Research & Development

The rice industry invests heavily in research and development into innovative ways of producing rice, using less water per tonne.

This has led to the development of water efficient rice varieties, more sophisticated drainage and recycling systems and improved irrigation layouts to reduce water loss.

New rice varieties

It often takes more than 10 years to develop a new variety of rice.

“Sherpa” was released to growers in 2011. After extensive research, it was found to have good cold-tolerance, down to 11.5 degrees Celsius, meaning it requires less water in which to grow. It also has a positive yield potential.

In 2014, a new premium fragrant rice variety, "Topaz" was released. It was developed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries in partnership with the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation, SunRice and Rice Research Australia Pty Ltd and was bred for Australia's temperate rice growing conditions. In market testing in Hong Kong, Topaz outperformed other fragrant rice varieties for taste, appearance and flavour.

Learn more about Topaz here

New varieties are grown and evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Water use
  • Length of grain
  • Colour of grain
  • Cooking quality – time, consistency
  • Transparency of grain
  • Yield in the paddock

RIRDC Rice R&D Program

The aim of the Rural Industries R&D Corporation’s Rice Program is to improve the profitability and sustainability of the Australian rice industry through the organisation, funding and management of a RD&E program that is both market and stakeholder driven.

The Australian rice industry is a world leader in production efficiency, water use efficiency and environmental management. Its high quality export focused production achieves premium prices in world medium grain rice markets. This status is directly attributable to RD&E.

This program is funded by statutory levies paid by industry participants which are matched on a dollar for dollar basis by the Australian Government.

Research investments are guided by the Rice R&D Advisory Committee following the Rice 2012 - 2017 R&D Plan.

Visit the RIRDC Rice R&D Program website for information about current R&D projects, rice publications, news and updates.

Rice Research Australia Pty Ltd (RRAPL)

Rice Research Australia Pty Ltd (RRAPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of SunRice, undertakes rice varietal and agronomic research and development in partnership with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). RRAPL operates a leased farm in the Riverina for its activities. It conducts breeding trials, cold tolerance research and other agronomic trials. RRAPL is also part of a number of international research and development projects.


Most of the equipment used on rice farms is fitted with computer-aided devices that allow our growers to manage their techniques with accuracy.

GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and Precision Farming
Uses satellite networks to precisely match crop needs with crop requirements.

Computerised Whole Farm Design and Laser Landforming
Uses computer aided design (CAD) and laser technology to design efficient farm irrigation systems. Laser landforming ensures the most efficient use of water. Farmers have precise control over the flow of water on and off the land.

GIS (Geographical Information Systems)
GIS is used to organise geographical information which is then stored digitally on a database.

Remote Sensing
Spectral imaging obtained from satellites and aircrafts assists with the planning and management of the farm system. Farmers can calculate the exact capabilities of their farm by identifying enterprises to suit each area.

Aerial Machinery
Experienced agricultural pilots use satellite guidance technology to distribute seeds and other inputs across a rice bay with precision and accuracy. This works hand in hand with precision farming.