The new digitised farm

Opinion: Andrew Lai, Sprout X - the digital farm


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Opinion: Andrew Lai, Sprout X - the digital farm

The digitised farm is fast becoming a reality, however the mindset on who is able to achieve it is only now starting to change.

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MAPPING THE FARM: Oli Madgett, a grape grower from the Barossa Valley in South Australia built his own digital farm solution, Platfarm.

MAPPING THE FARM: Oli Madgett, a grape grower from the Barossa Valley in South Australia built his own digital farm solution, Platfarm.

To put it in perspective, an everyday mobile device is today vastly is more powerful than a computer from the 1970’s which would have been the size of a house.

The incredible gains in computing power means not only are computers everywhere, but so is the talent to create the applications.

Take the example of Oli Madgett, a grape grower from the Barossa Valley in South Australia.  

It’s time to realise that great agricultural technology is no longer just produced in a laboratory - Andrew Lai

As a new farmer, he became frustrated with the fact he needed to physically tie ribbons in his vast vineyard to indicate to his contractors where to spread fertiliser.

To solve his own problem, Oli developed the Platfarm app for tablet devices, using GPS location with a satellite map overlay to virtually indicate where to spread fertiliser.

This technology has helped Oli’s farm to reach ‘A grade’ status, tremendously increasing his profits.  He is now launching the app internationally, allowing other farmers do the same.

With technology now in the hands of users, what it means for agriculture is now an everyday tinkerer on a farm is empowered to solve their own problems.

The tools available to achieve this are also getting far more advanced in their capability.

For example, Amazon recently launched the AWS DeepLens, a fully programmable camera with machine learning capability.

The user can teach it to recognise different species of animals, detect objects or even read books to kids.

The incredible thing is the accessibility of tools like DeepLens, it is so approachable, it is within reach of high school children.

Forty years ago the best practical devices and software was probably made in a research lab by professors.

However I believe it is no longer the case and the ability to develop useful agricultural applications to digitise the farm is now very much in the hands of consumers.

They say that technology has a democratising effect and in this case, the ability to create what could only previously be dreamed of, has helped to equalise the playing field.

It’s time to realise that great agricultural technology is no longer just produced in a laboratory.

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