The challenges faced by food producers worldwide to feed the predicted growth in global population, is enormous. None more so than in Australia, with the added difficulties of recent record droughts, temperature migration, limited availability of arable land, and strict water allocations.
SUNRAYSIA – AUSTRALIA’S FOOD BOWL
Sunraysia, one of Australia’s most productive horticulture areas, has been addressing these challenges. Renowned as the nations ‘food bowl’, the region produces high quality, pollution-free fruit, nuts and vegetables for both domestic and international markets. Sunraysia producers have been vigilant in re-evaluating farming practices and seeking innovative processes for the future. This means adopting new technologies, efficient production techniques, sustainable natural resource management, and preparing a suitably trained workforce.
It is here, where SuniTAFE have responded. Through our close partnership with industry, SuniTAFE has been developing a training facility to provide an appropriately trained and tech-ready workforce for the future in farming. In collaboration with the horticulture peak bodies, sector experts, local producers, and allied universities, SuniTAFE’s SMART Farm is on track to become Australia’s foremost horticulture training institution.
SUNITAFE CARDROSS FARM GETS SMART
The planned 55-hectare, purpose-built, state-of-the-art, training and research facility will provide horticulture students with the skills and know-how for the latest innovations and technology in digital farming. GPS-linked control systems, real-time data analysing software, hand-held mobile devices, and robotics will be their farming implements. In addition students have access to a tractor with technologies including: weather monitoring, GPS property mapping, real-time information on wind speed, temperature and spray application.
To date, the site at Cardross Farm in collaboration with multi-national plant nursery Agromillora, has successfully trialled high-density, new dwarf Almond and Olive varieties that are precision grown and harvested. Sensor monitoring, water and fertigation management systems, drone surveillance, and virtual reality training simulations, have also given students first-hand experience of the future in food production.
THE INTERNET OF THINGS
SMART Farm’s cutting-edge systems enables cultivation of more with less. Less water, less fertilisers, less pesticides, less environmental impact, and resulting in greater quality and quantity of produce.
At the heart of Smart Farming is the Internet of Things (IoT), the interconnection of digital devices via the internet, operating in its own long-range, low-powered wide area network (LoRaWAN). This enables the relay of data collected by sensors, sent through the internet to be immediately analysed with the results relayed back to a receiving computer or mobile device.
These sensors, or actuators, measure a myriad of subject matter. Soil quality is measured for its moisture content, nutrient balance, and the presence of insects or unwanted organisms can be detected. Software residing in a cloud platform analyses the health of the soil using models, prescribing a recommendation for requirements of water, fertiliser and pesticides per square metre. Remote controlled equipment, machines and devices then deliver the plants essentials.
NEW JOBS IN HI-TECH FARMING
SMART Farm will change the old perception of horticulture as arduous, dirty work to the reality as a dynamic and progressive industry. One that will promote critical job roles, leading to career pathways in agronomy, agribusiness studies and farm management, all with attractive future earning potential.
Training is already provided at SuniTAFE in high priority job roles such as: Farm Hand; Farm Management; Food Safety Manager; Irrigation Manager; Tractor Operator; Packing Shed Roles; Line Supervisors, Quality Control Officers, Agronomists, and Water Brokers.
SuniTAFE SMART Farm is destined to become the model for the best practices in digital farming, providing expertise and future leaders for Sunraysia, Australian and international horticulture.