By Leon Braun

If you’re reading this with a full belly, today might be a good day to thank a scientist. That’s because it’s World Food Day, celebrated every year around the world on 16 October in honour of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

A woman in a lab coat working with plants in a glasshouse

A research technician examines seedling growth in an early Phytotron pot experiment.

This year’s theme is ‘Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition’, a topic near and dear to CSIRO’s heart.

Improving agricultural productivity and sustainability has been on the agenda since our earliest beginnings, so in honour of the occasion we’d like to share a little bit of CSIRO’s history.

We recently unearthed a long-lost 16 mm film of the 1962 opening by then Prime Minister Robert Menzies of the Canberra Phytotron, the controlled environment research facility that has been contributing to our knowledge of the world’s food crops for half a century.

We think you’ll find it fascinating, not only for the beehive hairdos and retro glasses, but also for Menzies’ prescient speech, which foreshadows the same pressures of a growing population and limited arable land our scientists are striving to overcome today.

Read the video transcript.

Following that blast from the past, why not check out the future of “digital farming” at our High-Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre, where a golf buggy on stilts, a helium balloon and a giant, robotic plant scanner are just some of the tools we are developing to inform the farmers of the future.