SPAA Staff and Committee involved in Precision Ag Training Material Development

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Nicole Dimos (SPAA EO) and Matt Nottley (SPAA committee member) have been selected as ‘Subject Matter Experts’ (SME’s) in an initiative to develop new subject matter for the redesign of the ‘Diploma of Applied Agronomy course’ for registered training organisations. The redesign of the training materials includes subjects on Precision Agriculture run by ‘Skills Impact’. Skills Impact is a not-for-profit organisation that works across Australia to benchmark learning and skills standards for industry.

Nicole Dimos says ‘Skills Impact works with experienced industry personnel to define the skills standards for their industry, revising and drafting national qualifications, skill sets and units of competency. This work is completed as part of national training package projects. Matt and I there as representatives of the precision ag industry to identify the job role or functions and what skills and knowledge is required to do a job in this career path.’

Currently there is no nationally approved qualification in agronomy. The development of a national Diploma of Applied Agronomy opens pathways towards the business and management of agricultural enterprises, as well as in the applied fields of soil management and advanced cop production. Nicole Dimos says ‘We have a particular interest in the Digital Agronomy skill set – that aims to provide the skills and knowledge required to provide digital agronomic advice and expertise on systems types, purchase and use’

The role of SME Working Group members, Nicole and Matt is to provide information and advice to Skills Impact on the required skills and knowledge, emerging industry practices and future training needs in today’s workplaces. Nicole says ‘we are aiming to ensure that much needed practical and up to date subject matter is being included in courses on precision ag; we are continually being told through SPAA that we need to have impact of tertiary training material, so this is a great opportunity to have our say’.

Precision Viticulture Workshop to focus on savings and efficiencies

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SPAA in collaboration with Riverland Wine funded by the Murray Darling Basin NRM will host a Precision Viticulture workshop with the key focus – ‘PA tools for efficiencies and savings’. SPAA Executive Officer Nicole Dimos said the workshop is a opportunity for farmers to learn about technologies that will help them make efficiency gains and savings.’

The workshop will run from 9.30-12.30 and will be held at the PIRSA Research Centre in Loxton. Lance Dickeson, John Deere will give a product update covering crop care, yield documentation and ‘preparing the site’ (precision land forming etc). Don Thorp from TracMap will speak about ‘useful field data’ on operations such as spraying, harvest and weed control. Mark Bastian from Precision Agriculture is also among the line up.

Details to RSVP are on the workshop flyer, morning tea is provided and this workshop is FREE to attend.

This project is supported by the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Board through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the NRM Levies.

SPAA welcomes new President and Vice President from Western Australia

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SPAA held its annual AGM in Tasmania at the Launceston Symposium which saw a changing of the guard in the executive committee and a new committee member. Mark Branson formally thanked Jessica Koch, outgoing president, who has had an extremely busy and extended 2.5-year term. Jessica has remained on the committee which remains strong with a total of 16 committee members based all over the country in various sectors and roles.

Frank D’Emden, incoming president addressed the SPAA members upon his successful nomination ‘I am very excited about taking on this role, SPAA is a brilliant organisation. Our committee has great depth of varied knowledge and I look forward to seeing us continue to make an impact on the adoption of Precision Agriculture nationally as we support new industries and developments.’ Frank is based in Perth and has a wealth of experience working in as a Precision Ag Consultant for several years.

Philip Honey, Director at Environmental and Cropping Technologies, based in Albany WA has stepped up from a committee role to Vice President. Jessica Koch said ‘both Frank and Phil have been active contributors to SPAA in recent years, they bring with them a variety of skills and knowledge – most importantly they’re both very approachable and level-headed guys. We look forward to having some strong West Australian representation!’

Ian Layden has stepped down from the committee and we are grateful his representation of the horticulture sector. Julie O’Halloran has essentially stepped up to continue this role on the committee’; she is a Development Horticulturalist at the QLD Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry; we extend to her a warm welcome and look forward to her representation in precision veg.

 

Grain Producers Australia to create Code of Practice for Autonomous Vehicles in Grains

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SPAA committee member Rohan Rainbow presented at this years SPAA Symposium as a Grain Producers Australia (GPA) representative about the next steps to commercialise autonomous machines in Australia. Sophisticated agricultural technologies have revolutionized the ag industry, and now there is a need for social adjustment; consideration needs to be given to the impact on regional communities, skills requirements and training needs before the introduction of driverless vehicles.

So what’s the process?

GPA has plans to develop a Code of Practice which will be co-funded by GPA with manufacturer investment and input from producer and industry organizations. The Code of Practice is expected to be delivered by March 1st 2020 for presentation to government and wider industry stakeholders.

Rohan Rainbow, GPA said ‘a recent study of the potential benefits of Digital Agriculture including agricultural machine automation, highlighted potential returns of $878 million for the grains industry from reduced labor costs. An additional $91 million return would come from reduced chemical use through improved targeted application using sensing and automation. However, for these benefits to be realised, commercial pathways to adoption and industry confidence in the use of autonomy technologies is required.’ Australian Agriculture needs to build confidence and trust, before machinery manufacturers can commercialise these technologies.

GPA believes agriculture must take a similar approach to the mining industry in developing the world first Code of Practice for agriculture field machine autonomy. Rohan Rainbow says ‘with widespread agricultural machine autonomy imminent in Australia, it is essential that a proactive approach is led by producers to ensure social and regulatory confidence in successful, risk managed adoption is maintained’.

The prospectus for the Code of Practice has been prepared by GPA to encourage stakeholder collaboration and investment. There is an open invitation for other field-based plant industries to participate with the aim that this also meets their needs. GPA proposes that other field-based plant industries, agricultural chemical and machine manufacturers invest into and participate in this process. GPA invites comment, feedback and written commitment to participate in the establishment of an Industry Code of Practice for Agricultural Field Machine Autonomy by 30 September 2019.

 

SPAA hosts successful Tasmanian Symposium

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The 22nd Symposium for Precision Agriculture, a collaboration between SPAA and the University of Sydney’s PA Laboratory was held at the Tramsheds Function Centre on the 9th and 10th of September. Executive Officer Nicole Dimos said, ‘we were thrilled with the attendance of 129 delegates, given this was the first time we have held the event in Tasmania it was really positive to see so many new delegates.’

The program began with the AGM, which saw Western Australian Frank D’Emden step into role of President, replacing farmer and consultant Jessica Koch from SA. Phillip Honey, consultant from Esperance filled the role of Vice President. Ian Layden, DAF stepped down from the committee, with Julie O’Halloran providing a strong replacement as she has a strong horticultural background.

Brett Whelan, from the PA Lab once again did a terrific job at collating a program covering many facets of precision agriculture. Michael Nichols, local grower from Sisters Creek presented on how he uses NDVI for prescription fertiliser inputs, and how his attention to detail resulted in him achieving Australia’s wheat growing record of 13t/ha off 16.6ha. SAGIT sponsored speaker Joe Cook, Keith SA spoke about his experience using moisture probes and EM38 soil layers to strategically manage irrigation in his Lucerne Seed enterprise.

There were some excellent scientific presentations from many of Australia’s university and research institutions. A strong theme in crop sensor and satellite imagery technology emerged, with excellent presentations from Dr Rob Bramley (CSIRO) about the Future Farm Project,  Yield forecasting of root crops with a multispectral satellite sensor in Australia by Angelica Suarez (UNE PARG), and the use of satellite imagery for mapping pasture biomass in real-time by Iffat Ara (TIA).

Once again, the event was backed by a record number of sponsors, many of whom had trade exhibits. Landmark Echelon this year sponsored the famous ‘PA Connections’ which dove tailed nicely into the conference dinner on Monday night. At the completion of the conference, 35 delegates headed off on a bus tour to Cressy, organised by AgLogic’s Rueben Wells, visiting two impressive mixed enterprises employing land levelling and drainage PA techniques.