In this edition of the AgTechHarvest newsletter...
We talked to farmer and founder of Precision Agriculture Pty Ltd, Andrew Whitlock, who is using agtech to better understand soil health and how farmers can harness technology for sustainability. Also this week:
Don't miss out on the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre's virtual summit themed Mission Food for Life: Building trust and resilience in our food supply chains.
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The AgTech Finder Team
Farmer’s perspective on agtech: Andrew Whitlock
In our latest blog we hear how farmer and founder of Precision Agriculture Pty Ltd, Andrew Whitlock, is using agtech to better understand soil health and how farmers can harness technology to demonstrate their sustainability credentials. He gives us the lowdown on focusing on your farm as a system, how the best agtech solves real-world problems, barriers to agtech uptake and the agtech link to sustainability on the farm and beyond the gate.
“I have a focus on understanding soil on my farm using various technologies and data tracking. It’s fundamental to get a handle on soils to maximise productivity and profitability.”
EM38 mapping helps gain an understanding of the top 1.2 metres of soil, enabling the definition of soil textural zones for zonal management strategies.
There are now digital platforms available to manage this type of soil testing data, including spatial soil fertility maps, and GPS-referenced soil sample data to monitor trends over time.
In the future, I hope to utilise a digital platform for managing all our spatial data, including monitoring pastures using a platform like Pastures from Space, and generally anything that will improve our soil knowledge and in particular how to build soil carbon.
Automation of agricultural production is well underway (Source: Queensland Country Life, https://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/7118649/agtech-is-not-new-its-been-around-for-hundreds-of-years)
Agtech isn't new but what is new is the speed of change
The interest surrounding agricultural technology has exploded in recent years with an inundation of media coverage, conferences, think tanks and online blogs earmarking '"agtech" as the dawn of a new era that will revolutionise how we produce food and fibre.
And it is true. Agtech will transform farmers' ability to harness the power of data in decision-making to boost production and profitability while underwriting a more efficient, transparent and sustainable agricultural sector.
But to truly understand the deep-rooted change agtech will bring, it helps to view it as part of a timeline of innovations that have played out in farming for hundreds of years - it's just the pace of new ideas and associated production gains that is now increasing.
The key technology advancements we are seeing today in sensors, data analytics, AI and robotics will become the foundational technology for the autonomous agriculture of tomorrow - but this will be a transition over a number of years rather than an instant boom.
Optiweigh, a remote cattle weighing system. (Source: Optiweigh)
Agtech: Platform allows in-paddock stock weighing and monitoring
A remote cattle weighing system that enables in-paddock weighing and remote monitoring of livestock is allowing producers to monitor animal and paddock performance, reduce the expense of mustering and yard weighing and optimise exit weights to meet market specifications.
The self-powered system records accurate weights for individual animals.at regular intervals as they graze in a paddock without the cost, time and live-weight loss associated with yarding and manually weighing cattle
The Optiweigh scale unit and remote monitoring system was officially launched late last year and is now available across Australia.
Will and Kate Drury run a cattle backgrounding and dryland farming operation near Meandarra in south-east Queensland. Cattle come in at 300kg liveweight and are extensively grazed on brigalow/belah country until they reach a target weight of about 450kg. They are then sent to the Drury’s feedlot at Condamine to be fed for 100 days.
The Drurys decided to use the Optiweigh system as part of their backgrounding operation after hearing about it from a friend at Roma who was using it with great results. They have found the Optiweigh system to be a great tool for assessing how cattle are performing while reducing the labour cost and time spent mustering that is usually associated with weighing cattle.
Find out more about Optiweigh in the AgTech Finder Directory.
Black Box Co's Shannon Speight and Emma Black are recipients of an nbn grant for their agtech businesses. (Source: North Queensland Register, https://www.northqueenslandregister.com.au/story/7120386/10000-nbn-grants-give-agtech-businesses-a-boost/)
nbn grants give agtech businesses a boost
Two Queensland agricultural businesses helmed by female leaders will each receive a $10,000 boost to take their innovations to the next level. North Queensland-based company Black Box Co and Cattlesales.com.au are among seven winners in the Innovate with nbn grants program announced this week.
The grant program is a partnership between NBN Co and the Regional Australia Institute, offering grants totalling up to $95,000 across seven categories to help regional tech businesses take their ideas to the next level.
Shannon Speight and Emma Black, the two leaders behind agtech company Black Box Co, are working to forecast production outcomes across the supply chain by using machine learning and a growing database of animal records to inform prediction algorithms. Ms Speight said the grant would give them the ability to work with a more powerful algorithm a lot faster than they would have been able to without the funding boost.
Black Box Co is looking to commercialise the machine learning component of its software, using records from more than 340,000 animals to inform prediction algorithms to forecast production outcomes across the beef industry supply chain. By turning raw data into reports that include predictions on fertility, feedlot and carcase performance, the business aims to help create a more sustainable, proactive and profitable beef industry.
New in the Agtech Finder Directory
An agricultural services company that assists tree-crop growers in managing the lifecycle of every fruit on every tree in their orchard. Green Atlas has taken a novel approach to data gathering and processing, which involves using cameras and LiDAR mounted to a ground vehicle to scan crops at high speed with high reliability and repeatability.