Sustainable Horticulture has been awarded $20,000 as part of AgriFutures Australia’s Producer Technology Uptake Program to design bespoke projects to increase technology adoption on-farm.
Building on the success of the first two rounds, AgriFutures Australia has announced Round 3 of its Producer Technology Uptake Program (PTUP). Walkabout Ag was awarded $20,000 to raise awareness of IoT technology for our direct Horticultural growers group being predominately Macadamias.
PTUP aims to establish a national network of farmers, fishers and foresters that champion and accelerate innovation and practice change on-farm. The program works with well-connected producer groups who know and understand their local producers’ needs, including knowledge gaps, skills and experience that prevent them from implementing agtech innovation.
Sustainable Horticulture states that “This is a great opportunity for all farms in the Clarence Valley and Northern Rivers region to start there learning journey from this project and to adopt technology that is relevant to their site. For this region, farms in the Ballina, Byron and the Lismore LGAs will benefit further as the NSW Governments Farms of the Future (FoTF) grant program aligns with PTUPs vision to make agtech even more affordable. If there has been a time to adopt it is now.”
The third-round projects are focused on trialing a range of technologies covering areas such as moisture sensing, weather monitoring, digital irrigation, IoT (Internet of things), biosecurity, connectivity and weed detection. The themes of the programs are broad yet specific in application.
“We’re buoyed by the interest in the Program and are seeing the benefits of partnering with existing groups, who know their patch, but require support to bridge the gap between the opportunity and the tech solution – PTUP does just that,” added Ms Raufers.
The national initiative rolls-out program activities over a 12-month period to drive peer-to-peer learning and is delivered across three tranches: farm-tech capacity building planning workshops, tech adoption grants and access to an online Community of Practice (CoP).
To date, the Program has engaged 56 producer groups and 11 agricultural high schools, directly impacting 2,700 producers nationally, across many industries and enterprise sizes. The program has a footprint in all states and territories except for the Northern Territory.
The energy monitoring devices are being installed as we speak and our light irradiation, plant health and climate Cat M1 system is due any day now. We will be launching some factsheets and begin to gather data to inform some case studies and more.
Nature is in effect a real time sensor with constant flux changes from various inputs. Trees do this by regulating the amount of water that moves from the soil solution into the roots, up through the xylem, and out to the atmosphere by opening or closing of stomatal pores. This cannot be achieved without the energy from the sun which is driving photosynthesis. With this relationship the cumulative use of water over a season and the resulting photosynthetic activity provides the plant sugars that move through the tree increasing total dry matter and or yield.
Although should the nutrients not be available in the soil solution, which is dependent on soil moisture, then yields can be reduced. If the paddocks are being over irrigated leaching can occur removing fertiliser from the rootzone resulting in reduced efficiency. Soil moisture sensors placed at a 15, 30 and 90cm intervals, common soil profile measurements, to monitor where the moisture levels are can help prevent deep drainage losses, and over or under irrigating which could lead to ineffective energy use. The recent energy audits have included soil sensors as part of the energy water nexus with some sites witnessing a reduction of up to 30% in water use.
Soil moisture sensors alone are not without issues. The contact with the soil is in comparison a very small sample of what may be occurring across a larger area (hectares) which can have varying soil properties (spatial variability). Further, it can get complex when two trees of the same species are close to one another, as they undertake Hydraulic Coupling, transferring water and nutrient through the root systems and between them.
Typically, pump and flow meter data is used to estimate the volume of water applied from an irrigation event. To improve the efficiency in tree crops it is becoming increasingly common to measure the volume of water moving through tree stems using sap flow meters. Water stress can also be measured using stem psychrometers. This allows growers to see when their trees are active (day or night), and to closely match the total applied irrigation water to tree water use at exactly the right time.
To achieve greater efficiencies, increase production while minimising resource use such as energy and water a suite of available sensors are available, these include;
Along with the mentioned sensors there are many more which cover many other factors. Dam and tank water levels can also be monitored along with the ability to auto start pumps according to rules set by the software that displays the incoming data. Armed with this data improvements in efficiency can be made.