Livestock drone strategy takes off

MLA, Ruralco form drone innovation partnership


FLYING HIGH: Ruralco drone specialist Sam Hunt with Harry Phillips from Savage, Barker and Backhouse, Mackay, with a high level DJI Matrice 100 drone in use on Stephen Bella and Jill Rae's Nebo property Boothulla.

FLYING HIGH: Ruralco drone specialist Sam Hunt with Harry Phillips from Savage, Barker and Backhouse, Mackay, with a high level DJI Matrice 100 drone in use on Stephen Bella and Jill Rae's Nebo property Boothulla.

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A partnership between MLA and Ruralco is expected to help refine how drones can be used to help manage pasture and livestock herds.

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NEW approaches to refine how aerial drones can be used to help monitor and maintain pasture and herds were unveiled at the Meat and Livestock Australia BeefUp event in Nebo.  

A partnership between MLA and Ruralco Holdings will engage directly with producers to develop an aerial drone strategy for the benefit of the red meat and livestock industry. 

Initially running for 12 months, the project will engage with producers and rural communities through a series of hands-on demonstrations showing the current capabilities of aerial drone technologies. The project will also map the current use of aerial drones and identify the future development needs around how aerial drones can be used more effectively on-farm.

Nebo cattle producers Stephen Bella and Jill Rae said the advantages of drones were obvious.

“There is already plenty of scope to use drones to check fences and waters,” Mr Bella said.

“It’s technology that can already be applied. It will be interesting to see what else we can do with them as a property management tool. There seems to be so much potential.”

Ruralco drone specialist discussing potential drone applications with producers at the MLA BeefUp event in Nebo.

Ruralco drone specialist discussing potential drone applications with producers at the MLA BeefUp event in Nebo.

Mike Decman, Yeppoon Grazing, Yaamba, said he already paid for half the cost of the drone he bought in fuel savings.

“We’ve mainly be looking at fences and checking waters but we’ve also been checking on the cattle and even keeping an eye on people working in the paddock,” Mr Decman said.

“It’s not just the fuel we’ve saved, but also a heap of time. There are certainly any number of applications for a drone on a cattle property. If you can drive your phone you can fly a drone.”  

Ruralco drone specialist Sam Hunt said while drone use was currently dominated by intensive cropping applications, there were significant opportunities for livestock producers.

“Drones are all about collecting data,” Mr Hunt said. “New applications will be developed as the needs are identified. Think about a drone that can use image sensing to identify a camel, donkey or cow. The people on ground could be directed to where they need to be when they are mustering and not spend all that time looking for the livestock.”  

If you can drive your phone you can fly a drone. - Mike Decman, Yaamba

The collaboration between MLA and Ruralco will focus on developing Australian-specific insights and algorithms for livestock producers with Ruralco’s partner PrecisionHawk, a leading drone, data collection and analytics company in the US. 

MLA RD&I general manager Sean Starling said direct feedback from producers will also assist in identifying commercial opportunities for aerial drones and pin-pointing technology gaps that currently exist.

“As an industry it’s important we embrace technology to ensure we get the best from the land and integrate the best surveillance techniques of our flocks and herds,” Mr Starling said.

“By engaging producers directly with hands-on demonstrations and using a ‘design led’ approach to the development of new technology we are hoping we can ensure quicker and more effective adoption of technology that assists the whole industry.” 

Ruralco CEO and managing director Travis Dillon said drone technology was facilitating data-driven decision making in agriculture.

“Farmers can better analyse issues which affect productivity and sustainability such as effective nutrient delivery, livestock health, and combat biosecurity issues,” Mr Dillon said. 

“Together, Ruralco and MLA are well positioned to deliver innovative technology through Ruralco’s national outlets.  With PrecisionHawk we will be able to access the latest farmer-friendly apps used to analyse agricultural data as used in the US, South America and Europe.”

  • Mark Phelps traveled to Nebo as a guest of Ruralco.
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