On the 25 May 2016 the LandWISE conference “The value of smart farming” was held in Havelock North. Stu Bradbury attended on behalf of Sprout and below is a recap of the speakers and their topics.
Julie O’Halloran from the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries kicked off with an overview of mapping in Precision Agriculture (PA) and outlined some key challenges including data management, system compatibility (systems not simply being “plug and play” as claimed – they take a bit more setting up than expected) and mining precision agriculture data to get the most out of it.
Ian Layden, also from Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, told a fantastic story about Keith Jarrett and how he called off a Jazz concert because the piano at the venue wasn't up to scratch. After much pleading from the organiser to get him to play, he decided to do it and went on to thrash the piano to try and get everything out of it.
The Koln Concert was recorded that night and went on to become the greatest selling piano record of all time.
His point was that sometimes when you go against your gut instinct, great things can happen.
Ben Moore spoke about the Kalbar Grower Group’s variable rate project and how they are seeing great benefits from controlled traffic farming and PA techniques to improve yield and reduce margins by evening up maturity at harvest.
Rob Tole from Tasmania then spoke about his experience with PA through Electromagnetic (EM) soil mapping and how New Zealand invented ‘Growsmart Precision VRI by Lindsay’.
One of Rob’s key messages was that implementing PA techniques greatly improves yields, but you’ve got to be prepared to put in the time to learn how to use the technology. Once you’ve learned and mastered the systems, the opportunities you have through advanced control are much greater.
Among many other speakers, Sarah Sinton from Plant and Food Research spoke about investigating variability in potatoes, Chris Smith from Agri Optics talked about EM Surveying protocols, what can affect EM mapping results, and how to get a good useful result from your EM survey.
After lunch, Charles Merfield from the Future Farming Centre told the conference that the most site specific information about a product that a farmer can get, is by doing some simple trials on their own farm. It’s much cheaper than paying scientists to run trials, and often all the equipment you need is already in the farm shed.
Sprout's very own Stu Bradbury spoke about the Sprout Agritech Accelerator and also presented Sprout graduate Agritrack as a case study.
Julian McCurdy from Bee'z Thingz, another Sprout graduate, presented their product and wowed the audience with his figures about bees and the Manuka honey industry.
Justin Pishief from the Centre for Land and Water presented a study on profit mapping onions and showed how an OptiSurface® landform assessment showed that ponding could be avoided on the trial site by land shaping with 224m3/ha soil movement at a cost of $2000/ha. That is a $14,000 cost to result in a crop saving of $33,387 per annum.
Bruce Searle from Plant and Food Research talked about enhancing the profitability and value of onions through crop modelling and controlling variability.
Dan Bloomer from Landwise and Centre for Land and Water gave a graphic overview of variation in onion crop on the Micro Farm in Hastings. He showed and explained an EM Map by Agri Optics, Topography map, NDVI and other indexed maps. He also showed how green percentage ground-cover area can be photographed and calculated with a simple app on a mobile phone to do non-destructive crop analysis.
Day two offers even more chances to gain knowledge on 'The Value of Smart Farming.' Look out for our review in the coming days.