DPIRD ag-tech inspires at Southern Dirt Techspo

DPIRD regional manager talks with farmers in front of exhibition stand
DPIRD’s regional manager, Alison Lacey, talks with Wagin farmer Rob Rex (left) and Boyup Brook farmer, Warren Pensini, about the department’s digital dashboard at the Southern Dirt TECHSPO 2019 held in early August.

The rising interest and adoption of agricultural technology in Western Australia was highlighted recently at Southern Dirt TECHSPO 2019.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development partnered with the Southern Dirt grower group in the two day event, which attracted more than 450 people from across the grainbelt to Wagin and Katanning.

Visitors to the event were able to see the latest ag-tech innovations, equipment and networks and to hear from leading researchers and product providers from across the country.

Some of DPIRD’s ag-tech investments were on display, including enhancements to the Pastures from Space service, the updated Sheep Condition Scoring app and surveillance technology, while department staff led discussions about the opportunities to be gained from ag-tech advancements.

Interactive workshop experience

Day two of TECHSPO 2019 at the department’s Katanning Research Facility, drew more than 200 visitors, who took the opportunity to test new sensor technologies and examine how they and various network providers could provide onfarm solutions.

Prior to the event a range of sensors were installed around the property, including instruments for dust, security, water tanks and gates, as well as an automated weather station and pump controller.

Department staff and four commercial network providers were on hand to talk to visitors through the various ag-tech options that would best suit their operations.

Visitors were able see how the sensors could be tailored to their needs and projected onto the department’s large digital dashboard, displayed on a large visual display unit.

Broad digital understanding

The feedback from the interactive workshop experience was that there was a broad range of understanding and experience with ag-tech and digital literacy, from those who were just starting out to others who were highly ‘tech-savvy’.

The department’s On-Farm Connectivity and IoT projects manager, Kari-Lee Falconer, prefaced the event with a talk about the department’s work in this area, emphasising that it was easy to get overwhelmed by new technology, which changed rapidly.

She told the gathering the adoption of digital agriculture was estimated to add $24.6 billion to the National Gross Domestic Product and would be a ‘game changer’ in providing new ways to improve onfarm productivity and profitability.

In her talk, Kari-Lee encouraged agribusinesses to become connected, as digital connectivity became more available, to research and trial ag-tech solutions and to remain flexible and open to new technological developments.

DPIRD activities support digital development

The department has a number of digital projects underway to assist WA agribusinesses to develop and adopt new technology to remain internationally competitive.

The $5 million Digital Farm Grants Program is helping to bridge the ‘digital divide’ across regional WA, delivering fast, reliable, affordable and scalable broadband services to areas outside the NBN fixed line and fixed wireless footprint over the next 12 months.

The North Midlands and Chapman Valley Fixed Wireless Networks were turned on recently, the first of 11 successful grants, which will see digital connectivity upgraded for 1,240 agribusiness, over 41,000 square kilometres from Kununurra to the Great Southern over the next 12 months.

The Department’s eConnected Grainbelt Project is working with grower groups and consultants throughout the grainbelt to promote the awareness and application of ag-tech innovations in providing digital solutions to onfarm challenges.

The $582,800 WA Internet of Things (IoT) DecisionAg Grant Program has provided grants to eight grower groups and five secondary schools to explore a range of ag-tech opportunities and challenges.

The grant recipients are trialling connectivity solutions and internet-based technology, including IoT apps and devices and systems to monitor, collate and analyse generated data.

Initiatives include using remote sensors to monitor and collect real time weather and soil moisture conditions, investigating Wi-Fi repeaters and long range low power networks, and establishing Smart Farming demonstration sites.

For more information about the department’s digital and ag-tech investments, visit the Department’s website and search for ‘ag-tech’ or ‘digital’.