From drones to data collection, a Bundaberg macadamia farm has entered its second year of an extensive ag tech trial which combines the expertise of a number of local businesses.
Suncoast Gold Macadamias grower services officer Paul Hibbert said the combination of high-tech products and software had made the Hummock Road farm a showcase.
“We're really focusing on technology in this area and we believe that it's definitely the way forward,” Paul said.
“We've seen really good advances in yield and quality by incorporating technology.”
The varied range of gizmos and gadgets measures everything from tree health, soil moisture and temperature, sap flow and even pest, weed and disease presence before bringing the data together on an online platform for analysis.
“We're flying over RedEdge cameras with the drones to check various levels in the tree and health levels,” Paul said.
“Then we'll incorporate all of that together onto a software to assess what yield and quality has improved through there.
“This is our second season into the trial.
“The trial last year was successful but we wanted to incorporate a little bit more technology this time, so we're using this as a showcase of the technology.”
Paul said there were so many ag tech companies cropping up throughout Bundaberg that it was a great opportunity for local growers to take advantage of the opportunity to save time and money.
“There's a lot of guys jumping on board here and a lot of clever people around.
“My idea with this trial is to try and bring it together and see if we can all work as a team and get to that end further and quicker,” he said.
“There's some great companies here and I think it's going to get even better.”
Drones used in ag tech trial
One of those companies is Oztech Drones which uses drones to treat specific trees with pinpoint accuracy.
Owner Jamin Fleming has lived in Bundaberg his entire life and said his business had really taken off recently.
“We do different spray applications in hard to reach areas, wet areas, just areas that they don't want to damage their crop,” Jamin said.
“Everything's automated so that it makes it more accurate so that we know exactly how much chemical we're putting on.
“So we can reduce the chemical rate and also we're not spreading any chemical where it doesn't need to go.”
On this property Jamin’s work is supported by Bellamish Aerial Imaging Solutions which uses drones to produce thermal imaging that can indicate tree health.
Owner operator Craig Corpe said his drone had one imager with five cameras which recorded five specific bands of the light spectrum.
“We upload those images into specific software and algorithms are run,” Craig said.
“By selecting a variety of those spectral bands, we're able to calculate crop health, and a series of crop indices, as they're called, to tell us where the crop is at from a health point of view, early stage growth, we can also detect weeds in in the crops.”
Paul said the ag tech trial had already seen an improvement in tree health compared to the control but this early in the trial their goal was simply to continue monitoring the data.
He encouraged other growers to consider the benefits of ag tech.
“I want to just get the industry moving forward with this.
“The technology's been around for quite a while, but it's now affordable, and it's more understood than it used to be.”
Bundaberg Now will be featuring some of the businesses involved in the trial, so keep an eye out for more ag tech content over coming days.
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