Drones & Autonomous Vehicles

Agtech briefs: Innovation fund; drones in focus; better animal welfare

beefcentral, August 11, 2018
  • Funds available to advance agtech innovation
  • Queensland agriculture flying high with drones
  • Sensors focus on improving animal welfare outcomes
  • Global thought leaders confirmed to speak at evokeAG event

Funds available to advance agtech innovation

Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has made funding available to stimulate further innovation in the agricultural technology sector.

The assistance will enable recipients to participate in the Combine Agtech Hub, a Perth-based initiative that supports emerging agtech businesses.

Department Agribusiness and Food Investment lead Susan Hall said the funds would assist applicants to transform their concepts and designs into digital solutions.

“This is a great opportunity for fledging start-ups and people with a great agtech business idea to develop their plans in a safe and stimulating environment,” Ms Hall said.

Successful applicants will receive free access to state-of-the-art office space at the Flux innovation hub, access to mentoring and networking events and the opportunity to work alongside like-minded people to stimulate synergies and collaboration.

The funding is a part of the department’s commitment to advance agtech in WA and complements other initiatives, including the Digital Farm Grants program, the recent AgTech Hackathon and support to attend the HARVEST AgTech Accelerator program.

Applications to participate in the Combine Agtech Hub can be made via the Flux website fluxperth.com/combine


Qld ag flying high with drones

Agriculture is one area where drones are making a big impact in Queensland, whether it is detecting and killing weeds, measuring disease outbreaks or supporting crop-breeding trials.

A remotely piloted aircraft monitoring QGC project wells near Wandoan in western Queensland.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will be highlighting its innovative use of drones through a display at the upcoming World Of Drones Congress in Brisbane.

Agriculture minister Mark Furner highlighted the value of drones, particularly to precision agriculture.

“More and more producers are seeing the benefits of drones as part of their farming operations,” he said. “Applied research is focusing on expanding the use of drones in assessing crop health, breeding lines, pasture growth and horticulture yields, releasing predator mites over certain crops, disease detection, targeting weeds and monitoring water levels in dams and bores in remote areas.”

Many of these activities could previously take days of labour-intensive effort, but with drones can now be accomplished in as little as a few minutes.

One of the many information sessions at the World of Drones Congress will be dedicated to agriculture, environment and conservation, so visitors can learn more about this important focus of drone usage.

Mr Furner said it was timely that the Congress was being held in Queensland, which was the first state to develop a drone strategy. Released in June this year, the strategy will help to build local industry capability in drone research, design and development which in turn will attract investment and create jobs.

To find out more and register visit worldofdrones.com.au

Sensors focus on improving animal welfare outcomes

A member of the Precision Livestock Management team at Central Queensland University is undertaking research to help remotely monitor sheep welfare.

Eloise Fogarty

Eloise Fogarty has taken on research that involves using autonomous sensor technology such as GPS tracking, to monitor ewes, especially at critical times like lambing.

After attending high school in Singapore, Ms Fogarty returned to Australia to study Animal and Veterinary Bioscience at the University of Sydney.

“At the moment farmers have a limited amount of time to check that the animals in their care are all OK. This means that sometimes, sick animals aren’t picked up straight away and don’t get treated as soon as they could be, and this becomes not only a welfare issue but also impacts farm productivity.

“I’m looking at how on-animal sensors, like GPS trackers and accelerometer sensors (like the Fitbit sensor), can be used to monitor animals remotely to detect any problems. The great thing is that sensors can ‘watch’ an animal 24/7, meaning we have a much bigger chance of detecting issues earlier.”

Ms Fogarty’s current research focuses on assessing welfare at the time of the birth of a lamb, as this is the most critical time period for both the mother and the baby.

“Lots of things can go wrong and being able to remotely detect the birth using a sensor on the ewe means that farmers can be made aware of any issues and get on top of them quickly,” she says.

He research hopes to establish a predictive modelling system that can identify when pregnant ewes are due to give birth. This will ensure farmers can better monitor their animals and maximise the well-being of the mother and offspring.


Top speakers for international agrifood tech event

A world-class line-up of speakers will explore ideas shaping the future of agrifood tech at AgriFutures Australia’s evokeAG 2019 conference early next year.

The inaugural international agrifood technology event specifically for the food and farming community will be held in Melbourne.

Speakers will cover topics including farm robotics, blockchain, the economics of vertical farming, big data, bringing AI driven automation to the farm and how the agrifood tech investment space is evolving.

Global thought leaders already confirmed to speak at evokeAG 2019 include:

  • Israel’s Dror Tamir, co-founder & CEO of Hargol FoodTech, the world’s first commercial grasshopper farm.
  • Also from Israel, Nitza Kardish, CEO of Trendlines Incubators, a world-leading Israel and Singapore based incubator of agricultural technology startups.
  • Leading US expert, David Rosenberg, CEO and co-founder of AeroFarms, a clean technology company that builds and operates advanced vertical farms in urban environments. Rosenberg is considered a global pioneer of indoor “vertical farming” techniques that allow crops to grow without soil or natural light.
  • US-based CEO and co-founder Emma Weston of Australian blockchain start-up, AgriDigital which provides a blockchain-enabled, integrated commodity management solution for the global grains industry.

Renowned global futurist and a recognised and trusted authority on digital, technology and emerging trends, Chris Riddell will lead the cohort of presenters who will delve into the challenges ahead for the industry of technology and agriculture, and the enormous transformation that the food sector is undergoing.

The two-day event will act as a global meeting place to showcase and demonstrate pioneering agricultural-technologies, case studies, and innovations both nationally and overseas.

John Harvey, Managing Director, AgriFutures Australia says the next big phase of agriculture will see big data and digital solutions transform the future of farming.

“Many Australian farmers, agritech companies, and research centres are already leading the way in this area, using technology like robotics and AI to help create new technologies and herald innovative new approaches,” Mr Harvey said.

“Accelerating and disseminating these new technologies and research methods is critical to the way we transform the global agrifood system and, there is an urgent demand for increased precision and efficiency across the ag-tech sector. evokeAG 2019 will serve to unite the leading professionals in agriculture, technology, entrepreneurs, investors, farmers, and drivers of the next agrifood innovation wave.”

  • evokeAG 2019 will take place in Melbourne on Tuesday and Wednesday 19-20 February.  For full details are accessible here www.evokeag.com



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