Award-winning new technology ploughs ahead for greener pastures

While it represents the fifth largest industry in WA after petroleum, iron ore, gold and alumina, Australian farming is embarking on a revolution not seen since the invention of the stump jump plough, and a WA company is leading the charge.

Western Australia generates some 50 per cent of Australia's total wheat production with grain exports worth around $4 billion to the state economy each year, but according to General Manager CSBP Fertilisers, Charlie Perkins, the industry needs to innovate if it’s going to survive economic pressures and the challenges of climate change.

“There are over 125,000 farms in Australia producing more than $53 billion in annual production at the farm gate, so that represents a great opportunity to investigate how we can help improve farming’s interface with technology and the environment,” said Mr Perkins.

“That’s where spatial mapping tools like GreenPrecision are at the forefront of how we think of farming differently.”

Developed in collaboration with NGIS, CSBP’s GreenPrecision uses satellites imagery to analyse plant data anywhere in the world. GreenPrecision utilises leading edge imagery processing from Google to deliver analysis of a huge archive of satellite imagery in seconds.

It’s a technology that saw GreenPrecision win a WA Spatial Excellence Award in November last year, and more recently, the international Award for Innovation and Commercialisation at the annual Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards, held in Sydney earlier this month.

More recently, GreenPrecision has also been announced a finalist for the WA Information Technology Telecommunications Alliance’s Most Disruptive Technology Award while its cousin, FERTview, is a finalist in the Most Effective Platform category.

General Manager CSBP Fertilisers, Charlie Perkins, said recognition from industry peers was endorsement for the team’s pioneering digital work in developing a readily-available spatial mapping tool that used quality satellite imagery to assess and compare vegetation across multiple years and locations.

“This is the first time such a detailed level of vegetation analysis and geographical coverage has been made readily accessible to Australia’s agricultural sector,” said Mr Perkins.

“The scale, compute power and delivery speed of precision agricultural intelligence makes GreenPrecision one of the most significant innovations in Precision Agriculture in the past year.

“The web-based technology allows farmers and agronomists to make data-driven decisions and see variation in plant health, crop productivity and paddock management.”

Mr Perkins said the technology now underpins the biomass imagery layers in CSBP’s custom-built FERTview application. FERTview uses Google Maps to allow customers to view and interact with their soil and plant sample data on a map of their farm.

Customers can also plan fertiliser applications and manage their spatial data, including yield, crop rotation and historic fertiliser application rates, viewing in-season satellite imagery to understand how each paddock is performing.

Managing Director of NGIS Australia, Paul Farrell, said the technology partnership with CSBP delivered an innovative product that was winning international recognition because it had so many applications.

"The evolution of cloud computing and satellite imagery presents wonderful opportunities for the agricultural sector to leverage technology and intelligence to improve business decisions. We are extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve with our friends at CSBP,” said Mr Farrell.

In addition to agricultural applications the GreenPrecision technology has attracted interest from the mining, conservation and land management sectors interested in change and ground disturbance detection.

Charlie Perkins is quick to point out that vegetation analysis is not a new technique but the gap has been the ability to effectively deliver and dynamically analyse large data from a number of satellites. In Australia in particular, large geographical areas associated with broad acre farming and pastoral leases present a significant challenge for processing data.

“Fertiliser represents the most significant operating expense for most farmers, particularly in broad acre farming, so any tool that can help growers make more informed and cost-efficient decisions about farming practices is a significant bonus,” said Mr Perkins.

For more go to www.greenprecision.com.au