By Jane Chopping
At the recent Digital Disruption In Agriculture conference hosted by the Australian Farm Institute it was proposed that digital agriculture will be the next revolution for the agricultural industry. With this new era comes a new language and ‘jargon’ to learn, as well as learning how to use the new technology and incorporating it into activities and decision making. Digital advancements are being made in all areas of agriculture from improving recording for QA, to mapping and analysing land use and crop performance, to using sensors to monitor and manage water, weighing stock by satellite or keeping them in with virtual fences, to improving sales and purchases transaction and recording financials. Of course along with the gains comes a new set of problems to overcome, such as how to store the information, how to use the information in ways that enhance productivity and profitability, who owns the data and more importantly who has access to the data and what can they do with it.
The conference showcased some impressive advancements made by the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) who have developed robots that can conduct crop surveillance, map soil and crops, count flowers or fruit within the orchard, and spray individual weeds. These robots can operate for up to 21 hours straight on solar and battery power, before recharging under sunlight, picking up where they left off. Other robots can round-up livestock and conduct health checks in the paddock!! check out this clip and this clip to see more.
The benefits of all of this technology means that farmers will change from managing the paddock or herd as an average to managing by the square meter or individual animal, and therefore create efficiency gains. The additional data will allow farmers to make more informed decisions on better analysis and overall the theory is that farmers will have more time to think and focus on other things.
Deciding which new technology will be right for you will be challenging with so many options on the market, the following is adopted from Tim Neale from Precision Agriculture, and is a useful guide for decision making, – Keep in Mind the 6 C’s:
- Costs – will it prevent loss or reduce inputs?
- Convenience – does it make the job easier?
- Compliance – does it satisfy QA requirements?
- Capacity – will it help do more with less?
- Complexity – is it easy to use?
- Champions – is there good external support to help implement and service and is there good internal support to lead the change?