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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 SmartFarm 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 a safe environment for farmers to test the technology without having to go on the journey by themselves. 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 12-month SmartFarm project sits at the beginning of the supply chain and is one of three Testlab projects being run by the University. The projects 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 Testlab funding will also be supplemented with an additional $100,000 being invested by TIA to modernise the University research farms.

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

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

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