Through continued innovation and productivity improvements, Australian agricultural production was once increasing rapidly – however more recent times have seen productivity growth slowed, commodity prices remaining stagnant and input costs continuing to rise.
With the need to do more with less, are humans limiting potential?
University of Southern Queensland (USQ) researchers are exploring new intelligence-based technologies and solutions for the agricultural industry which will deliver real value to farmers, including precision agriculture, robotics and automation. Community and industry members will have the chance to see some of these game changing technologies first-hand at next week’s Future Farm Field Day, held as part of USQ’s Research Week.
USQ’s National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA) will open its doors next Wednesday, with a number of presentations and demonstrations to highlight current agtech projects. Centre Director Craig Baillie said it was a not only a chance for researchers to demonstrate their work to the public, but also provided a platform for farmers and industry to see what may soon be on the market.
“Our researchers are consistently looking to improve the profitability, environmental sustainability and socio-economic wellbeing of our rural industries so this is a great chance to showcase some of these technologies that could be rolled out in Australia in the near future,” Professor Baillie said. “High tech farming is becoming an everyday tool for primacy producers and this field day is an opportunity for us to show how our technologies provide benefits to producers both individually and also in combination.”
Machine vision technology, which is enabling drones to perform crop scouting operations, with the drone automatically recognising and reporting back to the farmer about emerging crop issues. This involves automated analysis of drone imagery from low-cost colour cameras as well as other camera technologies that can see beyond what is human visible, e.g. thermal and multispectral.
– Researchers have developed real-time adaptive control and low cost camera-based sensing systems that can reduce labour in plant growth monitoring, and improve and potentially optimise the irrigation of field crops. NCEA is evaluating camera-based crop growth and fruiting monitoring and variable-rate irrigation on cotton, dairy, horticulture and sugarcane crops.
A weed spot spray presentation will provide an overview of the types of machine vision approaches used to identify weeds in a fallow field as well as a cropped field. The overview will include the different types of cameras available and used for this application as well as software techniques used to analyse the images from the cameras.
Researchers are also working on automating a small John Deere tractor, which will be on show for visitors. This is primarily a research concept to serve as an autonomous mobile sensor platform for deployment in research trials, demonstrate how existing auto steer technologies can be augmented for autonomous control functionality and serve as a platform for sensor developments relating to autonomous vehicles. The concept involves equipping the tractor to have the same functionality of a much larger John Deere tractor and exploiting embedded technologies to make it driverless. Researchers will demonstrate some of the embedded technologies on a larger tractor model that farmers currently have access to.