Members elect new leadership team

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SPAA-president-Phil-Honey

The Society of Precision Agriculture Australia (SPAA) has a new leadership team after the recent virtual Annual General Meeting.

The executive is:

  • President Philip Honey, Environmental & Cropping Technologies Australia Director (Albany, WA)
  • Vice president Dale Kirby, North West Local Land Services Extension Manager (Gunnedah, NSW)
  • Treasurer Steve Carn, Farmer (Parilla, SA)
  • Immediate past president Frank D’Emden, Precision Ag Agronomist (Perth, WA).

Committee members are:

  • Denis Pozzebon, Sugar Cane Grower (Ayr, Qld)
  • Julie O’Halloran, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Senior Development Horticulturist (Gatton, Qld)
  • Ben Heaslip, Rice Research Australia Farm Manager (Jerilderie, NSW)
  • Rohan Rainbow, Crop Protection Australia Managing Director (Canberra, ACT)
  • Jonathan Medway, Charles Sturt University Senior Research Fellow in Spatial Agriculture (Wagga Wagga, NSW)
  • Chad Glover, Farmer and CC Agricultural Manager (Yeelanna, SA)
  • Jamie Barwick, University of New England Precision Agriculture Lecturer and Researcher (Armidale, NSW).

Delivering his final president’s report, Frank D’Emden said the past year was notable for its significant challenges and upheaval.

He paid tribute to the late Wendy Weston, who died suddenly in January – just six months after replacing longtime SPAA executive officer Dr Nicole Dimos-Byrnes in the role.

“I want to recognise the extraordinary contribution that Wendy made to SPAA during the short time she was with us,” Frank said.

“She introduced some much-needed changes to the way we operate, very quickly came to understand the environment we work in and got some important projects across the line.”

Frank highlighted the continuing impact of COVID-19 restrictions on SPAA’s ability to complete projects and run events during the year.

However, he noted planning was underway for the first in-person Precision Agriculture Symposium in two years, to be held in conjunction with the South Australian PA expo in Adelaide and a celebration dinner to mark 20 years since SPAA was formed.

Retiring committee members Neale Postlethwaite – who joined the AGM from his tractor cab while seeding canola – Jessica Koch, Ben Pratt, Matt Notley and Jonathan Dyer were thanked for their service to the organisation.

Frank also announced the appointment of Dr Rachel Melland, who has been acting in the role, as SPAA’s new Executive Officer.

Speaking after the AGM, Phil Honey said he was looking forward to a return to hosting in-person events, increasing engagement with SPAA members and providing practical on-ground support to as many farmers as possible.

“I also look forward to seeing SPAA further cement its position as Australia’s renowned source of independent precision agriculture and digital agriculture advice, research, extension and training,” he said.

“SPAA has great knowledge networks throughout Australia, and actively supports farming organisations from their initial adoption phase through to full-blown ‘all-in PA’ operations. The networks extend well beyond the farm-gate to include leading machinery manufacturers and cutting edge researchers from a range of government, university and private organisations.

“No matter where you are farming or advising or what your experience levels in precision ag may be, there’s always someone in the industry willing to help and share their knowledge.”

Notice of Annual General Meeting

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Join the Precision Ag community online for the SPAA Annual General Meeting and hear from two special guest speakers.

John Deere Production System Manager, Ben Kelly, will talk about the future outlook for PA in Australia and Beefwood Farms Manager, Glenn Coughran, will discuss the use of PA on-farm in the Gwydir Valley. There will be time allowed for a Q&A session.

Pop the details in your diary or calendar: Thursday, April 28, from 6pm (AEST), 5.30pm SA, 4pm WA, via Zoom

SPAA members should keep an eye out for email updates, including Zoom links, information about the election of office bearers and committee members, and how to nominate someone you think deserves recognition as a Life Member.

Voting at the AGM is restricted to members, so please check your membership is up to date or join here today.

Members can view documents relating to the AGM by logging in to the members only portal on the SPAA website here.

DETAILS

When: Thursday April 28, 2022
Time: 6pm (AEST), 5.30pm SA, 4pm WA
Where: Online via Zoom
How to RSVP: On the website here. If you’re unable to attend, please complete the registration/proxy form and email it to info@spaa.com.au or post to SPAA Inc PO Box 1728 Swan Hill VIC 3585
RSVP deadline: By 5pm (AEST) Tuesday April 26, 2022.
Instructions for using Zoom and meeting links will be sent to members before the meeting.

If you require any further information about the AGM or committee nominations, please email info@spaa.com.au

SA Precision Ag Expo postponed

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Even as Australia’s borders reopen to international travellers, the pandemic continues to disrupt events across the country.

Ongoing uncertainty about the staging of events has forced the SPAA committee to make the difficult decision to postpone this year’s SA Precision Ag Expo, which was to have been held on March 24 at Two Wells.
A new date and other details will be communicated as they’re finalised.

Check spaa.com.au/events and keep an eye on our social media accounts for updates.

Hands on Precision Ag Training workshops postponed

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UPDATE: All February and March workshops in NSW and Victoria have been postponed to a date TBC

In response to the current COVID-19 situation, GRDC made the decision to move all GRDC events scheduled for January and February to an online format, and if this is not practical, postpone or cancel them.

GRDC Interim Managing Director Cathie Warburton said in a statement, “We recognise the impact COVID-19 is having on Australians and these measures are in place to reduce the risk to our staff, their families and the communities we all live and work in.”

The Hands on Precision Agriculture Training workshops, which are funded by the GRDC, are intended to show farmers how to use certain software and demonstrate different technologies, which becomes difficult to achieve in an online format.

Check spaa.com.au/events and keep an eye on our social media for new dates.

Celebrating the life of Wendy Weston

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Wendy Weston
A celebration of the life of our late Executive Officer, Wendy Weston, will be held at the Drouin Cemetery, Longwarry Road, Drouin, Victoria, on Wednesday, February 2.
 
The graveside service (10.45am for an 11am start) will be followed by light refreshments at the Drouin Golf Club, McGlone Road.
 
There will be a livestream of the service here for anyone who can’t be there but would like to pay their respects. Messages for the family can also be left on the Nielsen Funerals page.
 
It was Wendy’s wish to have a “no fuss” funeral, and she has asked those who attend to wear bright colours.
 
Please also BYO an umbrella, just in case. The forecast is for a minimum of 12 degrees and a maximum of 22 degrees, with possible light showers.

Vale Wendy Weston

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Wendy Weston

It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of our Executive Officer, Wendy Weston, unexpectedly at home in Victoria on January 17.

Wendy had been with SPAA since July 2021 and was helping lead the organisation through some exciting changes.

She was not just a co-worker but a good friend, and we’ll miss her more than words can express.

SPAA president Frank D’Emden said Wendy was a champion of not for profits and member-based organisations and threw herself into learning about the Precision Agriculture sector.

“Our thoughts are with Wendy’s family, her husband Paul and adult daughter Gemma, and her dear friends who are also understandably devastated,” he said.

“I was fortunate enough to work closely with Wendy during the past six months. She was an accomplished professional and a remarkable woman who was making a real difference to SPAA.”

We will share with you details of the funeral or memorial service when we learn more.

Frank will be acting Executive Officer for the interim. Please address correspondence to: SPAA President Frank D’Emden at eo@spaa.com.au

New dates for NSW & Vic Hands on Precision Ag workshops

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Neale-Postlethwaite

The Hands on Precision Ag Workshops have been made available with funding from:

GRDC

UPDATE: Lockdowns and changing border restrictions have forced adjustment of the schedule for some of the interactive Hands on Precision Agriculture Training workshops. The southern NSW and Victoria workshops will now be held in early 2022. The new dates are at https://spaa.com.au/events

The second round of interactive Hands on Precision Agriculture Training workshops is underway across Australia.

The aim of the free workshops is to introduce farmers to precision agriculture (PA) techniques they can use to identify and manage variability, and improve productivity and profitability.

The topics for discussion are specific to each region and were chosen from issues raised by farmers in a 2020 survey.

The survey found a significant number of farmers had access to PA tools but did not use them. This included machinery data (25%), yield maps (24%) and spray maps (20%).

The most common reasons for not using them were: not having the right software (34%), never being shown how to use/create them (34%), and because they take too much time/effort (31%).

The first round of workshops held in early 2021 paved the way for farmers to start using some of the PA tools they already have – including mobile devices, computers and machinery-based platforms – and free or low-cost data for yield mapping, remote sensing, soil and pH mapping and in-season monitoring.

The second round of workshops will build on that experience and help participants gain a better understanding of how to use proven tools and techniques to devise strategies for forecasting and addressing variability in yield and profit.

SPAA leads the Grains Research and Development Corporation-funded project, with support from Birchip Cropping Group, Pinion Advisory, the Grower Group Alliance, FarmLink and Coutts J&R.

Details of workshop dates and locations will be available at https://spaa.com.au/events when confirmed.

2021 Precision Ag Symposium – Save the date

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After the success of last year’s virtual event, the 2021 Precision Ag Symposium will also be staged online.

Our aim is to ensure it is accessible to all attendees right across Australia and overseas, despite the limitations placed on travel by responses to the global pandemic.

Networking in person and farm tours might be off the agenda for now, but we can still share the latest in precision agriculture research and development and hear from Australian farmers about their experiences of PA and how they’re using data to make decisions in the paddock.

The 2021 Precision Ag Symposium is a FREE event being hosted by SPAA in conjunction with the University of Sydney’s Precision Agriculture Laboratory and Sydney Institute of Agriculture.

More information, including the program and login details, will be provided once confirmed.

For now, register here to receive updates and mark the date in your calendar to make sure you don’t miss it.

DETAILS

Date: Monday, September 13

Time: 1-4pm

Cost: Free

Enquiries: Registration queries – SPAA Executive Officer Wendy Weston wendy.weston@spaa.com.au or (03) 5997 8271.
Program and speaker questions – Symposium Convenor Brett Whelan brett.whelan@sydney.edu.au

In the meantime, you can watch the 2020 virtual symposium here.

Next steps for autonomous vehicles Code of Practice

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Grain Producers Australia (GPA) has begun talks with the WA Government to seek formal endorsement and adoption of a new Code of Practice that will help drive the future use of autonomous farm vehicles and machinery on farms throughout Australia. The Code of Practice for Agricultural Mobile Field Machinery with Autonomous Functions in Australia has […]

XAG Agricultural Drone Trial Showing Impressive Early Signs for Application in Broadacre Cropping

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Matt Notley, SPAA committee member and Precision Ag Lecturer at Tocal College in NSW is part of an exciting project this season trialling the latest in agricultural drone technology. Matt is the right man for the project, having developed and implemented multiple courses for Tocal College including the Precision Agronomy skills set, Certificate 4 Cropping and Technology units, and the Certificate 3 Precision Agriculture unit.

Matt was approached by the owner of an XAG UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) P30 Agricultural drone earlier in the year; they had acquired NLP Smart Farms funding and were wanting to do some paddock trials with their drone. The drone had previously been used for spraying in the mining industry by the operator and the company was keen to uncover it is potential in agriculture in Australia. With an impressive list of features lending itself to efficient crop production, Matt began the trial planning!

About the XAG P30 Agricultural

The model of the drone is an XAG UAS P30 Agricultural, it has several features that lend itself to an application in Australian broadacre production. Intelligent Rotary Atomisation Spraying System (XAG® iRASS) enables precise flow rate and drift reduction through an easily adjusted droplet control.

With high flight speed and greater spraying flow, the operation speed of the Agricultural UAS can reach up to 14ha/hr. Matt said ‘when spreading with the drone, it was applying at a speed of 28km/hr when spreading, and 8km/hr spraying. The drone is capable of covering up to 6-7 hectares per hour per drone which is impressive’.  The application of product works by a system of interchangeable canisters which can hold up to 16L of product and can be ‘clipped on and off’ as required.

To further enhance efficiency of application – one person can operate up to five XAG UASs at the same time in a swarming type scenario. The Agricultural UAS is equipped with a fully autonomous operation mode. By pre-setting basic flight parameters, the drone can apply a variable application as programmed, or can navigate to hot spots of weeds etc. ‘Exclusion zones can also be programmed into the flight path’ said Matt. It has an RTK, centimetre accurate flight control system to achieve precise navigation at centimeter-level and a 360-degree omnidirectional radar perception system and can automatically avoid potential obstacles.

To learn more about the drone visit: https://www.xagaustralia.com.au/2020p30, 2020

 

About the trial

The trial location is at Tocal College in the Hunter Valley. The aim is to grow a sorghum crop, sprayed, sown and spread with regular agricultural equipment in some trial strips, and then trial strips sprayed sown and spread on the same days with the drone technology.

Soil tests were taken at the trial site in September and the first comparative procedure was a spray knockdown/pre-emergent spray on the 28th of September. On the 29th the field was sown with SSS Pioneer® sorghum. There are a number of other applications planned for the trial including a top dress fertiliser application

The 2nd generation Smart Liquid Tank is connected with a UAS via Bluetooth to display a real time amount of remaining fluid, accurately calculating the flow without a flow meter.

 

What’s next?

Matt has been impressed with the ease of use and functions useful to broadacre agriculture so far. ‘The exciting part about this project is the fact that already, we can see the potential for implementation in the field’ says Matt ‘The fact that there is absolutely no contact with a standing crop would be a huge advantage to using a drone in the later stages of crop development for applying products like fungicides or late fertiliser application’. The crop is only just emerging but will continue to be monitored in the coming months.

We look forward to bringing you and update on the project early next year when the differences between the drone trial strips and the regular tractor application will be compared.