TechRepublic: Hard yakka cultivates an internet of modern farming

Posted by on March 18th, 2015 | 0 Comments »

Original article from Tech Republic

Hard yakka cultivates an internet of modern farming

By: Aimee Chanthadavong
March 17, 2015

Australian farmers are increasingly under pressure to improve productivity, and they are now turning to technology in search of a solution.

An abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood are always on display when we walk into our local supermarket. But how often do any of us really think about the efforts our local farmers go through to make sure this fresh produce is available at our disposal?

Connected cows (Image: Supplied)

Connected cows
(Image: Supplied)

The pressure on farmers to continue to produce at the same rate — or even higher — is set to worsen as worldwide predictions have concluded that we will face a global food shortage crisis in less than 50 years. Findings in the latest report (PDF) by the Global Harvest Initiative show that the world population will exceed 9 billion people in 2050, and, as a result, the demand for food is likely to outpace the amount that can be produced.

This echoes a similar prediction (PDF) made by the Australian government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, which highlighted that in order for Australia to maintain a stable food security level, there is a need to increase global agricultural output by 70 percent by 2050.

Australia’s agricultural sector accounts for 2.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, in recent times, according to the National Farmers’ Federation, agricultural productivity growth has slowed to 1 percent per annum, illustrating the need for the sector to look at new ways to ensure that the industry is able to keep up with growing population demands.

Justin Goc and his team at Tasmania’s Barilla Bay Oysters have been working closely with Sense-T — a collaboration between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the University of Tasmania, IBM, and the Tasmanian government — to identify how sensing technology can help Tasmania’s agricultural community drive future stability.

As part of the project, biological indicators were installed throughout the farm. For the last two years, the indicators have been measuring environmental factors such as the salinity in water, the temperature in and out of water, and wind levels. The data collected from these indicators is now being collated to create a catalogue.

Lab oysters with sensors. (Image: Supplied)

Lab oysters with sensors.
(Image: Supplied)

Goc, the general manager of Barilla Bay Oysters, said that ideally, he would eventually like to see the data play a role in assisting the farm to figure out the mystery of why oysters fatten up or don’t fatten up.

“It can be a massive waiting game; sometimes it could just occur, and other times it doesn’t. Usually, it’s called seasonality. Why that is, the data may be able to shed some light over it,” he said.

Goc also believes that the technology may potentially be useful in helping the farm to further understand the biology behind oysters.

“If we’ve got elevated temperatures and a lack of wind, then we will know if we’re going to get an extended period of warmer weather, then that means we may have to accelerate our growing programs, because the oysters will grow quicker. This is instead of six weeks, where you might have to do it in four weeks to get the same outcome that you did before,” he said.

“All of these things can then be cross-referenced and help build a catalogue. We hope we can draw parallels between seasons and understand the biology of the animal, how it works, and why it’s happy and why it isn’t happy.”

Read the full article at Tech Republic.

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