Project aims for better engagement on spray drift

Project aims for better engagement on spray drift

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David Hawkey from AgriSci, left and David Troldahl, NSW DPI, believe a new tool to improve grower engagement will help minimise spray drift through having better trained spray operators.

David Hawkey from AgriSci, left and David Troldahl, NSW DPI, believe a new tool to improve grower engagement will help minimise spray drift through having better trained spray operators.

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A new project aiming at improving grower knowledge of spray drift through 'gamification' will be rolled out in cotton growing regions in NSW

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AUGMENTED reality in training resources to make learning more fun and 'gamification', a process creating leaderboards and ladders in training modules could help better engagement in spray drift management according to developers of a new project to be rolled out in NSW.

The partnership, between the Faculty of Information Technology (IT) at Monash University, BARD AI, PentaQuest, and AgriSci, will use AR and gamification as key platforms in improving outcomes in spray drift management.

They will work with the Cotton Research and Development Corporation to provide the new features to growers.

Rather than focus on improvements to physical spraying systems the team is instead looking at improving behaviours from operators.

Spray drift cost the Australian cotton industry more than $18 million in crop losses in 2018 alone and operator, rather than equipment, errors are often responsible.

"We think gamification could play a big role in boosting engagement in getting stakeholders really involved in what is an important concept," said Ross Pearson, founder of BARD AI.

"Gamification of training resources, such as provided when studying for a chemical handlers' certificate, could create a leaderboard or ladder among growers participating in the training and boost engagement that way, early research shows that people are more likely to check in when they can earn points, similar to what would happen with a frequent flyer program or loyalty card," Mr Pearson said.

"It would mean people are looking at the resources and training more often which is a major aim of the project," he said.

"We are working with farmer groups like SOS Gwydir and we're thinking if they set up little competitions among members it would make the training more fun and create better engagement, which ultimately leads to better results in the paddock."

"Down the track you might look at a prize or something but just participating in a competition may prove to be enough motivation."

He said creating more reasons to use the information resources was the key.

"The information is already out there but the key is making it more accessible."

Monash faculty of IT Interim Dean, Ann Nicholson, said the gamification mechanics of the platform could encourage behavioural change through that community participation aspect.

Mary O'Brien from Mary O'Brien Rural Enterprises, a private consultant conducting spray application and drift management workshops around Australia, said getting more information on spray drift taken up by growers was critical.

"It's important to deliver spray training in a practical and accessible format for applicators," Ms O'Brien said.

"This project facilitates better engagement and learning outcomes, and more importantly, leads to better adoption and uptake of best practice," she said.

Mr Pearson said augmented reality within the training programs could create another layer of engagement.

"We could put in the implications of a potential decision, for example they could plug in when they would start to spray and see if it was safe or not and if it drifted perhaps they could be confronted with virtual angry neighbours or you could see crops shrivel if there was off-target spray, again it is about creating engagement."

He said the project would be initially offered through NSW.

"We're keeping it to one state as chemical handling certification is done on a state by state basis, but further down the track there is no reason the project could not go further."

The story Project aims for better engagement on spray drift first appeared on Farm Online.

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