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Tuesday, 01 August 2017 13:01

Data61, Ruralco partner on digital farming initiative

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Data61 researching use of unmanned aerial vehicles for agriculture Data61 researching use of unmanned aerial vehicles for agriculture

The CSIRO's Data61 data innovation group is partnering with ASX listed agribusiness, Ruralco to invest in a series of projects for the development of data-driven solutions for more efficient and sustainable farming.

The two companies say the partnership will draw on CSIRO’s expertise in data science research and engineering, and proven track record of agricultural innovation, combined with Ruralco's on-ground network.

According to the two companies the partnership offers potential to deliver new digital solutions to farmers throughout the country.

Joint areas of focus for the CSIRO and Ruralco will include:

  • Exploring the potential of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones in long-range livestock detection to improve muster effectiveness
  • Nutrient and fertiliser management in areas of high conservation value, such as the Great Barrier Reef
  • The development of long-range sensing to automate and streamline operations, including water management, livestock safety and security
  • Adaptation of geospatial tools to provide an interface between Ruralco customers and their advisers, making use of real time data for improved decision making and planning.

Travis Dillon, CEO and managing director of Ruralco, said drone technology is facilitating data-driven decision making in agriculture.

“Farmers can better analyse issues which affect productivity and sustainability such as: effective nutrient delivery; plant growth; and combat bio-security issues such as invasive species and pest infestation.

"Ruralco is well positioned to deliver innovative technology through our 600 national outlets."

Ruralco is aligned with drone and data analytics innovation partner, American company PrecisionHawk, which Dillon says has led the development of accessible, farmer-friendly apps to analyse agricultural data in the US, South America and Europe.

Adrian Turner, CEO of CSIRO's data innovation group Data61, said that his team has “deep, globally recognised capability in robotics, remote sensing and data analytics”.

"This partnership is an example of us teaming up with Australian industry to help them capitalise on the next computing cycle, at the intersection of data and domains like agriculture.

"Our work in cyber physical systems, machine learning and analytics, software and computational systems and decision sciences will all play a role. Our technologies are capable of storing and distributing data efficiently and reliably over long distances. More importantly, we are helping to make remote sensing accurate, robust, secure and trusted.

"Ruralco will be a strong design and commercialisation partner with their large national footprint and customer base."

According to Data 61, agriculture in Australia - ¬a sector that has always embraced innovation -¬ is worth more than $50 billion and grew by $3.1 billion in 2015-16.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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