CSIRO research to increase Aussie food production

Australia’s peak national science agency, the CSIRO believes that new technology will significantly increase  food production in the country.

The CSIRO has been conducting experiments on Australian farms since 2011 which employ a wide range of internet based technology  to monitor everything from soil moisture, to cattle movements and oyster heartbeats.

The Smart Farming: leveraging the impact of broadband and the digital economy report has compiled research from these projects and suggests that the employment of these new technologies can significantly increase productivity and yield.

“With food demand predicted to increase 50 per cent in the next 20 years, the main challenge facing the agricultural sector is not so much growing 70 per cent more food in 40 years, but making 70 per cent more food available on the plate,” said CSIRO's Centre for Broadband Innovation director Colin Griffith.

“Initial studies indicate that these tools can help increase farming productivity in crop and pasture yields by targeting the use of water and fertilisers as well as in livestock production through better rotation of animals and pastures,” he said.

Preliminary results suggest that some cotton growers have effectively doubled their yields, while livestock health along with crop quality and pasture quality have significantly increased.

“We have seen cotton growers using the soil moisture sensors almost doubling their yields per megalitre of water when they vary irrigation rates according to the localised needs of the soil and plants,” said Griffith.

The trails have taken place over three different regions including Armidale in Northern NSW, where is the CSIRO in conjunction with the University of New England, are monitoring cattle and merino sheep.

The site is reported to be fitted with hundreds of digital sensors and cameras which feeds back data to a central computer advising when to water crops, plant crops and move livestock.

Hollie Baillieu, Chair of the National Farmers Federation 2050 committee, believes that the new technology will be invaluable for farmers and industry.

“Not only will technology-driven productivity improvements help feed a growing population, but the innovations will also help improve farmers’ bottom line and led to more profitable farm businesses,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a cattle grazier from the Northern Territory or an oyster farmer in Tasmania, the benefits of emerging technologies provide opportunities for the entire farming sector.”

Further findings from the trails are said to be released at the Digital Rural Futures Conference in Armidale this week.

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