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.

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’.