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Revolutionising the Grain Industry

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The Australian grain industry has the potential to be revolutionised using techonology and ‘Big Data’, according to 2015 Nuffield Australia Scholar Jonathon Dyer.

My Dyer, who is an IT worker from Kaniva, Victoria, investigated the possibilities for improving farm practice and profitiability using Big Data as part of his scholarship.

His study into data-driven technology assisting the agriculture and grain industry in particular, has been collated into a recently released report.

Mr Dyer reflected on the report and his studies: “We’ve been collecting various forms of data on our farm for more than a decade, but we’ve hardly been using it.

“‘Big Data’ was starting to become a buzzword in the IT industry around the time that I had entered into agriculture and so I wondered, ‘What’s in this for farmers?”

“The rise of a myriad of cheap sensors, combining with more access to GPS technology has transformed on farm data collection from an expensive and laborious process that few farmers could be bothered with, to one that is relatively cheap and increasingly easy.

“Once accurate data is being collected at the farm level, such data can be aggregated and compared across different businesses, regions, and countries.

“Farmers can use this aggregated data to analyse farm business performance -t he promise of this is the potential for real-time business benchmarking,” Mr Dyer said.

Mr Dyer farms in a family partnership in the West Wimmera region, specialising in broad-acre grain production on about 2,200 hectares.

They grow a mixture of bread and durum wheat, canola, lentils, faba beans and chickpeas in a continuous cropping rotation.

Key recommendations from Jonathan’s report include:

  • Using algorithms generated from farmer data for applying farm inputs such as fertiliser and seed hold much promise for improved farm management
  • Reliable and openly accessible soil and climate data underpin agricultural decision support systems.