Agriculture Business Climate Development Food

Digital tool to increase farm profitability, sustainability

A combine harvester

A western Australia-based project aims to develop a scientifically rigorous decision-support tool to help farmers and their advisors increase profitability and optimise risk management.

Dubbed the Agri-analytics Hub, the $4-million project will help producers analyse variability in crop performance and profitability on an in-paddock scale.

The project involves the Food Agility Co-operative Research Centre, NGIS, Farmanco, Curtin University’s Centre for Crop and Disease Management, and WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

Presently, producers can generate maps for precision agriculture using their farm data, but these maps are not generated using a scientifically robust method and there is no existing tool for designing or analysing on-farm trials that agronomists and skilled growers can use to achieve this.

Demand for this type of tool is increasing as greater numbers of producers move toward improving their sustainability outcomes and reducing their on-farm emissions.

Project leader and CCDM researcher Julia Easton said the Agri-analytics Hub builds on next-generation agribusiness research developed by the Curtin for Agribusiness Profitability Initiative.

“This tool gives growers the opportunity to be sure about the decisions they make and provides the scientific analysis to underpin decision-making,” Dr Easton said.

“If a grower is making a management change for a particular outcome – for instance, altering fertiliser rates or other inputs for driving profit or sustainability –  they’ll be making it in a way that’s supported by science.”

CCDM director Mark Gibberd said collectively this new capability allows farmers to visualise, analyse and experiment with their own data and their own equipment, to drive profitability and manage risk in a varying climate.

“It also allows them to test solutions and estimate the likely economic impact of adoption based on results obtained from their own production system,” Professor Gibberd said.

“Projects like this one will enable the WA agricultural industry to get ahead in agricultural data analytics and I’m proud to see CCDM take the lead on this important advancement in the way we do farming.”

Food Agility CRC chief executive officer Mick Schaefer said it was important to make evidence-based decisions when it came to proving sustainability credentials.

“What we are seeing now, right across the world, is an increasing demand for our food and fibre to be produced in a more sustainable way and for producers to be able to provide evidence of that,” Dr Schaefer said.

“A scientifically rigorous digital tool that is co-designed with Australian farm businesses and their advisors and that is cost-effective and able to fit within existing systems and processes is a step in the right direction and will have significant national relevance when delivered.”

Source: Grain Central

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende