CSIRO and Goanna Ag bring smart sensors to help farmers improve crop water usage

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Goanna Ag canopy sensor in CSIRO tomato trials near Swan Hill, Victoria

Image: Goanna Ag

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Queensland-based agtech company Goanna Ag have announced a partnership that will see sensors and analytics be used to help growers better understand how to maximise the use of irrigation water to grow crops.

Under the partnership, Goanna Ag will incorporate WaterWise, a CSIRO-developed technology, into its existing GoField irrigation management system.

The WaterWise system features in-field sensors that measure the canopy temperature of crops every 15 minutes. The data collected from the sensors are then combined with weather forecasts before machine learning is applied to help predict the crop’s water requirements for the next seven days.

“Being able to predict when to irrigate will allow our clients — farmers — to plan based on what the plant needs,” Goanna Ag CEO Alicia Garden said.

Waterwise team leader Rose Brodrick added growers will be able to predict future water needs of their crops.

“Just like humans, plants have an optimum temperature. When things are normal it’s easier to predict when a plant will need water. But when conditions change — like with a new crop, a new field, or unusually hot or cold weather forecasted — farmers want backup with their decision making,” she said.

“The usual strategy is ‘if you’re unsure, just add water’. This is where using high tech can help give them data and more confidence in their decision making, because every drop counts.”

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CSIRO’s Dr Rose Brodrick with a prototype WaterWise sensor in tomatoes.

Image: CSIRO

The partnership follows trials of Goanna Ag’s canopy sensor in CSIRO’s tomato fields in Victoria.

Goanna Ag expects the system that incorporates WaterWise to be commercially available in time for the 2020 summer cropping season.

Meanwhile, CSIRO said it plans to expand WaterWise’s in-field based canopy sensors to drones or satellites.

Earlier this year, one of Australia’s largest horticulturist companies, Costa Group, began rolling out an artificial intelligence system to better understand and manage the quantity and quality of its berry crops.

The Sensing+ system, developed by Sydney-based company The Yield, has been designed to measure 14 variables of a typical agriculture model such as rain, light, wind, temperature, and soil moisture in real time. The information is then ingested into an Internet of Things platform and combined with existing data sets shared by Costa before AI is applied to create a localised prediction of each berry crop.

The system was installed within the polytunnels of Costa’s eight berry farms in New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania.

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