'Smart farms' using digital tech to double yields: CSIRO

Australian scientists are listening to oyster hearts and monitoring cows online as part of plans to dramatically increase food production, with early findings showing yields could double in size.

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Domestic and overseas demand for Australian-grown food is expected to surge in coming years, with predictions in May's National Food Plan that Asia will drive a 75 per cent rise in consumption by 2050.
 
The United Nations warned in May of a worsening food shortage, prompted in part by challenges such as land shortage and climate change.
 
But peak science agency, the CSIRO believes new technology can help Australian farmers meet rocketing demand both at home and overseas.
 
"We believe we can lift the productivity of the paddock enormously," CSIRO's Centre for Broadband Innovation director Colin Griffith told reporters.
 
Since 2011, the CSIRO has been conducting experiments on Australian farms, using fast internet-enabled gadgets to monitor everything from cattle movements and soil moisture to solar radiation.
 
Findings from the trials will be released in a white paper at the Digital Rural Futures Conference in Armidale from June 26-28.
 
But preliminary results seen by reporters suggests cotton farmers using this technology almost doubled their yields.
 
Crop, pasture, livestock health and quality were all increased significantly too.
 
The trials have been carried out three regions.
 
In Armidale, north NSW, the CSIRO and University of New England set up a 2800 hectare cattle and merino wool 'smart farm'.
 
It has hundreds of digital sensors and cameras on the land, feeding data back to a central computer programme advising when to water, when to plant and when to move livestock.
 
Cattle and sheep have been fitted with wireless tags, allowing farmers to monitor their precise movements via the internet, with SMS alerts sent to their phones if animals graze, give birth or are attacked.
 
In Tasmania, CSIRO scientists are monitoring oyster heartbeats and water quality on fish farms.
 
By doing so they can tell if the oysters are stressed — indicating changes in water purity, salinity or temperature — all potentially disastrous for bivalve health.
 
A 'digital homestead' is in operation in Townsville, north Queensland, with technology similar to the Armidale smart farm.
 
Hollie Baillieu, chairman of the National Farmers' Federation 2050 Committee backed the findings and said technology should also boost farmers' profits.

Have your say...

Tom Smith | Sunday, 30 June 2013, 3:44 PM
CSIRO taking awesome new leaps in smart farming research, I hope to see further research and technologies improve this in the near future. With the yield/revenue potential increase it might even inspire the next generation of farmers?
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