Arm the farmers with information

Elders weigh in on precision agriculture


Elders believe collaboration is the missing link in precision agriculture

Precision focus: Elders head of technical services Graham Page

Precision focus: Elders head of technical services Graham Page

Elders head of technical services Graham Page believes for precision agriculture to deliver value it needs to support farmers to make informed decisions.

"I think everyone would have a different interpretation. Mine is more about decision agriculture," he said.

"We need to get better utilisation of the technology and data-based insights that will help drive productivity and profitability at the farm gate and beyond.

"One of the challenges at the moment is the adoption of the digital platforms that are out there, from satellite imagery to drone imagery, through to the internet of things and different sensors and various farm management systems."

Mr Page said one of the bottlenecks in the adoption process was the interoperability of the different tools.

"When we talk about utilising technology for data-based insights our biggest challenge is getting the data and that is what I feel we need to focus on," he said.

Mr Page said the data needed to be more available from across the agricultural supply chain, including linking the information generated by researchers, agronomists and growers.

"Researchers are working on projects, but they haven't necessarily thought through how the findings might be applied," he said.

"If we can facilitate the collaboration there is some exciting research and technology out there. Algorithms and machine learning are getting to the point where we can predict and manage things on farm in real time.

"But at the moment, I'm not sure the funding is there to start with to make it all happen, and I'm also not sure the collaboration and people talking to each other is occurring either."

Mr Paige said a lack of focus on the agronomists and consultants role in the adoption process had also hindered the adoption of precision agriculture.

"I think a lot of start-ups in the digital space who are building these apps and digital tools are trying to put it straight into the hands of the farmers, that's not always the answer. Sometimes they need to put it in the hands of the trusted adviser," he said.

"There is a large part of the farming community who are really busy doing what they are doing, and they don't necessarily have the time, or want to be the people crunching the numbers and using the data to find those insights, they just want to be armed with the information so they can make better decisions."

Mr Paige said the Silicon Valley approach of business, which leans towards monetising the business as opposed to cross sector collaboration also hindered adoption.

"Too often we see technology come to market, and it clearly hasn't been tested. It needs to be tested and validated on farm," he said.

"That can be simple things like does it stack up to our climate, have they considered how they will support it in the field, have they considered how they are going to train the people in the use of it? It seems simplistic, but these are the things that are not being considered."

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