“We don’t do blue sky research – we do red dirt research,” say CQuniversity’s Prof Phil Brown and Associate Professor Simon White, when explaining a new project being undertaken by the university’s Institute for Future Farming Systems.
The Hinkler AgTech Initiative will deliver increased productivity and profitability to the region’s agricultural sector through greater availability and utilisation of agricultural technology (AgTech).
Early technology analysis includes remote video cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor pest insects, fruit harvest bags that weigh their contents, and weather station arrays forecasting at a field-level.
“The initiative is aimed at AgTech products right at the dirty end of research,” says Prof Brown.
“We will be assisting AgTech providers with trialing technology, in partnership with commercial agribusinesses, with the aim of adopting the technology on a regional scale.”
As the largest and most diverse agricultural region in Australia, the Wide Bay Burnett is the perfect location for AgTech development and utilisation.
The region’s agricultural sector accounts for approximately $1.5 billion of annual production with the most valuable commodities being beef cattle, mandarins and sugarcane.
The region also leads the state in the production of tree crops such as macadamias and avocados and is home to more than 20 different fruit and vegetable crops each with an annual farm gate value exceeding $2million.
The sector is also supported by an established range of large-scale food processing and value-adding facilities.
Prof Brown says the initiative is a grower-driven project and in the first instance, will focus on matching AgTech products with grower needs within Bundaberg’s horticultural sector.
The project team is partnering with Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers to identify these needs and engage growers in the AgTech trial process.
The project team is also developing a data rich landscape, providing new data and capturing existing data, to assist AgTech companies test and monitor their products in a commercial setting.
Another important part of the project is education and information delivery, aimed at enhancing the agricultural sector’s knowledge and understanding of AgTech and incorporating AgTech within the secondary education curriculum.
“The program of activities being undertaken under the Initiative have been designed to position our region as a global centre for AgTech development and implementation,” says A/Prof White.
“The resulting increase in agricultural productivity and profitability will stimulate economic development, grow regional employment opportunities and generate pride in our region’s innovative agricultural sector.”
The Hinkler AgTech Initiative is funded through the Hinkler Regional Deal. The Hinkler Regional Deal is a collaboration between the Australian Government, Bundaberg Regional Council and Fraser Coast Regional Council.
- Earlier report: Hinkler AgTech hub promotes innovation