NEW technology is taking root in some of the most unexpected places.
The 110 year old Greenwood Orchards in Merrigum, Victoria is a prime example, hosting the roll out of a new pest monitoring system using the locally grown PestTrack smartphone application, which is designed to harness the observational power of the communities which surround the district’s orchards.
Fruit fly outbreaks can be fatal for farmers' crops, wiping out entire an orchard in during an outbreak and wreaking millions of dollars of damage to crops.
The aim is take information from fruit fly traps across the district to track emerging fruit fly outbreaks and monitor the pest’s population and its typically large fluctuations across the seasons, to better target and time control measures for maximum impact.
The app will capture thousands of readings from traps on farm and in the gardens backyard vegetable patches around town, documenting fly numbers in traps as well as recording the GPS location. The information will be fed into the cloud, where the information can be collated and analysed.
Wedged between regional centres of Echuca and Shepparton in the fertile Goulburn Valley the family-owned apple and pear producing property may not spring to mind as the most likely place to see cutting edge crowd sourced data monitoring.
But orchardist Lynton Greenwood, who is the fourth generation to run the property, said his family has always looked to the future.
“This property has been chemical fertiliser-free since the 1890s,” Mr Greenwoood said.
Greenwood Orchards has farmed under biodynamic principles well before it was fashionable and leapt into the organic fruit market at its inception.
“This is a unique property,” Mr Greenwood said. “We’ve always specialised in soil management and we’ve supplied the organic market since it began in the 1980s.”
Mr Greenwood sends fruit to fresh organic markets in metropolitan centres and juices ungraded fruit on farm.
Kyabram, Victoria based software provider Advance Computing developed the application. The 25 employee-strong software developer partnered with Microsoft, to add the data storage and cloud computing capability at the back end of the app.
Advance Computing director Chris Motton said the app was set up to be user friendly, and with an eye to ongoing development.
Once a user has captured a picture of a fruit fly in a trap with their phone, the app guides the user through a species confirmation and gender identification process.
“The idea for the future is once we have enough photos stored in the system the app can self-indentify from a photo,” Mr Motton said.
On farm producers may even invest in fully-automated traps to capture pictures and upload them without any human effort.
Mr Motton said Advance Computing absorbed the cost of app development, given the potential benefits to the local fruit industry and regional economy which the company operates in.
He said PestSmart can be tweaked to expand its use.
“The idea was to be generic when we developed it, so we can look at using for other pests,” Mr Motton said.
Microsoft Australia’s small to medium business director Steven Miller said his company is making a concerted push into agtech, and it is targeting smaller partners like Advance Computing to get close to common problems, rather than focusing onlarge corporates.
Highlighting the rapid growth in technology and bourgeoning commercialisation opportunities, Microsoft Australia said the cloud computing power required would have been unaffordable just five years ago for the biodynamic Greenwood Orchards, founded in 1896.
“Previously, to achieve the data capture like we have with PestSmart we would have had to build an internet connected server in shed there, which would have meant substantial cost to Lynton,” Mr Motton explained. “But now can do it for dollars a day with the cloud.”
Microsoft wants to get so close to farmers and he’s encouraging farmers with a problem, or tech heads with solutions, to contact Microsoft in person on 1800 718 177.
The pest track app can be downloaded here www.pesttrack.com.au