Fine project forecast to improve forecasts

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities The Honourable Mark Furner

The Lockyer Valley and Darling Downs are on the frontline for the first phase of a pilot program to improve weather forecasts for agricultural producers.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said more accurate weather forecasts and localised weather observations would help producers better manage the effects of the weather and climate change on their businesses.

“Access to better local weather data will support improved management decisions on crop production, labour and the supply chain,” Mr Furner said.

“Agribusiness is a weather-dependent business. Access to highly localised weather observations and forecasts will give agribusiness improved insights to the local weather.

“Agriculture is a vital part of Queensland’s plan for economic recovery, so we want to give our regional communities and our farmers the tools they need to succeed.”

Mr Furner said the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) is working together with Telstra and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) to undertake phase 1 of the project.

“DAF is investing $280,000 in this project that will deliver commercial-grade weather stations on Telstra sites, linked with the high-quality BoM weather observation network and modelling capabilities,” he said.

“Telstra will install around 45 robust high-quality Internet of Things (IoT) enabled weather stations on Telstra sites and around 10 weather stations on farms and DAF research facilities in the Lockyer Valley, Esk, Gatton, Toowoomba, Cecil Plains, and Darling Downs areas.

“The data collection and trial phase is expected to run until late 2021 with data made freely available to growers and users during the trial period.”

Telstra’s Technology, Development and Solutions Executive Channa Seneviratne said the weather data project was a brilliant example of how leading-edge technology can be used to innovate in industries that are having to adapt to significant market and environmental pressures.

“For agriculture in Australia, thanks to the effects of climate change and severe weather, this technology will help protect the livelihoods of farmers, and the nation’s food security,” Mr Seneviratne said.

“Technology like this helps us rise to new challenges, and this programme will become a great test bed for agriculture, supply chain, logistics, utilities, mining, transport, and many other significant sectors in Australia.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s General Manager Agriculture, Alister Hawksford, said the Bureau, Telstra and DAF have the opportunity to collaboratively deliver high impact services to the Queensland agricultural community.

“The Advanced Weather Network project aims to link the Bureau’s trusted network of weather observations with other observing networks so that we can help agribusinesses make the decisions that are critical to their success,” he said

Mr Furner said the project was a further demonstration of the Queensland Government’s support for the state’s agriculture industry, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Queensland Government moved quickly to declare agriculture an essential industry and, since then, has announced the $10 million job-creating Rural Economic Development Grants initiative, the $12.5 million Economic Recovery: Strengthening Queensland’s Agribusiness and Food Sector program and assisted growers to maintain a seasonal workforce while meeting their COVID-19 public health obligations,” he said.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with agribusiness as we unite and recover from the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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