The Value of Smart Farming, LandWISE conference - Day two

Stu Bradbury reports on day two of the LandWISE conference in Hawke's Bay.

  NZ vs Aus quiz

NZ vs Aus quiz

The preceding evening saw a good dinner and networking event with great catering and an entertaining “quiz” with New Zealand up against Australia. It was a great win for the Kiwi’s, showing the Ozzie’s how it’s done.

Thursday morning’s speakers included Alistair Mowat, an Innovation and Strategic Management Consultant, who spoke about the Horticultural Value Chain and where value can be derived.

Retail strategies, food safety requirements, rationalisation of supply and innovation have all been significant factors in the ongoing transformation of fresh produce chains. Strategically, retailers have been exerting greater control over product specifications in order to create a clear point of difference for the consumer. This control over specifications has also been important in managing variation in product supply.

'As technologies advance, we will see greater amounts of information being exchanged between the partners within a value chain to enable the whole chain to be more transparent and responsive to changing conditions' Alistair said.

James Beech from Brera Consulting Group spoke about data, big data and opening channels between parties to derive new value from data-sets. He spoke in terms of the developments in the financial services as examples of what is coming for agriculture. He mentioned that financial services are overhauling their platforms to be able to build platforms that handle vast amounts of disparate data - Variety, Volume, Velocity, Veracity.

It offers financial services greater understanding of customer needs so services can align the right product to the right customer using predictive modelling. It’s all about understanding the customer to meet their needs.

An example James gave of an agricultural application would be an Agricultural dashboard that was action orientated. 'To get results, developers must focus on the problem being solved, not the product.' A point we focus on when discussing Market Validation with our Sprout teams.

‘Farmers need end to end solutions, not part of the problem solved’ James commented.

  Megan Cushnahan, Massey University

Megan Cushnahan, Massey University

Megan Cushnahan from Massey University spoke about the Hyperspectral Sensing and Imaging tools being developed at the NZ Centre for Precision Agriculture, and how data might be managed. The data is being captured with expensive gear, so they're capturing a multitude of data at once and because technology is moving so fast they need to just ‘get out there and use it’ rather than take slow traditional scientific approaches.


The key takeaways from Megan’s talk were:

  • Digital technologies such as hyperspectral sensors are changing the data economy from data-scarce to data-rich environments, where the data can be re-used
  • Extracting value from big data projects is an iterative, cyclical process
  • Funding models for research projects may need to change to adapt to the new science process, as risks and opportunities are focused further ‘back’ in the R&D process
  • The composition of science teams may need to change in order to identify opportunities and refine unexpected value from big data projects
  • As a research and development industry we need to consider how we can collaborate to capitalise on these technological advances.

David Herries from Interpine Innovation showed some interesting UAV images and footage and showed several uses for these tools in forestry including scanning and analysing trees, quarries, monitoring forest fires with thermal imaging, and how they derive information from the data gathered.

David said ‘Digitally informed decisions during production, harvesting, sorting, packing, storage and transit could be the basis for a step change to high profitability, high resource efficiency and low footprint horticultural value chains.’

Simon Morris from Altus UAS talked about UAV Regulations that UAV (drone) operators need to be aware of. There are two websites that offer particularly helpful information for users of UAV’s or RPAS:

Other speakers at the conference were:

  • Armin Werner presenting the findings from a co-authored study on ‘Weeding robots: a global review’
  • Tristan Perez from Queensland University of Technology, talking on ‘Digital Agriculture and its associated challenges and risks’
  • Callaghan Innovation on ‘Vision system for Onion Crops’

After lunch the group travelled out to the Centre for Land and Water microfarm for some field demonstrations of UAVs, robotics and sensors. A favourite demonstration was the Auckland University designed robot, which could travel down rows of trees, vines etc with sensors attached gathering data as required, but automatically sensing when it reaches the end of a row and turning around to come back down the next row.

All in all, a great conference with excellent speakers and ample opportunity to network and learn.