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Published: 20 Nov 2020

Forthside Vegetable Research Facility

New technologies at the University of Tasmania’s research farms will demonstrate how on-farm modernisation can be adopted by industry to improve resource management and profitability.

The Industry 4.0 Testlab Sustainable, Manageable, Accessible Rural Technology (SMART) Farm project has been co-designed with industry and will be implemented at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture’s (TIA) Forthside Vegetable Research Facility and Dairy Research Facility at Elliott to create demonstration sites or ‘sand-pits’ for farmers to see and interact with new technologies that could be adopted on their own properties.

The on-farm devices will provide a proof-of-concept for farmers who will be able to see firsthand how new technologies can save them time and assist with efficient decision-making.

TIA Business Manager, Mr John De Vries, said the SMARTFarm project would have direct engagement with industry.

“Extension and adoption for industry are very important. From an on-farm point of view, what we are wanting to do is build a model that can be replicated on other farms, particularly on SMEs (small to medium enterprises) farms in Tasmania,” he said.

Through clever demonstration and application of key Industry 4.0 concepts and technologies at the University farms, the SMARTFarm project will enable SMEs in Tasmania to compete in increasingly demanding international markets.

Sensor technology expert and TIA Research Fellow, Dr Marcus Hardie, said the SMARTFarm component was an important step in investigating how farmers can use technology to improve efficiency and increase profitability.

“We’re trying to de-risk technology and make the first steps into that space as safe as possible for farmers. There is a low level of trust when it comes to new technologies, so farmers need a safe place to come and ‘kick the tyres’,” he said.

“We’ll be setting up a wireless sensor network that will connect sensors through to the farmer and the researchers via a dashboard that will provide a real-time whole farm snapshot.”

The conversion of the research farms into SMARTFarms will offer researchers, students, growers and the community a place and digital infrastructure to work together to solve real-world problems.

The 12-month SMARTFarm project is one of three Testlab projects being run by the University that are investigating all stages of the supply chain from tracking the condition of perishable products to distribution centres and retailers.

The SMARTFarm project is supported by the University of Tasmania’s $1 million Industry 4.0 Testlab funding, which was awarded by the Federal Government in 2018.

The research farms will also be supported by a recently announced partnership between the University of Tasmania and the State Government that will see over $7 million invested to transform the farms into centres of excellence to maximise their potential.

This continued focus on the research farms will enable TIA to continue valuable agricultural research, industry development and education programs to drive productivity and sustainability for the Tasmanian agricultural sector for the next decade.

The technology will be implemented on the research farms from 2021.

TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.

Image: Douglas Clark, Forthside Vegetable Research Facility Farm Manager at Forthside Farm.