Technology is rolling out onto the Global Digital Farm, a partnership between Charles Sturt University and the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre that is establishing Australia’s first ‘hands-free farm’.
It’s located at the 1600-hectare commercial farm at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga and will develop, test and showcase emerging technology to drive value for Australian farms.
One of the first initiatives is a system remotely collecting information about a mob of beef cattle without having to muster or move the animals out of the paddock.
Graham Centre senior research fellow in spatial agriculture Jon Medway says the Opti-weigh system uses a salt lick to entice animals onto a paddock-based unit, recording NLIS details and individual weights.
“Every four or four-or-five hours data is uploaded to the cloud,” Mr Medway said.
“Every day it’s summarised and emailed back to the farm manager to say this is the average weight of the animals in that paddock, and this is the daily weight gain for the last week.”
He says it’s not just the data being collected that the researchers are interested in, rather how it can be used and shared to deliver benefits.
“A key aspect of the Global Digital Farm program is that it has to be useable farm management information,” Mr Medway said.
“The information being collected about the cattle weights is feeding into real time management activities, such as knowing when to turn steers off to market.
“But in the background all the data we are collecting will be fed back into pasture growth and soil moisture models and used with climate and weather models to see what other big picture analysis we can be generating.”
It’s part of a bigger research focus that’s investigating a data sharing platform TRAKKA, to enable better information exchange in all directions within the red meat supply chain.
The project brings together Graham Centre researchers in partnership with tech company, Terra Cipher.
Mr Medway said connectivity is also a key issue for the Global Digital Farm.
“Reliable, high speed connectivity is critical in autonomously collecting data in the field or using data to autonomously control equipment in the field,” Mr Medway said.
“Another project is testing technology to convert tractors and trucks into roving, WiFi devices to provide farm-wide internet coverage.”
The collaboration involves agtech company Zetifi and researchers from Charles Sturt and the University of Technology Sydney.