A lesson in digital agriculture for local students

As part of the 2019 Digital Innovation Festival, secondary students from across the Wimmera and Southern Mallee will converge at Horsham’s Grains Innovation Park next Thursday to witness digital agriculture in action.

The state-wide festival is an initiative of the Victorian Government’s Department of Job, Precincts and Regions to develop, demonstrate and promote technology innovation. At Grains Innovation Park next week, the Festival will also provide an opportunity to showcase technology being used in agricultural research as part of Agriculture Victoria’s Smarter Safer Farms program.

More than 100 students from Kaniva, Rainbow, Balmoral, Birchip, Charlton and Stawell have accepted the invitation to tour Grains Innovation Park, taking the opportunity to get insight into the cutting-edge and world-class technology being used to improve outcomes for agriculture and their local communities.

The region’s schools have been supported by the Victorian Wheat Research Foundation which has generously provided funding for transport to the event.

During the day, students will visit the Australian Grains Genebank which houses more than 300,000 accessions (crop varieties) from around the world. The collection contributes germplasm sought after by plant breeders who are working to improve crop varieties for farmers.

Agriculture Victoria’s plant phenomics team will showcase their unmanned aerial vehicle collection (UAVs or drones) and discuss how this technology is used in the field to collect important scientific data and speed up the plant breeding process.

This will include a presentation on how artificial intelligence and machine learning are used to monitor plant development.

During a tour of the seed phenomics and quality traits laboratories, the students will hear how near-infrared multispectral and hyperspectral sensors are used to measure grain quality.

Mark Gould, who is coordinating Victoria’s On-Farm Internet of Things Trial for the grains industry, will also take part in the day. He will share how new technologies such as soil moisture probes are being adopted by local farmers to improve the productivity, sustainability and profitability of their businesses.

Rounding off the day will be a demonstration of emergency management technology from Forest Fire Management Victoria and NBN Co will be on site with information about the capabilities of Australia’s National Broadband Network.

Grains Innovation Park site leader Traci Griffin said she was pleased to see the excellent response from local schools.

“It will be a great day to not only promote the digital technology our staff are using but to also expose students to the wonderful array of career opportunities that agriculture offers,” she said.

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