regenerative strategies and practices to modify and manage rural landscapes. Physical modification of landscapes, planned grazing, fire and tillage are examined. Biological fertilisers, composting, syntropics and cover cropping are also explored. Students evaluate these methods of regenerative agriculture using real world examples.

Content

  • Regenerative agriculture - managing healthy and productive rural landscapes
  • Indicators of landscape health
  • Managing populations of animals and plants
  • Managing agricultural landscapes
  • Farmscaping: physically altering the landscape - earthworks, infrastructure and vegetation
  • Disturbance: using time-controlled grazing, fire and tillage
  • Inputs: biological, mineral and chemical
  • Agronomic practices: cover cropping, composting, no till, no kill.

 Soil management

Develops the knowledge and skills required for effective regenerative soil management. Students will assess soil structure, soil health and emergent properties of soil. The key concepts of soil management are examined. Students will learn to develop regenerative strategies for effective agricultural soil management, including carbon sequestration.

Content

  • Principles of regenerative soil management
  • Soil ecology and microbiology
  • Soil carbon and sequestration
  • Land capability, soil types and structure
  • Soil property mapping
  • Soil health: biological, physical and chemical properties
  • Assessing soil health properties
  • Identifying and managing soil constraints
  • Managing soil fertility
  • Regenerative soil management: strategies and practices.

 Agroecology

Introduces ecological principles in the context of productive agricultural systems and healthy rural landscapes. Important ecological and landscape processes of energy flow, nutrient and water cycles and community dynamics are examined. Students will compare natural and managed ecosystems. Farming systems explored in relation to agroecological principles including biodiversity, synergy, efficiency, recycling, ecological resilience, animal and soil health.

Content

  • Introduction to agroecology; natural and managed ecosystems
  • Ecological concepts and landscape processes: energy flow, nutrient and water cycles, ecosystem services
  • Scale and hierarchy
  • Community dynamics
  • Patches, connectivity and the five landscape functions
  • Principal elements of agroecological systems: biodiversity, synergy, efficiency, recycling, animal and soil health, knowledge
  • Ecological resilience
  • Applying agroecology for healthy agricultural landscapes.

 Regenerative agronomy

Introduces to the principles of regenerative agronomy. Students learn how to manage plants and animals in the context of regenerative agronomy. Ecologically based pest, weed and disease management is examined. Agronomic monitoring systems are explored.

Content

  • Regenerative agronomic principles
  • Comparing conventional and regenerative approaches to agronomy
  • Managing soil health and constraints in the context of regenerative agronomy
  • Understanding the agronomic environment (landscape context)
  • Managing plants and animals from a regenerative agronomy perspective
  • Ecological management of pests, weeds and diseases
  • Monitoring regenerative agronomic systems.

 Planning rural landscapes

Describes the form, function and emergent properties of healthy, productive rural landscapes. Explores ecological design and planning processes and the concept of ecological indicators. Students learn the rural landscape design process including water management approaches.

Content

  • Rural landscapes: patches, landscapes and bioregions
  • Landscape indicators: sustainability, productivity and efficiency
  • Evaluating agricultural landscapes
  • The planning elements of rural landscape design
  • Rural landscape design and planning techniques
  • The design and planning process: nine steps to regenerative land planning
  • Digital resources and tools for rural landscape planning
  • Developing an action plan
  • Water management approaches including Natural Sequence Farming, Yeomans Keyline Planning, Leaky Weirs and Whole Farm Planning.

 Ecological perspectives: human ecology

Explores the emergence of holistic, complex, adaptive systems approaches to thinking and knowledge, compared with reductionist science and mechanistic understandings of nature. Examines human ecology, including the role of different belief systems and their impact on ecological perspectives, which in turn influence individual and communal behaviour. Considers the role of ecological literacy in the context of regenerative agriculture. Students explore their connection to the environment, to systems and to holistic thinking through theory and practice.

Content

  • The integral role of self-knowledge in farming practice and land management
  • Mechanistic models, complex adaptive systems and regenerative agriculture
  • Building reductionism and holism into a framework of understanding
  • Demonstrating how holism functions in ecosystem management
  • Ecological perspectives, human ecology and ecological literacy
  • The challenge of paradox in complex systems
  • The influence of human perspectives in regenerative agriculture.