Staunch supporters awarded life memberships

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Two staunch supporters of precision agriculture were recognised with life memberships during the SA
Precision Ag Expo at Loxton on Thursday, March 25.
Mark Branson, of Stockport, and Sam Trengove, of Bute, were presented with the awards during the
Society of Precision Agriculture Australia (SPAA) event which had been postponed from last year because of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.
MC and former SPAA president Robin Schaefer said Mark was one of the original founders of SPAA and the organisation’s first president in 2002.
Mark is owner-manager of Branson Farms, a mixed farm at Stockport, 80km north of Adelaide, where he produces cereals, canola, legumes and fine wool Merinos.
“Mark bought a yield monitor for his header in 1997 and hasn’t looked back,” Robin said. “He became one of the first South Australian farmers to adopt controlled traffic farming in 2004 and runs on those same lines today.”
In 2005 Mark was awarded a Nuffield scholarship and spent 18 weeks travelling the world to research the pros and cons of precision agriculture (PA) and conservation agriculture. He adopted many of the
techniques discovered during his travels.
“Mark has been a marvellous advocate for PA, ground truthing equipment and hosting research trials,
speaking at conferences and grower events, as well as inviting student groups to visit his property and learn about the triple-bottom-line benefits of PA in dryland cropping systems,” Robin said. “In recent years he has been actively involved in the editing of our flagship publication, Precision Ag News. Mark is retiring from the SPAA committee this year. We’d like to thank him for his generous support and leadership during the past 19 years and wish him all the best.”
Introducing Sam Trengove, Mark said Sam had worked for 15 years as a PA consultant helping farmers
adopt a range of technologies, and under the Trengove Consulting banner for the past decade.
Sam was a SPAA committee member for about 10 years and has a Master of Agricultural Science in his
interest area of site-specific weed management.
“Sam’s followed that interest in weed mapping and variable rate soil management across Australia and
overseas to learn about new and emerging technologies and has presented at numerous grower field days
and industry updates,” Mark said. “Sam continues to work on research, development and extension
projects with SPAA as a training and field trials facilitator as well as with the federal Department of
Agriculture and Water and the SA Grains Industry Trust.”

SPAA president Frank D’Emden said the award of life membership recognised individuals who have
demonstrated a remarkable and ongoing commitment to SPAA that has enhanced the organisation’s standing with members and the wider community, without seeking personal reward.
“Both nominations received unanimous support from SPAA committee members,” Frank said.
SPAA executive officer Nicole Dimos said she had enjoyed working closely with both Mark and Sam during their time on the committee.
“Mark and Sam are enthusiastic advocates for precision agriculture who cheerfully share their experiences for the benefit of farmers everywhere,” she said. “I look forward to their continued association with SPAA.”
SPAA has awarded five life memberships in its 19-year history.

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.

 

 

‘Conversations with Farmers’ publication launched at SAGIT Forum

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The Annual South Australian Grains Industry Trust (SAGIT) Forum was held on 23rd September. The event marked the official launch of the ‘Conversations with Farmers’ booklet, produced by SPAA and Ag Communicators, with funding from SAGIT. Despite the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented this year (delaying the event from July to September), it was exciting that the event could still be held face to face at the Wayville Showgrounds just like previous years.

Ten years ago, SPAA produced a publication where ten South Australian producers were featured, profiling them as pioneers in the grains industry and early adopters of precision agriculture (PA) technology. SPAA was delighted to have three of the ten farmers featured in the original SPAA produced document and the new document at the SAGIT Forum for the launch.

Mr Mark Branson, of Branson farms in Stockport SA, is one of the farmers who was featured in an original SPAA publication 10 year ago. Mark, who is also a SPAA committee member, formally launched the publication on the day. He says, ‘It’s great to be recognised as an industry leader with my PA journey, and was a pleasure to be able to officially launch the publication ten years on, alongside two other featured farmers – Brendon Johns from Wandearah and Allan Buckley from Waikerie.’  Mark reported back to the committee and was thrilled with the questions and feedback from the floor after he presented the final publication, he said ‘the response was overwhelmingly positive’.

Dr Nicole Dimos, SPAA Executive Officer, said “Conversations with Farmers” was an idea based on feedback that growers like to learn what other growers are doing”. “Popularity demonstrated a need to learn about PA tools and technologies through shared experiences. SPAA revisited The production of case studies is envisaged to lead to new knowledge, provide on-going producer support and highlights the importance of PA tools as part of their business whilst creating a network for farmers to work together and share knowledge.

“We hope this booklet and case studies bring confidence to grain producers and everyone enjoys revisiting these farmers who have helped shaped SPAA. It’s undoubtedly a valuable resource to your farm library and demonstrates that SPAA is an important conduit for the grains industry to learn about farm technology and innovations and to get other producers thinking about the possibilities available to them” said Nicole.

Membership renewals RE-INSTATED

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It’s been three months since your membership renewals with SPAA went ON HOLD. We recognised that you or your family and business may have been hurt financially by the current pandemic crisis. So have we! It’s now time to reciprocate and quickly jump on board and renew your membership with us.

We also have a new change with our membership period now effective to 30 June annually, irrespective of your sign up date, so all the more reason to renew early to maximise your membership benefits.

In the interim, the annual subscription for the 2020-21 year is at a reduced rate of $112.50.

As your number 1 precision agriculture association, we are on your side, please renew your dues when you do receive your notices this month or be proactive and jump online before your letter.  Thank you to those who have also recently renewed, we appreciate your support.

Membership renewal notices ON HOLD

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Even though much of the world is consumed with fighting the spread of coronavirus, membership renewals with SPAA will go ON HOLD. We recognise you or your family and business may have been hurt financially by the current crisis. So have we!  To assist you, we’ll wait with you until things settle a bit longer so SPAA is extending the renewal dates for ALL members. For members who have a Winter 2020 renewal date, we will extend its grace period to 90 days.

Based on the advice being provided by the government, SPAA and its business and project stakeholders have put in place a number of measures to protect the people we work with and as such our face to face events continue to fall victim. We are still producing plenty of resources a benefit exclusive to our members including Australia’s only Precision Agriculture magazine which we produce quarterly, a monthly enewsletter and hopefully you’ve seen our new research updates on YouTube “Three Minutes With….” showcasing projects.

As your number 1 precision agriculture association, we are on your side, please renew your dues when you receive your next notices in September.

If you’ve accidentally received a notice recently, please accept our apologies, and let us know. As you can imagine, we have hundreds of names to adjust, but in the interim, please be assured you’ll remain on track with your PA journey and enjoy taking advantage of the free extra months to your current membership with us.

The SPAA staff and committee

Planning underway for free, nationwide ‘Hands on Precision Agriculture Training’ program

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TAKE THE SURVEY to help shape the program.

The Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) has provided funding for us and four leading grower groups to develop and deliver free precision agriculture (PA) training to growers across Australia.

Your feedback will be important to develop the workshop programs Click here to complete the survey

SPAA Executive Office Dr Nicole Dimos says that the ‘Hands-on PA Training’ project will help growers make practical use of PA equipment and data to improve the speed and accuracy of decision making, reduce production costs and increase farm profitability under a range of Australian environmental conditions.

“This project comes at a critical time for the grains industry. At a time when they’re being squeezed by rising costs, uncertain commodity prices and an increasingly variable climate, the ability to farm more efficiently, minimise waste, and improve margins through traceability and marketability, have never been more important.”

In total, fifty-four ‘Hands on PA Training’ events will be held in major grains growing centres during 2020 and 2021. The events will be delivered by leading PA specialists and consultants and will be coordinated by a national coalition of grower groups including:

  • Birchip Cropping Group in Victoria
  • FarmLink in Southern Queensland and New South Wales
  • Rural Directions in South Australia and Tasmania
  • Members of the Grower Group Alliance in Western Australia.

As the first step in developing the training package, Dr Dimos says that the project team has developed an online survey to help better understand grower needs, customise the training package and identify the most appropriate workshop locations.

“We’re asking growers to register their interest by completing the survey and telling us more about how they’re using PA now and how they hope to use it in the future. The results of the survey will be used to plan the structure and content of the training events and help us identify the best locations to hold them”, Dr Dimos says.

Growers who complete the survey will also go into the draw for one of three free SPAA memberships valued at $150.

Complete the survey here

SPAA Precision Ag EXPO POSTPONED

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#SPAAEXPO20 Event Update.
The SPAA committee has made the decision to POSTPONE our #PA event scheduled for next Thursday (26th Mar) in Loxton due to the COVID-19 situation.
Whilst this is extremely disappointing we consider this to be socially responsible and respectful of current policies and communities reaction to COVID-19 virus.
People who have purchased tickets to attend will be refunded and we will be in contact soon.
Stay tuned for new event details in Loxton and many other initiatives with the SPAA PA community once we get the all clear.

#Learn Share Connect Be Inspired

SPAA event to wind up Precision Veg Project

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SPAA, in collaboration with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will host a ‘Getting Started with Precision Veg’ event in Gatton, South East QLD on February the 5th. Julie O’Halloran, newly elected SPAA committee member and Senior Horticulturalist involved in the project says ‘we are anticipating a positive response to the event, there are many growers looking for information on how to get started with PA technology in vegetable production as this is still a relatively new space’.

The Hort Innovation funded Precision Vegetable project is currently winding up after three years. Led by QLD DAF, the project has involved a variety of project partners, with a key purpose to demonstrate the ‘how’ in Precision Veg adoption through a variety of grower case studies, a literature review and a variety of field tours. Julie says ‘precision technology adoption in the veg industry is still relatively new, this project has been designed to showcase some of the successful case studies out there to hopefully accelerate adoption’.

The event, to be held at the Gatton Research Centre, will have an outdoor demonstration time slot from 2pm, followed by a number of technical presentations, then winding up with a BBQ tea. Frank D’Emden, SPAA president says ‘like all SPAA events, we encourage networking between interested growers and the PA professionals present both from a commercial and advisory perspective. This event essentially ties together key learnings from the Precision Veg project and we hope growers leave feeling more confident in how they may be able to use PA technology in their vegetable enterprises’.

This event is FREE to attend

Preliminary Flyer attached

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’.

Stakeholder Survey will help shape SPAA’s strategic future – we want to hear from you!

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SPAA is planning a strategic review in March 2020. The review will be led by Rohan Rainbow and will aim to deduce SPAA’s impact on the uptake of precision agriculture (PA) in Australia to date, and using this information combined with board input and stake holder feedback to shape the organisations direction for the future.

SPAA Frank D’Emden says ‘SPAA represents a sector of the agriculture industry (PA), that is developing and evolving at a rapid rate. It is imperative that our organisation keeps our feet on the ground whilst having our eyes on the horizon to look for new opportunities; that is why every three years our board meets to shape our direction for the future.’

SPAA now represents a number of different industries that has evolved from grains, viticulture and livestock, to sugar, horticulture and to some extent cotton. Frank says ‘it is important that we are meeting the needs of these different organisations to support the adoption of Precision Ag through our extension material and events, through this survey we plan to find out exactly what those needs are’.

If you haven’t already filled the survey out, it is available at the following link, we’d love to have your input! Anyone who participates in the survey and leaves their contact details will go in the draw to win a $200 Coles Myer gift card

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SPAASTAKEHOLDERSURVEY2019