Monday, 15 June 2020 09:45

CSIRO, agtech firm Goanna join to maximise use of irrigation water

A Goanna Ag canopy sensor used in CSIRO tomato trials near Swan Hill, Victoria. A Goanna Ag canopy sensor used in CSIRO tomato trials near Swan Hill, Victoria. Courtesy Goanna Ag

Australia's national science agency CSIRO and agtech firm Goanna Ag will collaborate on the use of sensors and analytics to maximise the use of irrigation used to grow crops.

A statement from the CSIRO claimed the product to be used, known as WaterWise, was the only one for water-use efficiency that measured crop water stress and predicted future water needs in real time.

It said the tech would help growers save water or produce more crop per drop.

Goanna Ag will send analytics from WaterWise to customers who live on farms.

The WaterWise system uses in-field sensors to measure the canopy temperature of crops every 15 minutes.


Dr Rose Brodrick of the CSIRO with a prototype WaterWise sensor for tomatoes. Courtesy CSIRO

This data is sent to CSIRO's sensor data infrastructure, along with the weather forecast and machine learning is used to apply the agency's own algorithm to predict water requirements for the next seven days.

Goanna Ag chief executive Alicia Garden said being involved in this exercise meant the firm and its customers could access brand-new, Australian-made, science-based technology and incorporate it into their existing GoField system.

"Being able to predict when to irrigate will allow our clients — farmers — to plan based on what the plant needs," she added.

WaterWise team leader Dr Rose Brodrick said predicting the future was the real breakthrough science and meant that growers could see the water stress of their crops at any point and predict future water needs.

"Just like humans, plants have an optimum temperature," she said. "When things are normal it's easier to predict when a plant will need water.

"But when conditions change — like with a new crop, a new field, or unusually hot or cold weather forecast — farmers want backup with their decision-making.

"The usual strategy is 'if you're unsure, just add water'. This is where using high tech can help give them data and more confidence in their decision making, because every drop counts."

The system is expected to be available for use during the 2020 summer cropping season.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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