Australian agriculture is about to ride a technological wave that will revolutionise farming.
Imagine what it would be like to know that the fences, crops and livestock had already been inspected before you’ve had your first morning cuppa. This scenario is possible with the use of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology.
Couple this technology with soil probes, sensors and roaming weigh stations that can monitor individual stock in the paddock and you’ve got a technological revolution on your hands.
While the internet is notorious in the bush for being slow and unreliable, according to the National Farmers Federation (NFF) CEO, Simon Talbot, the nbn will connect the bush with information, markets and others, in ways never before experienced.
The nbn and its effect on agribusiness
In October 2015, one of two Australian satellites was launched from French Guiana on a journey that would take it into orbit 36,000 kilometres from Earth. When the satellites come online in mid-2016 they will form a part of the nbn.
This might sound a bit space-aged and far removed from the paddocks of Australian farmers, but nothing could be further from the truth. Farmers connected with the nbn will be able to connect their devices via local wi-fi stations and feed farm-sourced data back to a central database.
Precision agriculture goes digital
In the last decade, Australian farmers took up precision agriculture at a rate not seen elsewhere. This first wave of technology included GPS and crop specific sensors installed on harvesters and spray equipment, providing a more accurate picture of the farm.
Aided by the nbn, the next wave of technology is coming. Machines like UAVs and other technology that can monitor and record information, will be able to establish the lay of the land and predict production based on different scenarios.
A farmer will be able to use the technology when deciding what crops to plant or what livestock to raise, in order to generate the most profit. The management of this data will rely on a farmer’s ability to interpret it and put it to use.
Digital Agriculture Service
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) is so confident this new technology will change farming for the better, they’ve invested in a web-based platform that pulls this data together and presents it as a dashboard accessed via a smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.
The NFF has called this tool the Digital Agriculture Service (DAS) and labelled it as their largest investment in the online space. From May 2016, the NFF will launch a communications program to educate farmers on how to use the platform as well as its potential and benefits.
NFF CEO, Simon Talbot, says the organisation was taking the platform seriously because of the opportunities digital agriculture presents farmers in boosting productivity and profitability.
For example, a farmer could review data on soil moisture, nutrients and combine it with rainfall history, expected weather patterns, markets and world price information to evaluate what crops will be the most profitable given their circumstances. This helps farmers manage risk and make farms more productive and sustainable.
The livestock producer will be able to measure which breeds, pastures and feed get the best results. They’ll be able to link that back to markets to understand how they will get the most out of their herd.
Farming life in a digital world
Digital agriculture will give the farmer the information they need to make smart decisions about their farm, commodity markets and free up time to think about their business, manage a larger farm and collaborate with others to seek out better markets or deals for their commodities.
They’ll be able to understand what areas are profitable, where they could make productivity gains or even lease or buy the farm next door to expand their operations.
Digital agriculture will also transform the typical farm work force as technology performs tasks that had previously been done by a farm hand.
Digital agribusiness help is at hand
Understanding and adopting this new technology may sound daunting, however help is out there.
The NFF believes digital agriculture will give rise to a new breed of agri-professionals who will be able to service farmers by providing technological know-how, market information and risk management.
So before you get concerned you’ll not be able to work the robots that are about to hit Australian agriculture, first look for the agri-professional who understands what it’s all about.
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