Mini satellites, gene mods and AI: govt identifies ag tech of the future

Mini satellites, gene mods and AI: govt identifies ag tech of the future


Robots could be planting crops, while computers could be designing better fertilisers.


THE federal government has identified eight technologies that will be critical to agriculture over the next decade, ranging from mini satellites to genetic engineering.

The new discussion paper flags using autonomous vehicles and micro-drones to sow seeds, spray pesticides and harvest crops.

Gene technology could be used to modify crops to grow faster and resist diseases or designed microorganisms that clean pollutants from fields or waterways.

Computational chemistry could see computers design fertilisers and pesticides with enhanced effectiveness, while artificial intelligence could streamline crop planning.

GPS can increase planting densities through greater accuracy, and reduced variance in planting and harvesting.

Bio-composites - combining naturally-derived materials to create new materials with improved performance - would provide new markets for existing crops.

Biological sensors could detect and identify biosecurity risks, and mini-satellites could monitor forestry growth and fire management.

Many of the technologies are yet to reach their full potential, but others are already being employed with agriculture.

Researchers at the University of South Australia are using artificial intelligence to monitor soil moisture.

UniSA professor Javaan Chahl said the system was simple, robust and affordable, and could be used to guide irrigation systems to apply water at the optimum time and rate.

"Now that we know the monitoring method is accurate, we are planning to design a cost-effective smart-irrigation system based on our algorithm using a microcontroller, USB camera and water pump that can work with different types of soils," Prof Chahl said.

"This system holds promise as a tool for improved irrigation technologies in agriculture in terms of cost, availability and accuracy under changing climatic conditions."

Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association chief executive Chris Althaus said the rollout of the 5G network to regional Australia would rapidly increase the technologies available to farmers, which would increase the "precision of farming".

"It's all about timely information and the level of connectivity deployed on farm," Mr Althaus said.

"It is by definition it is hugely challenging for farmers to judge what you need to do and when you need to do it - from chemical and fertiliser application to water and harvesting cycles.

"The 5G network will allow people to know a lot more of what's happening on their property at any given time. They can manage and respond to that accordingly."

The Critical Technologies Policy Coordination Office is seeking feedback to its discussion paper from the agriculture sector to better understand the impact of critical technologies and help shape future policies.

The story Mini satellites, gene mods and AI: govt identifies ag tech of the future first appeared on Farm Online.


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